This article is a guest post by author, Melissa Mendoza
I had the opportunity to ask six fathers, one being my husband, what it has been like being a father during the Corona Virus quarantine. Some had more to say than the others, but each has had a unique experience that they wanted to share. I enjoyed each of their responses, and I hope that you will too.
A Texas Buying Agent and Father of Six
The other evening, my wife and I were talking about the Nation’s enforced Stay Home/Stay Safe quarantine. The quarantine has lasted two months now, and things have become quite interesting across the world. We began talking about everything that’s happened due to the quarantine, and how our home lives have changed.
At the beginning of the quarantine, my company asked me to work from home, which was great! I got to work at home for about two weeks, but then it was announced that the quarantine would be extended until the end of April. So, my company laid me off.
You see, I work for a worldwide engineering and construction company. The project I was working on for my company was based in India. Tragically, the Corona Virus hit the project’s work site hard. The project site had so many workers that contracted the virus that the company had no choice but to shut down the project, leaving me without a project to work on, and therefore unemployed.
At a time when men are shifting into protective mode to defend our families against the unknowns of the Corona Virus, many are suffering the additional worry of being unemployed. For husbands and fathers, it’s in our nature to want to protect our families and provide for them, and this virus is wreaking havoc on those intentions.
Even though I had no control over the circumstances that caused my unemployment, I still feel the burden of responsibility and worry that it’s somehow my fault. The fear of somehow failing your family as a provider, whether you are a father of one child or a father of six children, is real, and it’s something fathers across the world are struggling with right now.
But let’s go back to the beginning of the Stay Home/Stay Safe quarantine order. Like I said, working from home was great. My wife and the kids loved having me here all day with them, even though I wasn’t entirely “with them” all day.
As Daddy worked and took conference calls in our home office, the challenges began. One of those challenges was making our children understand that even though Daddy is home, they can’t disturb me while I’m working. The excitement proved too much for them, though, and they continually interrupted work with things they needed to share with me.
For the first week, I basked in all the attention from my children. I loved experiencing the things our children said and did firsthand while they happened rather than hearing about them later that day at the dinner table. I enjoyed my role as the at-home daddy and envied my wife all the time she gets to spend with the kids every day because she homeschools them.
Unfortunately, this feeling didn’t last long because the next week, I had the pressures of work and deadlines looming over me. I wasn’t able to interact with the kids very much during that week, and I began to feel guilty for turning the kids away when they wanted to see me. Eventually, I had to lock my office door, because despite having talked to the kids about not disturbing Daddy while I’m working, they continued to want to share everything with me.
The guilt didn’t last long before the pressures of work and rumors of the quarantine being extended caused stress and frustration to set in. As the workers at the job site in India began to contract the Corona Virus, it became apparent that the job would be shut soon, for an unknown amount of time. I expected to be placed on furlough while the virus quickly died out because everyone is staying home, doing their part to flatten that curve. What I didn’t expect was to be laid off from the company I have worked for for the past twenty-five years.
Now I found myself at home with no work responsibilities. In the beginning, I decided to make the most of it and spent as much time with my kids as I could. At this time, the novelty of the quarantine was wearing off for my kids, and they were missing their normal routines and schedules.
Without their regular schedule of speech lessons, ballet lessons, piano and guitar lessons, baseball practice, and weekend games, the days were starting to blend in with the other days, and it was becoming hard for them to keep track of what day it was. Instead of knowing what day of the week it was, we were reduced to today, yesterday, and tomorrow.
The kids still had school to do every day, which only took up about a third of their day. But once school was finished, they struggled to find something to do that they hadn’t done twenty times already over the last two weeks. Luckily, the weather had been good, and my kids were able to go out and play in the back yard every day.
Eventually, the monotony of each day led to boredom, and suddenly my kids were unable to entertain themselves anymore. They were beginning to squabble amongst themselves, and some began to pick on others for entertainment. Therefore, it became my job to step in and entertain them. My new job as a peacekeeper and entertainer had now begun.
Now that I had so much free time, I decided to begin some of those items on my wife’s “Honey-Do” list. I got all of my children involved in fixing up the house in one way or another, even the five-year-old. This took care of their boredom, plus they were learning life skills. Score! That is until the novelty of working on the house wore off, and they began complaining about being bored and started asking, “Can we turn the TV on?” and “Can we play Xbox/PlayStation?”
