Pandemic Writing

Monday, January 31, 2022


After reading Bethany Jarmful’s "Friday Speak Out" post about making sure you write even when you’re busy, I thought of my early days of freelancing. I would often have my four-year-old daughter putting together a set of railroad tracks for my toddler son in the playroom so I could interview someone for a weekly newspaper column I wrote. I never could seem to coordinate phone calls with nap times, especially when my precocious daughter decided she was done with napping at the age of two. My kids are teenagers now and for a brief window of time after the oldest got her driver’s license and began driving her brother to and from school and to sports practices, I blissfully worked at my freelance writing and editing gigs from home, catching up on true crime TV shows on my lunch breaks and squeezing in my workouts in the early afternoons. I had so much of my life back after all those years in the carpool line and my introverted self relished it. 

Then, the pandemic hit. Suddenly I felt like I had everyone underfoot all at once. My husband got sent home from his corporate job to work remotely, the kids had virtual school, and my two small dogs, who’d enjoyed such a quiet routine with me for so long, were completely baffled. My daughter accused my husband of “hogging all the bandwidth” upstairs, and we had to get a Wi-Fi extender so everyone could participate in virtual Zoom sessions without glitches. I was happy to remain in the home office downstairs while my husband worked out of the guest bedroom, but our dachshund often tried to chase him upstairs because she likes lounging on the fluffy guest bed while he works. He'd take her upstairs and then bring her back if I tried to eat a snack, because she'd start whimpering at the sound of wrapper opening. 

I felt like I couldn’t focus on work because someone was always strolling into my office in between classes or meetings and plopping into my chair in the corner. Even if I was focused on task on my computer, the visitors continued. The dogs grew annoyed with the kids constantly walking in and trying to pet them underneath my desk. “They’re sleeping!” I’d say. And I’m working, I thought.

I had a hard time focusing on my editing and podcasting work because there were always people around. After the kids went back to school and my husband back to the office, I breathed a sigh of relief and tried to settle back into my routine, grateful the piles of glasses and dishes and laundry had dwindled. Then my husband got sent back to work from home after Christmas until the most recent spike is over. One day he needed to use my office for a call and my senior dog who is starting to get memory problems was completely confused and wouldn’t go to his spot under the desk because I wasn’t in there. He wandered back out and looked at me with confused eyes. 

“I know, buddy,” I said. “One day things will return to normal, maybe.” 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and magazine editor who also produces the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. Learn more at


Angela Mackintosh said...

Renee, I enjoyed reading this post, and I love how you ended on dialogue! One of my favorite ways to end an essay. :) It made me laugh when you yelled, "They're sleeping!" I just adopted two rescue kittens and they have so much energy. When they finally fall asleep in between my legs while I'm on my laptop, my hubby will pick them up and give them kisses because they're so darn cute. And then they'll want to play again, and I'm the one who they've designated as their playmate. They are so much fun, though. :)

I also had to laugh about your daughter accusing your husband of hogging all the bandwidth. When we first moved to the mountains, it took an hour to send one email through webmail. I found out my dad had over 500 browser tabs open! And who knows what else. When he refused to close them, I changed the Wifi password until he agreed to not use that browser.

Renee Roberson said...

Thanks, Ang! I'm glad you saw the humor in this. I didn't want to come across as ungrateful--I realize I was very lucky to be employed and have the resources available needed for all of us to be here. I'm also fortunate the kids could take care of their virtual schooling and weren't elementary ages because that was so hard for a lot of families.

That's funny about your kitties! I always walk the dogs during lunchtime so they get tired after that. Then the kids roll in around 3:30 and ask why they're so tired. And 500 browser tabs?? How does one even do that?

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Too, too funny. Mostly because I get it.

The day my husband called it HIS office - KABOOM! Poor guy.

What is the saying? Normal is just a setting on the dryer. Sigh.

Marcia Peterson said...

So challenging, Renee! Good to see you can still find some humor in it all. And fodder for a nice piece of writing. ;)

Had to chuckle at both Angela and Sue's replies here as well. I read about a mom who would change the wifi password as leverage with the kids/teens so they would have to do whatever they were supposed to be doing, before she would let them know what it was. And the "normal is just a setting on the dryer" is great.

Cathy C. Hall said...

If not for all the Zooming, I wouldn't have known I had a BIG bandwidth problem. So silver lining? :-)

Sounds like y'all handled it with grace and humor, which I find works for a lot of unexpected turns in life.

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