What a difference a year makes
My life is much different than it was 11 months ago. In fact, I feel like most of you can relate.
Let me share a day in my life with you (back when things felt normal) if you will. I would wake up at 6 a.m., shower, dress, do my makeup and my hair. I would then get my children up and fed with the help of my husband, John. I would jump into my car at approximately 7:45 a.m. to start my drive into Philadelphia. John would drop the kids off to school or the sitter. I would battle rush hour traffic like a pro and pull into the gated NovaCare Complex around 8:30 a.m., flash my badge to get in, park my car and walk right into the building.
I would greet our receptionist, walk up the stairs into my office, plop my belongings down and go back downstairs to grab breakfast. Breakfast at NovaCare was unbelievable, you could walk right up and ask chef for the usual, mine was mushed avocado on multigrain toast with hot pepper flakes, garlic, sea-salt and a slice of bacon. I’d then make myself a latte and head up to work.
My fellow designers and I would talk about the week, what needed to be done and jump straight into designing. I would literally stare into my screen lost in the world of design for at least two to three hours at a time with no distractions with my earbuds in listening to Spotify. During my workday I would maybe look out my window a total of six-to-eight times a day. My day was full of designing, drafting ideas, having meetings, even hand rendering out thoughts of ideation.
The biggest dread of my day was thinking about what I would be driving through on my way home. Rush hour at night was a whole different beast then in the morning. The morning traffic had a flow, but nighttime traffic was full of everyone who was pushing their way out of Pa. into N.J. with no rules; it was legit road anarchy.
I would leave the office around 5:30 p.m. and usually get home about 6:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and then I was on to my next job. I was walking in the door removing my designer hat and replacing it with my mom hat. The best part of the day was the snuggles and the hugs I would receive as the kids greeted me. So, after I got my hugs, I would go get my business clothes off and change into sweats and a T-shirt, then I would dive right into making dinner.
What I loved about dinner was that we would all sit together for about 30-40 minutes and talk about our day. John would either clean dinner up while I bathed the kids, or vice versa. Our girls were usually tuckered out after bath time; we would maybe watch Peppa Pig for an hour and then just go to sleep. Those were the good old days, am I right?
Flash forward to February 2020 and I was informed that I would be working from home for just two short weeks. My first day home was the last day alone. My children were beginning remote learning and I just had to jump in, just like many of you. We weren’t given much time to prepare, we had a pandemic on our hands that no one seemed to know much about. My first thought was at least we are all home safe together. We will get through this; we must get through this.
The hardest part for me was the loss of routine; I thrive off structure. Without some kind of workflow or schedule I do not do well. So, I made one for myself and the kids. I pulled out every color marker imaginable and made calendars and schedules for each kid. I planned two hours out in my own schedule of the day to accommodate the kids school needs. In the beginning it was really hard I found myself scrutinizing over all the things I didn’t do correctly. But two weeks has turned into almost a year and we are making it work over here at what I call Griffiths Academy with the help from our amazing teachers at ECEC, WES and Hammonton Middle School. Don’t get me wrong; there are some days that are not easy.
My morning routine is much shorter now. I usually shower at night so I can wake up in the morning and just throw clothes on, then put my hair up a messy bun, walk to the kitchen for my morning K cup and check my daily work schedule before anyone wakes up. I have my morning meeting with my design team very early and make a list for the day.
Then, I jump into preschool with Keira, 4, for about an hour or two full remote, while I have Lily, 6, tackling first grade remote next to me while I’m working. Ava, 11, is working away with at her first year of middle school alone. She will occasionally come in if she has a question or needs help. All the kids are still learning, and I am learning too, that it truly takes a village.
My daily routine is not what it used to be at all; if anything I work my professional schedule around my children’s work schedules.
Our lunch is at 11:30 a.m. and I am the chef now; sometimes macaroni and cheese (ShopRite brand), or dino nuggets and fries (they better be dinosaurs apparently, they are the only ones that taste right) are the requested from my little kiddos. Meanwhile, Ava is making something that she found on Pinterest like a chai seed smoothie with almond butter, fruit,and oat milk, which I am tasked with cleaning up even though she has told me that she has done it. My life use to be so different. Here I am in my sweats with my five-year-old Ugg moccasins wiping up chai seeds all over the floor.
After my kids have finished up school and no longer need my help or assistance, I truly dive into design. This year I have created some of my best work because designing has become an escape from everything around me. Sometimes, I get on a Zoom call and, when I do, I put makeup on, do my hair and put real clothes on. I even get the lighting right. Then, just when I’m feeling super-professional sharing my ideas, in storms Keira with “Mom, I need Juice! Hi! Who is that on your screen? Is it Mom-Mom?” At least my colleagues get a laugh out of it and have accepted this is my life now. I am doing the best I can; my work is getting done but my children are a part of my work schedule now.
The biggest stressor of my day now is making dinner. I still make dinner, but these dinners aren’t as thought-out as they use to be. I know every Tuesday we will have tacos and every Friday we will have pizza because that’s just a system. I make everything from chicken pot pie to homemade gravy, and if the kids don’t like it, they eat cereal. It used to be a huge argument over “try what I made.” But … let me tell you, this mama doesn’t have time for that, so go ahead, pour yourself some Life cereal, because I’m not even going to go there today. Can I get an Amen?! They’re eating. Good enough.
Bedtime routine is a little more different. Yes, the kids still bathe, but we do not do a very good job going to bed on time. But, in the midst of this pandemic I want to let our kids be children and have some joy, so if staying up until 9:30 is a crime then sue me.
Here is something the pandemic has taught me. You will never be prepared for life. You can have a plan, but you fail when you believe your plan has to go perfectly.
I have so much to share with all of you. We still haven’t talked about the meltdowns we and our children have had, the healthcare workers and teachers who are doing so much, how Hammonton has come together and embraced one another through these tough times, our favorite local eateries and how we are supporting them.
Let’s connect here once a month in The Gazette, basically I want to know… will you read my column?
Loraine Griffiths is a fifth generation Hammontonian, graphic designer, wife, and mother of three. She can be reached through email at LifeWithLoraine@gmail.com.