When was the last time you fantasized about being in a crowded shopping mall, or getting shipwrecked on a deserted island? When was the last time the prospect of a work trip got you all hot and bothered? Well, maybe don’t answer that last one.

My point is this: the pandemic has changed us. It’s changed how we do pretty much everything including how we work and parent. But are all of these changes bad? I mean sure, Zoom birthday parties, virtual school, face masks, toilet paper shortages, all of that SUCKS. But for many of us the pandemic has forced us to think and appreciate things differently.

Given what the last year has brought and taken away, some things that used to be terrifying no longer seem so bad. Things I used to dislike have become things I’ll never take for granted again because they signify normalcy.

Take crowded shopping malls, for example. I hate mall shopping with the heat of a thousand suns, but I’ll be damned if I wouldn’t trade my favourite credit card for a chance to be elbow-to-elbow with other shoppers right about now. What I wouldn’t give to spend thirty minutes in line for a change room or to make a return. The “Add to Cart” endorphin rush of online shopping just isn’t the same as laying your hands on the one thing you have to have, the top that will make you look ten pounds thinner, or the shoes that will legit change your life. The camaraderie and quiet, avoid eye-contact at all costs desperation of women pawing the sale rack together as one is something Amazon just can’t replicate. 

Next, there’s getting a puppy. Don’t get me wrong, I love all animals, especially dogs. But puppies are not dogs. Puppies are an entirely different species that run entirely on cocaine and cherished household items. As an adult I’ve raised three puppies and every time I vow “this is the last one” I wind up eating my words. So, of course we got a puppy during the pandemic and of course there were pee stains on the carpet, squishy poops on the Mexican tile, shredded homework, chewed clothing and vet bills. Oh, the vet bills. But there was also time to properly train and bond with the puppy. There was no commute to rush out of bed for, making the one and four a.m. pees a little easier to handle. There was only time and, finally, a good reason to go for five walks a day.

Speaking of behaving like animals, I have a recurring dream about being shipwrecked. In the dream I wake up face down in the sand, water lapping at my feet, sea birds (vultures?) circling overhead. Far from being idyllic, the dream is terrifying because there’s not another soul around. However, after eleven months of family togetherness, I don’t think I have to tell you, dear reader, that this sense of solitude is no longer entirely unwelcome. No longer does being shipwrecked scare the hell of out me. In fact, I’ve actually been willing the dream to happen, fantasising about cooking for one and never folding laundry again. I mean sure, I’m eating tree bark and wearing palm leaves but I’m alone.   

And you know where else it’s fun to be alone? On work trips. Before becoming a parent, I loved travelling for work because it felt glamourous and grown up. After becoming a parent, I loved it even more because it felt like going on vacation. Now, it’s been so long since we’ve been able to dream of any kind of travel, even the most unglamorous of work trips look pretty good. Buffalo in February? Hell ya, as long as the room is dark and quiet and I can be in bed by 9 pm and I get to LEAVE MY OWN HOME AND NEIGHBORHOOD FOR ONCE. Flight delays, stale continental breakfasts and boring conferences are my new love language.

School field trips are another thing that used to seem less than awesome but would now be fantastic. I know, I know, I’m a terrible person for hating on field trips but who among us hasn’t resented taking a day off work just to spend it asking ‘do you have to pee before we get back on the bus?’ over and over and over again. But given the soul-sucking, trauma-inducing hellscape that is online school, field trips would be very welcome right about now. Bring on the zoo, the Nutcracker, the outdoor education centre, the ice cream factory, whatever it is. I will happily zip the jackets, wipe the noses, hold the bathroom doors, count heads, count heads again and count heads a third time out of sheer joy that all our kids are back in the classroom.

Speaking of kids, as an English lit major, I used to think Dante’s Inferno was the seventh circle of hell but since becoming a parent I’ve realized it’s actually a McDonald’s play place during a kid’s birthday party. Or a Chuck-E-Cheese or indoor trampoline park. Basically anywhere that smells like sweat and farts, where sugar-infused kids are running and screaming under florescent lights and everything is sticky. But man, what I wouldn’t give now to sit on a butt-numbing plastic chair for two hours holding coats and shoes while my kids run and play and laugh and get sweaty with their friends. What I wouldn’t give to spend an exorbitant amount of money on a birthday present for a kid I’ve never even met let alone heard of. If it meant my kids could see their friends and celebrate with them in person, I’d do it all. Even the sticky bits.


Jen Millard is a writer who's not afraid to say what everyone else is thinking about parenting and relationships. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram via @jennemillard or at wineandsmarties.com.

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