JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, South Carolina —
As a father of a four-year-old daughter, the reason I go to work is to make sure that she is taken care of -- food in her stomach, clothes on her back, a roof over her head and a better future for her.
I was aware of the possibility that I could be away from my family with little to no contact when I joined the military, and I was prepared to do what I had to do to honor my service commitment.
Having said that, all of the training I have received could never have prepared me for, or empowered me to predict, how my work-life balance would be flipped upside down over the past several weeks.
We see the news stories daily, and we all know how COVID-19 has affected people’s lives all around the globe. People have been ordered to isolate themselves, keep their distance from one another, and in some cases, people have been placed into quarantine.
As an Airman, I never thought I would be serving in the U.S. Air Force and working from home daily through a global pandemic.
When Joint Base Charleston went into mission-critical status, my public affairs leadership directed us to start operating from home, or teleworking, as much as possible. Social distancing soon became physical distancing and the goal was to limit the opportunity for the spread of disease amongst each other.
When it comes to public affairs, a lot of people think we just take photos; however, as public affairs specialists we do so much more. We are storytellers. We document history, we tell stories locally and abroad, and we work with people internally and externally daily to showcase our people, assets and missions.
It’s an amazing career, it’s not always easy, and now this global pandemic has created a semi-chaotic environment for us to navigate and continue our mission as storytellers.
Personally, it has been a very odd time to be alive. Meaning: most non-essential businesses are closed, schools are closed, travel has been restricted and many of us are confused.
This pandemic has affected not only adults, but kids as well. During this time we are urged to physically distance ourselves from others, and some children can’t understand what's going on around them. They wonder why they can’t go to school, attend daycare, or see their friends. For many, myself included, COVID-19 has made being a parent even more challenging than usual.
Keeping my four-year-old happy and active is a challenge itself, but balancing that and my work has been hectic, to say the least. On a normal day, I would wake up, brew some coffee and get my day started. My daughter may still be asleep, or she may already be awake and running around the house.
There’s a lot of juggling we parents have to do in just a few hours, and this pandemic makes proper time management all the more important. For example, when I think about life before COVID-19 things just seem to go a little smoother. Now, I feel rushed as I have to get her something to eat, check in with my office, work on my assignments, make myself breakfast, feed and take out my dog and a host of other things while my daughter is ready and waiting on me to play and run around.
When there is work to be done and kids that need to be kept occupied it’s good to have something for them to do. I’ve printed so many coloring pages that my printer has run out of ink. My daughter has helped with cooking, putting up groceries and walking the dog. We love to play music so she can dance, paint her nails, do her hair and she gets a little time to play games and watch some of her favorite television shows. If I’m lucky, she occasionally takes a nap.
We normally eat dinner after our long day of activities. Some days she will call her mom to see how she is doing and we all just have a good conversation. Toward the end of the night, we get baths and showers out of the way, and we normally settle down with a story right before she goes to sleep. Once she is asleep I finally find those few minutes of peace and quiet that all of us need to ourselves. And yes, the peace and quiet is oh so sweet.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because my life is now different, and maybe yours is, too. Yes, it appears this pandemic will eventually run its course. During this moment in time, I am a father, an Airman, a daycare worker, a frequent grocery shopper, a manic housekeeper, and at least three-star chef. Let's face it, I think I'm good in the kitchen.
But, after a few weeks of this, I admit I'm exhausted, yet I can’t just shut down. After all, I am her father. I am the one who entertains her and in her eyes the singular individual with infinite wisdom and knowledge for my daughter. Yes, it’s tiring and so worth it at the same time.
This pandemic has made me realize how much I sincerely appreciate teachers who educate our children, the daycare workers who ensure our kids are taken care of while we all work and the restaurant workers who take care of us when we don’t have that extra burst of energy after a long and grueling day to cook those meals we crave.
I really miss y’all.
As a father, I never expected to bring all of my work home with me and be a stay-at-home dad at the same time. On the bright side, I feel like I’ve been tested to a higher level, and if something like this happens I know that I'll be able to handle it, figure it out and continue to give her a better future. However, I really can't wait for the regular, normal day to return.
Honestly, it's a confusing time at the moment and teleworking from home can have its challenges. However, we are not alone. We may be physically distant but we are able to stay socially connected. We don't have to do this alone. Take time for yourself, read a book, binge on a show that you haven’t caught up on yet. If you need some mental help seek it out. We are not alone and we will all get through this together.