How I Raised My Toddler in Coronavirus Shanghai

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It has been two months since my daughter attended to her pre-school class. What we thought would be a two-week Chinese New Year holiday is now inching towards a two-month hiatus. Although many of my daughter’s friends left China during the time the Coronavirus broke out, we decided to stay in Shanghai.

At first, the news of a three-day holiday extension to our week-long Chinese New Year holiday was a dream come true. Getting extra days to be with our child; enjoying the DIY activities and things we normally can’t do with her because of work. Then, the reality hit.

Enhanced security measures created extended road closures, and working in the office became temporarily replaced with working at home. What made being a working mom possible now becomes a juggling act, especially if you normally have nanny to help out and a preschool to entertain your child. Even if you set up a work-toddler schedule to manage your household during this time, you need to be creative with activities. In many ways, it was as if you were thrust into homeschooling.

This abnormal period brought out the best moments in us. Because we had restrictions on receiving visitors into our compound, we became friendlier with our neighbors and were quick to arrange playdates. We were constantly finding different ways to use common household objects and transform them into a game. It allowed us to reconnect to the simple joys of living, it got us back to humanity—and there is no better way to teach an impressionable child than by leading by example.

During this uncertain period, I felt stronger than ever. Social media was ablaze with ideas for allowing our child to have a more meaningful play. It also became a platform to show off our home cooking skills and sharing cheeky photos of our homemade toys. Our imaginations ran wild. With nurseries being closed indefinitely, We got creative and reached out to early education teachers to transform our private playgroups into a special “mommy&me” class.

Our work-life became more personal as video conference calls with colleagues were forgiving if a toddler jumped into the frame. It was also a time where colleagues got a chance to share a slice of their home life with each other. For us who stayed in Shanghai, we sit and enjoy the daily activities to the best that we can, treating this like a summer storm which will soon pass. But the truth is, COVID-19 has forever changed our lives and we will never return to how it used to be.

As we slowly trickle back into work, the morning goodbyes are a bit harder for everyone. After all, with all the loving quality time at home, the toddler may wonder why mommy and daddy have to go back to work. For some people like myself, going back to work is no longer an option because of the dent the virus has made to the company revenue. And for the others who braved the storm outside of Shanghai, they have missed one of the most peaceful and humanistic periods.

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