Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on motherhood in the legal profession, in partnership with our friends at MothersEsquire. Welcome Lindsay Kennedy back to our pages.
In South Korea, we started our pandemic journey in late January. The Korean school my 3-year-old attends was closed for most of February and all of March. The American school on the military installation closed four weeks ago. My sexy husband, an active-duty soldier, has been working long hours. For all this time, it has fallen on me to guide my Kindergartner in virtual school, work, and handle everything, while not going anywhere except the commissary.
Our motto has become “Protect the Bubble!” Our bubble is our neighborhood. It is a two-street world with mostly Americans — military families. The working moms are all at home, the work-from-home moms are all still trying to preserve their career, and the stay-at-home moms are helping me keep it together.
It reminds me of my childhood in the 1980s. There are no activities for kids to attend. Snacks are given freely to the groups of feral children. And the kids play most of the day outside, after completing their schoolwork. When the weather is bad, I end up with five or six kids in my living room building forts and pretending to be gymnastic stars (because my house is the only place they are allowed to jump on the couch).
Somehow while all this goes on, I sneak upstairs and get a few minutes of research done. I do research and writing contract work for attorneys and want — no need — to keep doing it to maintain my sanity. I don’t charge much, but my brain needs this outlet in general, let alone during this challenging time.
The Korean people are rationing masks. Each day you can buy one mask and some days, based on the last digit of your birth year, you can buy more. They wear masks to protect others from their own germs, not to protect themselves. They find it rude when someone does not wear a mask, I was politely told by a friendly Korean woman.
In the beginning, we experienced what I called panic. For 24 hours, there was no meat, cereal, or crackers at the commissary. But within one day, shelves were fully stocked. We never ran out of toilet paper. The Korean grocery stores never ran out of anything.
This “panic” turned into exhaustion rather quickly and has remained at a stalemate for weeks. Even the kids are tired of playing at home all the time. The number of people who are diagnosed with the coronavirus is finally going down each day. We can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
The lockdown is hurting many businesses and some are finding ways to adapt. Restaurants are re-inventing their take out options. Others are closing permanently.
It took me a long time to understand that I am not doing this to protect myself or my family. We are not high risk; we are not even medium risk. If we got it, we’d be fine. In the 1980s, it was normal when a kid caught chicken pox for every relative and neighbor kid to come over to get infected. The thought of doing this approach has crossed my mind.
But the more people that contract the virus, the more it spreads to those that are at risk. This country is the size of Indiana with the dense population of 1.5 times the population of California. It has been very impressive to watch an entire nation give up so many personal liberties by choice to protect its most vulnerable citizens. Without this high-level of dedication, I have no doubt that millions would have died.
The relentless effort in tracing every step an infected person took is both frightening and remarkable. The locations are instantly released to the public and extensive sanitation follows.
We are not out of the woods yet. Lower numbers still mean new diagnoses daily. Weeks ago, one person with little-to-no symptoms went to a church service and within a day or two hundreds of cases could be traced directly to him. Even weeks later, Daegu, a city with a population of over 2 million, is still considered a hotspot — the entire city is off limits.
The schools are finally talking about opening up again. There is hope that our lives will be back to normal soon. But my mentality will forever be changed -– experiencing an entire nation work together despite it hurting their personal livelihood. Writing about it doesn’t begin to do it justice. It inspires me to do something for the greater good in this world -– I just have to figure out what that will be. Until then, we will keep protecting our bubble!
Lindsay Kennedy is a part-time lawyer doing legal research and writing for other attorneys and military wife with two daughters in South Korea. Lindsay is also the Executive Director of MothersEsquire, Inc. She supports changes in the legal profession to allow for more non-traditional options so both parents are afforded the opportunity to enjoy their family. You can reach her at LKennedy624@gmail.com.
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