Our Family's Standards Have Slipped Due To COVID, And We Are Fine With That

by Stephanie Gruner Buckley

My husband left this shopping list:

  1. Jameson’s Whiskey
  2. Butter
  3. Tabasco sauce (chipotle)
  4. Tabasco sauce (habanero)

That’s it.

We have meat in the freezer and extra eggs and toilet paper. But there are other things we need. Fresh vegetables, for example.

This list perfectly captures our lockdown life amid COVID-19.

As the number of COVID-19 cases surge across the UK, we’re being asked to stay home until mid-February, or later.

Here’s a typical lockdown day: We wake up and stay in bed. My husband reads. I read a bit and write. Our daughter hops on FaceTime, and then Microsoft Teams for home school.

My husband and I shower and put on our day pajamas. Our lockdown wardrobe can best be described as teenage girl chic: oversized fleece-lined hoodies and sweatpants.*

We all have the hoodies. My husband got them cheap off Amazon. I don’t usually plug Amazon (Jeff Bezos is grotesquely/unconscionably rich), but these Amazon-brand sweatshirts are heaven.

I make coffee (sometimes my husband does). I feed the dog and boot him out the back door into a postage stamp-sized garden where I no longer care if he poos.


My husband works from the kitchen; my daughter goes to school in her bedroom.

Sometimes I eavesdrop on her classes. But not often. We used to be helicopter parents when it came to education. Now we just hope the Internet doesn’t go down.

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I walk the dog. I wash the dog. I blow dry the dog.

At some point my husband goes for a run.

I write something like this.

I make lunch, or not. Today I ordered Domino’s pizza. Sometimes it’s leftovers. Or I instruct my daughter to sort herself out and chop carrots and cheese and fruit. Maybe there’s dried meat like prosciutto, if she’s lucky. When I’m not looking she grabs a packet of chips and a chocolate bar. I pretend not to see.

I used to be the sort of person who folded towels right out of the dryer and removed leaves if they blew inside the front door.

I try to remember to pay the bills and see the vet and not forget my daughter’s eye appointment. I write things like this on a calendar. But with so few calendar events, some days I forget to look.

I read some of the gazillion emails sent out by my daughter’s school. Now that kids attend school from home, we parents are like classroom assistants. More often I call Joanna — a friend and fellow parent at the school — for a summary.

We all stop working by 5 p.m.

My husband and I used to have a drink around 7 p.m. A glass of wine, maybe. Now it’s a cocktail in a chilled glass and it’s ready by 6 p.m. (I lie. It’s earlier).

My husband makes martinis. He found a recipe for the old-fashioned variety. I am going to share it here, because the martinis are that good.

3 parts gin (we use Brixton Gin)
1 part vodka (we use Grey Goose)
1/2 part secret ingredient (Cocchi’s Americano aperitif)
Piece of lemon peel

Before dinner, my daughter gets back on FaceTime. Sometimes she bathes; sometimes she doesn’t. Every few days I wash her hoodie at the highest possible temperature.

We pet the dog. We play fetch in the house. We walk the dog around the block. We beg him not to eat the rugs, our slippers, laptop cords, etc.

Occasionally we have a puzzle going; my husband strums his guitar.

I tell myself repeatedly how fortunate we are. (We really are).

Sometimes I cook. Or my husband does. I’m a functional cook; he has genuine skill. Last night we had mussels in a red sauce with chorizo, garlic, onion and coriander. Guess who cooked?

We play Rummy while we eat. This counts as family time, right?

After dinner, my daughter returns to FaceTime and Roblox. Less and less I worry about the time she spends on devices. She’s braving another lockdown. Missing her friends. Missing a school she loves. No sport. I want her to interact with her friends in whatever ways possible.

My husband and I watch “The Durrells.” We never watched much TV together, but now it’s our evening thing. Sometimes we watch two in a row, while drinking whiskey and sodas. The dog sits with us on the sofa— breaking our rule about the dog not being on furniture.

The Durrells is about a British family that moves to Corfu before the Second World War. They’re living on top of each other in a disorderly home. They make us laugh. They make us look tidy and not entirely dysfunctional.

We get back in bed. Read. Lights out. Repeat.

*My husband dresses for meetings.