I am going to try and keep this post short. I was contemplating whether I should even write it or not, but actually writing things down helps me clear my thoughts. And I do need to clear my head ’cause this whole corona virus ordeal is causing me tension headaches and they are no fun.
So you can see it as a FAQ. Starting Monday I am going to keep my kids at home. I live in the Netherlands, where schools haven’t closed down yet. The official reason is that if they did close down schools, where would doctors and nurses and police officers leave their kids, in order to deal with a crisis situation. I don’t know. I hear in other countries schools close but childcare is guaranteed by the government for those working in these essential sectors. Just an idea…
Schools remain open over here. I have a friend (hey there, C.!) who has been keeping her daughter at home since the first case of corona were detected in the Netherlands. I thought that might have been a bit too much at the time, but they do have high risk people in the family. So then I thought “ok, yes, if I were in her shoes, I ‘d probably do the same but we are no high risk and our parents and grandparents are in Greece. We don’t really see that many elderly people, so even if we do get it, we don’t really put lives in danger”.
Then Greece closed schools down. I mean, as proud as I am over my homeland (not particularly, where you are born is a matter of sheer luck, not a source of pride in my book), they usually fuck up when it comes to crises. Not this time though. With much less confirmed cases the schools quickly closed down. Did people follow the guidelines and stay in? Nope. But that’s another story. The government did do their job (and trust me, I am NOT a fan of that particular government at all).
So then I started watching the numbers in the Netherlands more closely, reading about how things escalated in both China and Italy, reading about projections in two weeks time. I got a better understanding of how the virus works, of how you actually can infect others without having symptoms yourself.
And I got me some pasta. And yes, some toilet paper. Not ALL the toilet paper. Some. A package.
N. was instructed by his company to work from home too for the next two weeks. An American company with a branch in Amsterdam. Dutch companies don’t do that, in their majority. Most international ones do.
No news of the schools closing though. And then on Thursday I think it was N. who said it out loud first, but it was in my mind too: we thought about keeping kids at home, no matter what the government decides. Lucky for us, since Friday and up until 31st of March parents who decide to keep their kids at home in the Netherlands won’t be fined. So it’s up the individuals to decide. Funny, huh? It’s a bit like we were taught in school about God. When a kid asked why would God let people do horrible things to each other, the answer was actually that God has given us the great gift of freedom of will. So the government is a bit like God now: you can choose to send your kid to school or not. Then we will judge if it was YOUR fault that the virus spread and you should go to hell. Oh, no sorry. It won’t be hell. It will be hospitals without space in the intensive care units. Oh, right. That’s probably pretty close to hell. But it’s never God’s.. ehh… government’s fault, is it?
UPDATE 15/3/2020: The government finally decided to close schools! Yaaay! Better late than never.
So here is the FAQ:
Don’t you trust the judgement of the Dutch government on this matter?
Errhmm.. no? Reading the cases of other countries and looking at the statistics makes me strongly believe that the focus of the government is that life goes on as usual so that as little money as possible will be lost from business. I feel they could put all the energy they put in preventing panic into preparing for the closure of schools and offering childcare options to doctors and nurses and preparing remote learning environments.
But you are not high risk. What does it matter if you get infected?
Let’s start from an individualistic perspective. Even if you are among those who believe that corona is “just a flu”, well, I ‘ve had the flu last year for a week and it’s no fun. When you are an expat with no family around, when you get the flu or an extra special new virus, you have to just deal with it. And when you just can’t, because of the fever and the pains and aches all over your body, your partner has to jump in and take care of the kids. Which means that work falls behind and you use up quite a bit of sick leave. And the kids aren’t having fun either.
Also, if we or our kids get the virus and then spread it to the grandparents of other kids who are actually Dutch and live here, I ‘ll watch elderly people die around me and I will know deep inside me that I could maybe have prevented it by staying the fuck at home. I actually like old people. They are wise and they bake cookies and they say great stories. Oh my god, I love a good story!
Plus, if I don’t get the corona but I get some other stupid virus of need to go to the emergency for whatever other reason (thinking my kid swallowed magnets, for example -true story. X-ray came out clean), there won’t be space for me, cause it would be filled with corona patients. I might get a place, but waiting times will be big. And if I am being totally honest, will the system rather treat a Greek 34-year old stay at home mom expat first or a 50-year old Dutch, who needs to go back to his position in the company asap? I don’t know. I don’t want to risk it.
Won’t your kids drive you crazy two weeks at home? Why would anyone do that to themselves?
For the second part, see above. For the first part: HELL YES! My oldest is already acting strangely, whining and being generally more nervous than usual. Kids are very observant and they do notice when there’s stress in the house and their environment in general. Plus, kids do need to go out, run, interact with their peers and so on. So yes, they will drive me crazy. They will drive US crazy, since N. will be working from home too. And we will drive them crazy as well, cause we will be asking them to be quiet for a bit so that papa can work or mama can catch her breath. But we will figure it out. We will try new games. We will clean up the sandbox and put fresh sand in and lock them in the garden. We will be more relaxed with screen time. We will bake cookies. Real ones, with sugar, not my stupid banana-oats version. We will do what it takes. But we will do our part.
I think you are just being extreme and panicking and that whole virus thing is just meant to distract us from more important stuff. You are doing the establishment a favour by putting yourself in quarantine.
First, I do not care what you think. Secondly, that’s not a question, so I shouldn’t put it in my FAQ, but since it’s something I come across a lot these days, here’s my two cents. Yes, of course there are many serious things going on in the political scheme at the moment in many countries, Greece included. That doesn’t make the fact that corona is a very true threat to many lives less of a fact. We’ve all got the internet to bombard us with all the tragic things that are happening in the world right now. The fact that we are acting on what we can (see: corona virus), doesn’t mean we don’t give a damn about all the rest). Also, we are not in panic mode. We are in a “social responsibility” mode. We did get extra shopping, but not because we are worried we will be out of food tomorrow. We got (a bit of) extra shopping so we can minimise our trips to the shop, hence the exposure of us and others to the virus.
What about YOUR work? How can you work with the kids at home?
Ah, I thought you’d never ask. So my work consists of two parts right now: creating felt toys and selling them online and doing workshops for both felting and creative writing. So yes, my work will be affected. I will have less time to work as the kids will be around all day. Or I will learn to work with the kids around. Luckily, they find what I do pretty fascinating to they can sit and watch me still for a bit. My workshops are small. I can have up to 5 students per session. The Dutch government allows up to 100 people in a venue. However, the six of us are sitting around at a table, rather close to each other. I will most likely pause till the end of March and re-evaluate. So yes, my tiny freelance artist’s income will be affected. Not worth anyone’s life though.
A note on that one though: many freelance artists, especially performance artists and those of us offering workshops, will suffer a great financial hit these days. They are trying to come up with innovative ways to offer their services on line. Do try and support them, if you can. Was a drawing workshop by your favourite comic artist cancelled? Consider buying one more of their books and gift it to a friend. Was that concert you were planning to go to cancelled? Consider donating the money to the artist or buy some of their CD’s or merchandise. Was that messy play workshop you were going to with your toddler cancelled? Ask if they can make youtube videos with messy play ideas and purchase them.
Stay safe, think rationally -see? I didn’t say “positively”. I said “RATIONALLY”– and wash your hands.
See you soon.