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Lessons from the Pandemic, Part 1

With increased vaccination rates comes more reopening of places, offices, and activities. As we step back (or forward?) into our new normal, some lessons from the pandemic for me:

1. Outdoor dining is here to stay. In various cities across Northern California, many downtowns blocked off main blocks to vehicle traffic for the restaurants to expand onto the streets and to provide outdoor dining. I think it’s safe to say that outdoor dining, in some ways, helped save our local restaurants.

I’ve never been a cold-weathered person (that’s why I live in California!), but last Thanksgiving, my family and I ate our Thanksgiving dinner on an outdoor patio (it was COLD). I wore 4 layers, including insulated tights. In December, right before the final lockdown, Ben and I ate outside at Santana Row, kept warm-ish by the heat lamps.

And….. It’s SO MUCH BETTER! Not only are you wayyy less likely to get Covid (or any other airborne illnesses), it’s also a great opportunity to get fresh air and do some serious people watching ;-). And, outdoor dining is AMAZING for the kids! I love love love taking L on walks downtown, where he can literally run around in the streets. When you’re eating outside, the kids can be as loud as they want! And, when they’re done, they can just get up and run around, or climb the closest tree, or go say hi to the dog at the next table…… It’s much more entertaining and relaxing for kids to be outdoors, versus inside a restaurant with giant screens and super loud music.

Outdoor dining is here to stay, and I am here for it!

2. Take a Mental Health Day. During the summer of 2020, when it became evident that we’d be “sheltering” for a lot longer than previously expected, Google gave us a “Global Day Off” for the entire company.

To be honest, I didn’t know why we needed a day off - I mean, it wasn’t like we were going anywhere!

But then, it happened. No emails, no meetings, just OFF. I don’t remember what I did that day, I just remember being a lot less stressed. Subsequently we’ve had these “Google holidays” (we jokingly call them “Sundar days”) and Ben and I have taken the opportunity to go on a date day (went on a walking tour in SF), or even do an overnight trip (staying in Mill Valley and hiking Muir Woods).

I don’t know all the science, but what I do know is that your brain needs a break. So, take Sundar’s advice and take a day off. Take a nap, go for a hike, read a book, get away. You do you, just not work. :)

A happy (or not-stressed) mom is a better mom.

3. The kids will be alright. I am not an educator (though I was raised by one) but here’s the truth - your kids are gonna be fine. They’re not going to be behind, or have to repeat a grade. They are YOUR kids, so they’re probably already smart and/or can learn things pretty quickly.

Kids got too many hours of screen time? They’ll be okay. Once they’re back in school (in person), 6 hours of screen time will be a thing that never happened.

Kids who just played all day??? Even better. What a gift it is for kids to have the freedom to make up their day to their hearts’ content! How many opportunities will they have in their lives jut to BE? 2020 was probably it, and I say ENJOY!

Kids who had the one pod friend and lost all their social skills? They’ll be okay too! Being amongst their peers again will give them the opportunity to relearn those skills, and this time around, they know it’s okay if it takes a little while (they were home for A WHOLE YEAR!).

Those of you who know me know that I was an immigrant - twice! My family actually moved to the US twice, first time in 1987 and second (and final) time in 1989 (we moved back to Taiwan in between). The first time I had to learn English from NOTHING (I didn’t even know how to say “hello”) and the second time I had to re-learn English. Both times I lost about 6 months of formal schooling, and it turned out alright - I ended up working at Google. :)

Remember, the best thing your kids got is YOU! Through it all you were their strongest supporter, advocate, and ally. As long as they have YOU in their corner, they can’t fail.

The kids will be alright, I promise.

4. Change is….. Good? In the pandemic we all adjusted to a million different changes: having the kids at home when schools/daycares were closed; going from just one meal a day to cooking ALL THE TIME.; changes to childcare and work styles; changes to routine and schedules…… you, yes YOU, made it all work. So, maybe when things go back to “normal” it’ll all snap back, or maybe it won’t. Maybe you’ve enjoyed your quiet weekends with the family and don’t want to go to a million birthday parties. Maybe you’ve set up your workstation just so, and never want to make the commute again. Maybe out of necessity you shifted your children’s care setup to something entirely different.

Maybe, something has changed with you. Maybe you’re considering a big career change (as I did); or maybe you’ve made some changes to your lifestyle that you really enjoy (being able to go for a walk every day after work). Maybe it’s having the time to connect with your kids; or your spouse, like you never had before. Maybe the lack of activities made you reconsider your priorities and/or your kids’ priorities. Change can be scary. But, change can also be a gift. In our lifetimes, how many opportunities do we get to truly take time and look at our crazy, busy lives? How many months or years do we get with our kids, before they stop talking to us (at 13, is what I’ve heard)? How many times do we get to experiment with our own lives? Trying out a new workout or a new recipe? Doing something completely differently than how we’ve done it before? Opportunities for change come pretty rarely, and last year, we collectively had an entire year. To think, to re-examine, to reconsider, to change. If you’re considering making a change, good for you! Let Be Merry help you succeed, whatever your new goals may be.

Embrace the change and give yourself the time and the opportunity to do something different in 2021.

Under the "things I never thought I'd need to do" category, my (then) 3 year old doing a classroom meeting with his teachers on Google Meet

My 7 year old joined a "pandemic learning pod" and we pulled him out of public school. Here they are doing their year-end project, presenting their 'Me Boxes"

My first ever Zoom wedding!

My 3 year old's daycare closed (indefinitely) and we decided to switch him to a smaller, home-based daycare

Ben and I on a "date day" for one of the Google Global Holidays

The kids will be alright, I promise <3

Pandemic birthdays -- we're doing a birthday "hangout" via Google Meet with our extended families all over the world

Date day at Muir Woods!

In the pandemic my husband converted our garage into a working gym. It's not the prettiest, but it WORKS

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