By this point, I was elbow-deep in the latest fixer-up project, and I didn’t have time to entertain my kids, so I end up telling them they can each have thirty minutes of TV or video games. Hello TV as a babysitter! But you know what? It’s OK. This is not an everyday thing, and even if it was, it’s not a permanent thing. This quarantine is temporary, and my unemployment is also temporary.
The grand ideas I had of quality time with my kids, mentoring, and teaching them the things my father taught me were beginning to come crumbling down amidst my children’s boredom and complaining, and their crippling lack of ability to entertain themselves.
That age-old question husbands aim at their stay-at-home wives of “What do you do all day?” became glaringly obvious to me as my wife stepped back and handed me the reigns. I realize now, just how much of the peacekeeper, entertainer, teacher, mentor, house-keeper, and chef that my wife has always been. Because I worked, I only saw small instances of everything. Now that I was home and involved, I understand what her days were like every day. I now see the big picture.
After seeing her in action, I decided now was the perfect time to help ease her burden while I can. Wanting to pitch in, I volunteered to start doing the laundry and the dishes. For six kids ranging in age from five to eighteen years old, laundry was a nightmare! Doing the dishes was just about as bad. Both chores were never-ending.
There had to be a better way to do these things. It became my new obsession to streamline these two chores while getting my children involved and eventually taking them over and doing these chores themselves.
Although each of my children has an area in the house that they are responsible for cleaning every day, the dishes and the laundry were not part of those chores. But it didn’t take long before I had devised a system where everyone capable of doing their own laundry, now does it.
I have taken my kids to ride the mountain biking trails available in our area. I have taught several children to play chess, and the youngest can now play a mean game of checkers. I have even introduced my kids to the classic arcade games that I used to play.
We have embraced the TV for now, although in limited quantities. But instead of watching mindless dribble, we now watch educationally entertaining shows, such as The Science of Stupid, The King of Random, and What’s Inside.
I have learned that there are still some things I can control and even fix. I can keep my family safe, which is the most important thing right now. I can step in to teach my children, entertain them, and take care of them. I have learned that letting go of my expectations and ideas is OK. It’s OK to create a new normal from the seeming wreckage that life has thrown at me.
I have learned to appreciate my wife and my kids more than ever, having witnessed friends who have lost loved ones to the Corona Virus and other diseases right now. I have learned to embrace each of my children’s differences and quirks that are more obvious to me now that I have had to slow down and pay attention.
I have learned that even through the hardship of unemployment, I am a blessed man.
A New York Investor and Father of Three
As a father of three children under the age of four, quarantine life has been both challenging and rewarding. On the one hand, being on lockdown has required me to rebalance my work schedule as our children now have a greater need for attention, and entertaining them is not as easy as it once was. On the other hand, I feel that it’s brought us closer together, and it’s also taught us to be more creative as we’re doing more with less. Coming up with creative activities for the kids has been a fun process and something that our children are enjoying.
A Texas Pastor and Father of Four
I’d say that… Being a father during the Coronavirus means much the same thing that it means during other times, except that some of the challenges and joys are more pronounced. I’m thankful that I get to be with my children and enjoy their personalities and gifts, but it also helps me to see their weaknesses and struggles. That provides an opportunity for discipleship and correction. It also means that I get to grow in patience and self-denial. So, I like to think of it as an opportunity and not a burden.
An American Chemical Engineer Living in Singapore and Father of Two
Over the last two years, my job has forced me to be away from home a lot more than I would like. Around 50% of the time, I have had to travel around the world, which makes being the father I want to be much more difficult. In this aspect, Coronavirus has presented me with a great opportunity. I have had the chance to spend a lot more time with my kids.
Although it is a great blessing, it can also be a challenge. With my children now doing online schooling and everyone at home all the time due to the current quarantine, everyone’s routine is off. This can easily lead to everyone being “out of sorts.” My role as a father and husband is to help soothe this turmoil by helping my children navigate through the challenges of working out their problems and frustrations.
