How Does My Family Strike a Balance Between Caution and Risk?

When the pandemic began in March, like many Americans, I met the challenges it presented head on–enthusiastically even. Admittedly, compared to people suffering serious financial and emotional hardships, my sacrifices weren’t huge. Yet even in relative comfort, living with the day-to-day uncertainties of covid was frightening and at times overwhelming. 

I drew strength from a collective sense of duty because it felt like, as a nation, we were all doing our part to limit the spread. The early days of covid weren’t easy, but, like most Americans, I knew what needed to be done, and I resolved to do my best.

concerned woman
Where is the balance for my family at this stage of the pandemic? (Twenty20 @malisunshine)

Things are even harder now

Unfortunately, this isn’t a sign that we have gotten a handle on the virus. In fact, where I live the threat of covid is far greater now than it was in April. The decisions that our governor and individuals are making about which activities to limit and which to resume are based on economic factors, mental health concerns, and in many cases, just the compelling desire to do what we want.  

It’s that last factor I’m struggling with. I understand the need to re-open the economy, and mask mandates do make it safer for all of us to venture out. As the mom of teenagers, I also get the mental health concerns associated with long-term isolation, especially for young people. I recognize that our country can not sustain the types of shutdowns we saw in the spring without serious consequences for businesses and individuals. 

How do we weigh all the factors we need to consider during this Covid era?

But where is the balance? 

As a parent, striking a balance between my comfort level and my children’s desire for normalcy is extremely difficult. When restrictions began to loosen in our area, and it became clear that “everybody else’s mom” was letting them, we reluctantly agreed to let our sixteen year old son to start hanging out with friends again, as long as he followed a few rules–like mainly gathering outdoors.

I don’t like it. If it were up to me, he would still be safely ensconced in our covid-free home watching movies with us every night. But at least we have tried to set up some guidelines to keep him, and by extension ourselves, safe. 

Still, it isn’t just our youngest son’s social life that is worrisome. We have an adult son too and two daughters in college. And while we have no control over their level of risk, we do still want to be with them. When our older son and his wife come over for dinner, do we social distance? Stay outdoors? What about when our girls come home for winter break? Do we keep our distance for the first couple of weeks? 

Interacting with the people I love was much easier when all the people I love were locked down. 

Of course, I don’t just love the people in my immediate family. I love my friends and extended family too. In April my friends and I met for Zoom cocktail hours. By late May we began meeting poolside or on back patios–always aware of the distance between us. But now cooler weather is coming. 

With the holidays coming, there will be many challenges

By November will patio parties even be an option? Can I host a socially distant Thanksgiving with my cousins? Will there be masked Christmas parties or curb-side gift exchanges? It has been difficult, but doable, for me to comfortably navigate my social life during the warmer months. But colder weather will present a whole new set of challenges. 

So, while much of the rest of the world seems to be getting back to normal, I am struggling. Do I learn to live with the risks associated with being “back out there?” Or do I soldier on, seemingly alone, with my attempts to limit the spread and protect my family? 

There are no easy answers. I want to do the right thing, but, as restrictions are lifted and life moves on, it is becoming increasingly difficult to discern what is right and reasonable in a pandemic world.  

This won’t last forever

Of course, from the beginning there have been people who defied and resisted any restrictions. There have always been people who don’t believe the science or who weren’t willing to make sacrifices. But at least in the early days of the pandemic, I knew the right thing to do. I knew that staying home was the best thing for my family and for our community. 

Still, this isn’t to suggest that a return to lockdowns is the answer or that I’m wishing for the “good old days of the pandemic.” There are no “good old days,” This year will be remembered as a year of losses–lost dreams, lost expectations, and of course most tragically, lost lives. As we navigate how to move forward, all we can do is to try to act with wisdom and compassion and seek a healthy balance between risk and isolation.

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About Laura Hanby Hudgens

Laura Hanby Hudgens is a part-time high school teacher and a freelance writer living with her husband and children in the Arkansas Ozarks. Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Grown and Flown, and elsewhere. You can learn more about her at Charming Farming, where she occasionally blogs about faith, food, education, and family life.

Read more posts by Laura

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