Editor’s note: Over the next two months, we’re checking in with Farmington area families to see how they’re coping with the COVID-19 pandemic – disrupted summer plans, keeping everyone safe, and the big back-to-school decisions they face. Our hope is to share resources and ideas, and to let families affected by the pandemic know they are not alone.
After more than four months of dealing with COVID-19, local families are navigating safety measures and the boundaries of togetherness.
For Karen Gordon, a mortgage professional turned stay-at-home parent, and her husband Adam, an IT professional, there is a stark contrast between March and July.
“In March, there was so much we didn’t know about COVID, so we were isolating to help prevent community spread and protect ourselves,” said Karen. “Now, we base our decisions on a risk versus benefit scale as opposed to just risk. Being isolated was affecting our mental stability and our marriage, so we decided that visiting select people with precautions was worth the small amount of risk associated.”
Their daughter Charlotte, age 2, has developed separation anxiety during the pandemic. “We’re meeting with a therapist regularly, but it’s gotten so bad that we’ve decided to not try for another baby in the near future.”
While Charlotte isn’t required to wear a mask, Karen has made her some in fun prints, and they play dress-up to practice.
With the separation anxiety comes sleep issues, so everyone is fighting exhaustion. Karen schedules activities with Charlotte around Adam’s schedule, and sometimes even pencils in things like showers and dishes. Having a plan helps reduce her stress.
Back in March, the Zupancic family suddenly had to figure out the logistics of everyone working and learning from home. Jeff, a business consultant, has had a home office for the past 11 years. When his wife, Deb, and son Jake, 23, joined him, and sons Nick, 20, and Drew, 16, shifted to online learning, the family found themselves with a need to spread out.
Taking precautions has been tough to navigate.
“It was easier early on, as I was the only one leaving the house, and only for groceries,” Jeff said. “Now, any time any of us are in a public indoor space, we are masked at all times, as we want to do our part in protecting others. When we are outside, we don’t wear masks.”
The family also works at finding a balance between connecting and having personal space.
“We’ve learned a lot about one another, but have also gotten on each other’s nerves,” Jeff said. “Our patio and fire pit have become our regular gathering place. We are having more quality conversations about the pandemic, school, and social injustice.”
As weeks turned into months, the family found further purpose when Drew came up with ProjectPorchPantry.com, a contactless food drive. This helped the family come together to support their community during these difficult times.
For Claire Tluczek’s family, the shelter-in-place order in March triggered quick changes. An attorney turned stay-at-home parent, Claire and her husband, Andrew, who works for a third-party Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) administrator, have twin four-year-old daughters, Ally and Maisie.
“My elderly father packed a bag and moved into the third bedroom of our three-bedroom house,” she said. He was already visiting frequently to see his only grandchildren, so it made sense to reduce his risk by keeping him close.
Before the pandemic, running errands with the kids in tow was an everyday thing. Now, Claire is the designated shopper.
“I have a system for shopping, complete with hand sanitizer in my purse. The kids haven’t really been to a public place in months,” Claire said. “There is no point in risking anything by taking them out. My kids need to be alive and they need their Granddad to be alive, more than they need to go to the park or get together with people who do not take the pandemic as seriously as our family does.”
Although the state has started to reopen, she added, they are staying the course.
Claire does let the kids play with their grandparents outside, and masks are required. Getting little ones to wear them can be a challenge, but open conversations, fashion sense, and some help from Elmo got the point across.
“To get my girls to understand the importance of wearing masks, we talked about how much it sucks to be sick and how masks keep everyone safe from sickness,” Claire said. “We watched both CNN Sesame Street town halls on the coronavirus, and it also helps that Nana comes over with new masks for them in patterns they love.”
Even with Granddad moving in, day-to-day life in the Tluczek home didn’t change much.
“Thankfully, I was already home as a stay-at-home parent with young children, so it wasn’t as jarring for our family,” Claire said. “We stick to a routine, and I don’t fight the kids on things that don’t matter. It’s hard to change it up, but I just do my best to be engaged with them while still keeping the house running.”
“I miss my village,” she said. “We just keep it moving and know that 2020 is going to be hard to ride out, but if we stay home and stay safe, we’ll be here to reunite in 2021. The reunion will be epic.”