7 Things I’ve (Already) Given Up On During Quarantine

given up quarantine given up quarantine

When we first started serious social distancing last month, I really thought I was going to nail this whole locked-at-home-with-my-family thing. I felt optimistic, and, yes, I was one of those people who created one of those color-coded, wholesome, very organized spreadsheets for the kids’ daily schedules. During the first week, I baked a variety of artisan breads and cookies, put on non-stretchy pants every day, planned balanced meals, and declared to my family that I was going to take up sewing (like I’ve been meaning to do for the past five years — making Halloween costumes that actually fit and keep the kids warm? Yes, please).

What can I say? My spirits were high and my patience had not yet run out. I was in a dazed state of denial that convinced me I was not only superhuman, but destined to emerge from this pandemic somehow better and more efficient than I was before. I had this romantic Little House on the Prairie vision of a simple, fulfilled quarantine life; I’d become closer to my family, learn those long-forgotten domestic skills, and read the novels that have sat neglected on my bookshelf for years.

I was a fool.

By now I have fully accepted that that’s not going to happen. I’m not going to learn new skills, I’m going to muddle through this, accepting that my “best” right now is a lot lower than I would normally expect for myself and that’s okay. I now understand that this is not the time to start adding things to my plate. It is, for me, a time to let things go. Here are a few of the things I have already given up on during quarantine, with zero regrets.

Structured Pants

I went strong with the whole “trick your mind with fancy clothes” during week one of quarantine. However, doing this didn’t reinforce a sense of normalcy, especially since pants are not actually my “normal” as a regular work-from-home mom. Instead I’ve reinforced my steadfast beliefs that 1) we women need more functional pockets in our lives, and 2) pants without a stretchy waist are for fools.

Plus, I realized early on that doing other things — like curling my hair every few days or putting on tinted lip balm — made me feel a lot better about myself than wearing jeans or chinos (which I’m busting out of due to stress eating) did. Yoga pants and the occasional cotton dress for the win, people.

Turning in ALL my kids’ schoolwork

It didn’t take long for me to come to the conclusion that although I consider myself an excellent mother, I’m a pretty terrible elementary school teacher. Honestly, at this point it’s a miracle that I’m still attempting to get my kids to do schoolwork period. So I’m giving myself a break on turning that work into PDF documents and emailing it out daily, because honestly, it’s way too much for me. Especially since our school district is sending home work that takes us about six hours to complete (approximately five hours of which consists of whining about not understanding or wanting to do the work, asking for/eating snacks, staring into space, pondering the makeup of other universes, asking for TV or computer free time, crying, bargaining with god about lockdown). And I’m working.

So instead, I’m checking in with my kids’ teachers and letting them know that we’re doing our best. We’re saving the work they’re doing and piling it into their folders for when (let’s face it, IF) my first and third graders do return to school. I apologized to their teachers for this, and you know what? They apologized right back. We’re all dealing with a lot right now. Math worksheets aren’t the most important part of the quarantine equation and we’re all acknowledging that.

Learning to sew

You know those delightfully privileged memes going around that say you should come out of quarantine with a new skill, side hustle, or having written the next great American novel (preferably all of the above), otherwise you’re just a lazy unmotivated schlub? As I said above, there was a time when I fell for this and convinced myself that I needed to learn to sew while stuck at home. It’s six months until Halloween, and that’s totally enough time to become a master seamstress, right? Ten points for optimism, twenty points for naivety.

I did manage to make a functional face mask, but gave up beyond that because WOW does sewing take a lot of time, especially for a newbie. Like most moms right now, I don’t suddenly have unfilled hours to learn new skills, even ones I’ve always romanticized and really want to acquire, like sewing. Keeping everyone alive and functioning is enough, and trust me, it fills all hours of the day.

Putting on makeup for Zoom meetings

So maybe I didn’t learn to sew but I DID figure out that you can “touch up” your video image on Zoom, such that a youthful, glowing, non-zombie-esque face is just a click away. Pro-tip: check your audio/video insetting, and click on the “touch up my video” box under the video section. Also learned how to change my background to make it look like I’m in outer space, which has to be worth something.

Limiting screen time

I mean, really? Who did I think I was? Who even pretends that Disney+ isn’t going to become their child’s primary parental guardian during quarantine? Screen time was 100 percent the first thing I gave up on during quarantine, and I thank myself for that lack of resolve every day.

Do I love that my kids are watching hours of online streaming every day in addition to their online learning? Of course not. But sometimes I need a break too, and this is the only way I can get it. I’m not lowering my parenting standards, I’m simply adjusting so that I can continue to care for them without getting totally burnt out. The normal rules don’t need to apply right now, and a little more Paw Patrol than the AAP recommends isn’t going to kill anyone.


I really truly thought I was going to at least get some reading done during quarantine. I have this lovely stack of library books that suddenly aren’t accruing late fees, and I want to read them so badly. But the truth is, my brain isn’t functioning at a high enough level to focus on them anymore. Maybe yours isn’t either, and that’s okay. I’m done pressuring myself to be the best version of myself during quarantine. What I’m able to do is enough, and if that means I’m zoning out to Tiger King in the evenings instead of devouring books, so be it.

We’re all doing what we can right now, and whatever that looks like, I promise, it’s enough.

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Gemma Hartley is a freelance journalist and author of Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women and the Way Forward. She lives in Reno, Nevada with her husband and three young children.