Additionally, I need to help calm their fears. It is easy for any of us to obsess about the virus – focusing on increasing numbers of cases and deaths. This is especially true for children. It’s important to strike a balance between helping them understand what is going on and realizing that life still goes on, and in the end, we will be OK.
I must remind them that no matter how chaotic the world seems, God is still in control. I must remind them of the power of prayer and how important it is to lift others up, especially those who are suffering or afraid. I need to show them that we must be connected to others, especially those in the body of Christ – even it must be via video or phone call. Just because the church building is closed, this doesn’t mean the church is.
This is also a great opportunity to minister to my wife. My additional time at home has allowed her to focus more on her ministry opportunities. I can take more time to be alone with her – which is an important example for my boys.
I really believe that in many ways, this time of testing is a great gift. We truly have more time to develop our relationships within our family and grow ourselves spiritually, physically, and emotionally. It’s important to me not to squander this gift.
A Florida Pastry Chef and Father of Three
Because of my profession, Pastry Chef at a local French restaurant, I have been put on an unpaid leave of absence. I don’t get to work from home, as some dads do. The restaurant is only open for food pick-ups and not dine ins, and they are not doing desserts, my specialty. I do have the comfort of knowing I will have a job as soon as the restaurant opens completely, but for now, we are struggling.
We have three kids, all under the age of five, and one is a newborn. He was born a month ago. When my wife was pregnant, before the enforced lockdown, we decided she and the kids would stay home to avoid any contact with the Corona Virus since nobody knows how the virus will affect babies in the womb. So they have been in quarantine for almost four months now.
During one of her video conferencing doctor’s appointments, we were warned that the hospital might not let me be with her when she goes into labor. My poor wife, who was already stressed because of the virus, now became even more stressed.
Things did end up working out when she went into labor in April, though. The hospital took my temperature and grilled me on who I had been around lately, and decided I was not a threat to any of their patients. I got to be there to see my third child born. We didn’t stay long in the hospital, only about 36 hours before they sent us home. We have pictures of my wife, wearing a face mask, holding our baby for the first time, and a similar one with me wearing a mask and holding our newborn. But it’s OK, our baby was born healthy, and right now, that’s all that matters.
A Texas Engineer and Father of One
I am a Corona Virus survivor. So is my one-year-old daughter. In March, I found out that one of my coworkers had come down with the Corona Virus, so I was paying attention to any possible symptoms that I might develop, and sure enough, I started feeling unwell within a week of finding out about my coworker.
I drove myself to a testing site, got tested, and went home. By the time it was confirmed that I did indeed have Corona, I was already feeling it. I was running a fever, and I had the chills. My head felt like it was going to explode, and my chest hurt. My wife is a nurse, so she chose to take care of me from home.
As I lay in bed, tortured with a massive headache and chills, my one-year-old daughter started running a fever. My wife takes her to the Emergency Room, where they confirm that my baby has Corona. My wife chooses to take her home where she can care for her and me at the same time. When my wife told me that our daughter tested positive for Corona, my heart shattered, and a fear greater than anything I had ever experienced entered my soul.
Then the guilt set in. I knew that it was my fault that my daughter now had Corona. I didn’t think I would be able to live if anything happened to her, much less because it was my fault.
Then anger set in. Anger at my coworker for coming to work and spreading the virus that could cause more devastation than I could possibly come back from.
My poor, fevered mind imagined all the worst things that could possibly happen. My brain throbbed, and my chest felt like I had an elephant sitting on it. My body ached from shaking so hard with the chills. If this is what I was going through, I couldn’t imagine what my sweet baby girl was going through right then.
I was supposed to protect my family, keep them safe, but instead, I found myself as helpless as my baby girl. My wife was the one who tirelessly took care of our daughter and myself. I am so thankful she is a skilled nurse and knew exactly how to take care of us.
My daughter actually recovered before I did. As my illness lingered on, my daughter’s temperature went back to normal, and she slept. She slept until her precious little body had healed itself. I was slower to recover, but with my wife’s care, I did.
I am so thankful for my wife’s care. At a time when I was brought to my knees by illness, my wife stepped up and took on the roles of caregiver and protector. As far as I’m concerned, she is a hero and she saved my daughter and me. We are both lucky to have her.