Let me preface this piece by acknowledging that the pandemic has made for an horrific year. There’s been so much loss, grief and change that it’s truly hard to wrap our heads around it day by day, sometimes even hour by hour. Parents, in particular, have been forced to bear the brunt of an extraordinarily impossible circumstance. Still, there are some surprise silver linings—or forced life improvements—that we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge. Here, seven things that got better for many families…and some practices we hope we keep even once the world opens back up.
1. Outdoor Playdates
“Rainy days pre-COVID were almost always spent indoors, but with all of us cooped up at home, I felt more inspired (or desperate?) to get outside no matter what,” says Stephanie, a mom of a toddler, based in New Hampshire. “Even when it was cold, we just bundled up. It’s a reminder that a change of scenery—even a trip to the backyard—works wonders.”
Jillian, parent of a kindergartner and pre-k student living in Brooklyn, says, “Do I have to go back to the days of somebody else’s kid mushing play dough into my rug? No, thank you!” Far fewer breakable objects outdoors, TBH.
2. Timed Entry to Museums and Zoos
To think, we used to have to view that sleepy sloth while smushed up against a million other people. “Timed zoo entry is a game changer,” says Alexia, who works from home with a toddler in New Jersey. “Also, museums. It cuts the stress of having to navigate lines and worrying you’ll have to jockey for a position up front.” Krisse, a mom of two boys in New York, adds, “I actually feel like we have way more access to things and better experiences because of the limited crowds. Food truck lines don’t exist anymore—you just order on your phone and pick it up at a scheduled time.”
Even vacations are improved, according to Josh, a dad who admits the year at home with his kids (a pre-teen and a teenager) wasn’t all bad. “We went skiing one weekend and it was great. No lines, no fighting for a table. Scheduled hot tub time was my personal favorite, partly because it kept the crowd down, but mostly because there was also a fixed time we had to leave, which made getting them out of the water so much easier.”
3. Smaller Class Sizes
Pre-pandemic, many public schools had as many as 30 kids in a classroom. And while it sucks that it took a global crisis to show the myriad problems with this set-up, some parents were glad to see reduced class sizes as a result of changes to in-person learning. “Last year, my son had 24 children (and one teacher) in his class,” says Jillian. “This year, he initially had 8 fellow classmates, when he returned to hybrid learning, and now 17, since we are back for five days a week with three feet of distance. While I think the benefits of having all kids in school full-time are paramount, I can definitely see how having such individualized attention from his teacher has paid off, when it comes to his math and reading skills, and general confidence.”
4. Virtual Pediatrician Appointments
Of course it’s sometimes important for the pediatrician to see your child in person. But for less dramatic symptoms—say, a sudden rash—it was time and sanity-saving to be able to simply schedule a Zoom. “My son developed a fever that I was worried about, and instead of the pressure to juggle everyone’s schedules and book an appointment around naptime, I simply hopped on a video call,” says Nicole, a California-based mom of one. “Our ped’s advice was to drink fluids, give Pedialyte popsicles, and keep her posted. My son rebounded within 48 hours. It was great to navigate that so efficiently over video chat, and I hope that’s something we can continue to do even when all this is behind us.”
5. Virtual Parent/Teacher Conferences and PTA meetings
Another virtual breakthrough: Not having to book a babysitter or even put on real pants to attend a meeting at your kid’s school. “Instead, we handled this just like any other virtual meeting—the outcome was just as good/productive at no additional cost,” says Sarah, who lives in Florida with her two-year-old. Carolyn, a mom of two boys in Tennessee, agrees: “I used to never make it to PTA events, because it interfered with work or bedtime. Now, I can pop into most meetings while I’m cooking dinner or otherwise managing my household.”
6. Masks and Handwashing During Cold and Flu Season
Mask-wearing and extra attention on handwashing meant kids’ common colds and flu cases were few and far between this year. “Am I saying that I’ll encourage my kids to wear a mask post-pandemic? Not necessarily, but it’s interesting to take note of what a difference that made,” said Kate, who lives in Maine with her kindergartner. And many others have reported that they do hope schools (or at least indoor play spaces) continue encouraging masks in the years ahead. “There are SO many germs It just makes sense!” says Stephanie.
7. Work from Home Flexibility and Spontaneity
Not everyone was in a position to transition to remote work, but for those who could, it was eye-opening to recognize the life improvements that came with it. “The lack of a commute—mine is typically an hour each way—meant that I could better prioritize family dinners and pay better attention to nutrition for my family,” says Jennifer, a mom of two in Massachusetts.
Alexia chimes in: “Potty training was much easier in a pandemic. We were all home! I didn’t have to cancel any plans.”
“I think it made me more capable of spontaneity,” says Erin, a mother of three girls from Massachusetts. “For example, a gap between meetings meant that I could eat lunch with my kids, take a family walk or even knock off early for an ice cream run. Post-pandemic, I think parents will have an acute awareness of how to maximize time, but also will prioritize being present when it counts.”