Isaac Newton did some of his best work during a plague year, we’re told. Shakespeare may have turned to sonnets when the theatres were closed. And now everyone you know is working on some kind of project while they’re working (or not) from home. But you know what other option you have? Not doing any of that.
Staying home while businesses close all around you and the number of infected people climb is a weird, unprecedented, and scary situation. If you don’t know what’s happening to your job or to, you know, society in general, it’s normal to be maybe a little stressed out? And perhaps, I know this is a wild idea, go easy on yourself?
I’ve worked from home nearly my entire adult life, and I can tell you that even under the best circumstances this does not gain me very much free time. Sure, I don’t have a commute, but that means I miss out on an hour of reading or podcast-listening time that my office-going friends take for granted. These days, with social distancing in full effect, my kids are home with me. There’s more cleaning to do, more fights to break up, and a renegotiation between me and my spouse of who is doing what mental labour.
I suppose I save some time in the evenings by not having to take my kids to their activities now that they’re cancelled, but I also emerge from my home office at 6pm utterly exhausted by the mental and emotional effort of trying to keep up with the news while getting my work done. Just let me sit back a minute and relax.
This isn’t summer holiday. And if you’re not an upper-class, self-absorbed college student with people to do your chores for you (ahem, Newton), there’s no reason to expect this to be a relaxing, productive time. If diving into a hobby or project helps you deal with stress, that’s great! Dive away! But you are under absolutely no obligation to make use of this difficult time, nor to feel guilty about “wasting” it. Take care of yourself, and let yourself off the hook.