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When news and alerts of canceled schools and events first hit my phone a year ago, I’ll be honest – I thought this wouldn’t last a week, and then we’d back to normal. Boy, was I completely wrong! It was inconceivable to think we’d be masking up like other countries, but by March of 2020, we were. My husband and I found ourselves combing the shelves of pharmacies all over town, trying to locate a box of masks for our personal protection. And for longer than I ever could have imagined, we were stuck at home wiping down delivered groceries on the front porch and home-schooling our kids.
We’ve gone through a lot in the past twelve months. Much of it was really challenging, but some of the adjustments haven’t been so bad. In fact, there are a few changes this Birmingham Mom has made during the pandemic that I plan to make permanent.
#1 Personal Hygiene and Protection
Pre-pandemic, I thought hand sanitizer was a waste of money. I never bought the stuff. Yes, we washed our hands after we used the restroom, but I couldn’t swear to you we were all that diligent about it at other times. Now? We wash up all the time - before and after trips out of the house, meals, and playtimes. It’s become a habit, and my family won’t be going back to our old ways. I even bought hand sanitizer to keep in the car when we can’t get to a sink.
Clorox wipes took on new importance during the pandemic's early days, but stocks were quickly depleted. Before COVID, I never purchased a single tub of wipes. Once I finally got my hands on a box of them in the early days of the pandemic, I started wiping down doorknobs and light switches in our home regularly. Now, it’s a weekly ritual.
While I am not eager to keep wearing a mask after this is all over, I can see the upside to masking up in crowded places. I’ll have no problem using one for trips to the grocery store, flights, doctor’s offices, and in other congested indoor spots. Why not? It’s better than being sick.
#2 Up to Date Vaccinations
I haven’t always been great about keeping my family up to date with our flu vaccines. We’d get busy and forget or not take the time to schedule them. This year, we all got our flu vaccine on time and, of course, our Covid jabs. I believe those vaccines, along with improved hygiene and mask-wearing, are the reasons we all remained so healthy this year. In fact, we’ve been healthier than we ever have been before. That’s a lucky streak I’d like to keep up! As we move on from this virus, I plan to make sure my entire family gets vaccinated on time each year.
#3 Contactless Quick Food Service
I attended a virtual Economic Summit for my state of Alabama this month. One of the guest speakers was the owner of Tostado's restaurant in Homewood. He told us that one of the primary changes mom-and-pop restaurant owners have made during the pandemic is to offer high-quality, contactless to-go meals prepared by a smaller staff. According to him, it’s easier, overhead is lower, and it’s way more profitable. Many believe this trend will continue even in a post-pandemic world.
Restaurant owners predict a continued decline of family seated dining and an increased interest in easy online ordering and delivery. One of the most useful adaptations eateries have made this past year is contactless pick-up. I love using an app, paying online, and then just hopping out of my car to grab my food off the rack and walking out. No lines. No waiting. It’s simple and easy. Post-pandemic, I plan to do continue doing this.
#4 Culling Budget Excesses
I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but pre-pandemic, I had a cleaning lady, a lawn guy, a couple of nannies, and I had my groceries delivered each week. Once the entire country quarantined, that all came to a stop. I had more time on my hands, so I started cleaning my own house and shopping for groceries again. Since the kids weren’t in school, we did not need a nanny. We saved a ton of money by making these changes. I even had time to comparison shop expenses like car insurance and cell phone service to find the best rates. I also spend time each month reviewing our credit card statements for extra subscriptions we didn’t need or reoccurring charges we had never noticed in the past.
Before this all started, I felt like I had no time, and I needed the extra help. I’ve discovered I can manage it all just fine, and I actually enjoy it.
It was a great lesson for me, and I plan to be more vigilant about our future budget.
#5 Hobbies and Simple Amusement
In our pre-Covid life, my husband and I spent plenty of time and money taking our kids on little adventures around town - indoor play places, trampoline parks, and game zones. For the past year, those options haven’t been on the table. Instead, we found lots of fun stuff to do closer to home. We rode bikes, made a garden, and played board games. We picked up simple hobbies that required little fuss and no money. Cooking. Writing. Drawing. We worked on them all year and even got fairly good at some of them.
#6 Saying No More Often
In a normal year, so much comes at you. Invitations, volunteer requests, personal and professional commitments, and get-to-togethers. Much of it feels either like a requirement or an obligation - not an option. Before you know it, your weeks are packed with errands, and the hectic pace overwhelms you. This year, there were no invitations. No commitments and get-togethers. If someone did invite you to something, the pandemic gave you a perfect excuse to say “No.”
The biggest lesson I’ve taken from this year is that it’s OK to slow down. It’s OK to say “no” to stuff. I’ve gotten used to my bare calendar. I’m done with excess appointments, to-do’s, commitments, and errands. I’m protecting my free time to take a walk or take a nap or just sit on my porch swing with a cup of coffee.
Now that I’ve learned the simple art of saying “no,” I’ll be doing more of it.
We’ve learned some painful lessons through this pandemic, but we’ve also had a chance to reset our way of life. I’m sorry we had to go through it, but I am glad I took the opportunity to make these significant adjustments in my life while I had the chance.