Learning to Shelter-in-Place

I have often felt a sense of disconnect with my inner sense of self and reconciling the obvious reality of being a suburban mom. In my mind, I’m still a somewhat cool wife and mom, juggling  a career, living and working in a bustling, crowded and chaotic city. My reality – I am a wife and a mother to three daughters, living in the rolling suburbs of Austin, Texas. 

Although it has been 13 years since my husband and I moved our young family from San Francisco to Austin – it has taken a protracted global pandemic, shelter-in-place mandate – for me to fully appreciate the true beauty and value of being right where I am. 

We are now four months into Austin’s city-wide shelter-in-place, which for our family officially began on March 19, 2020 when we all returned from our shortened spring break travels. Time has taken on the quality of an endless summer day.Thinking back to the beginning when we made the decision on March 11th to move forward with our family’s spring break travel plans feels akin to a lifetime ago. We could not have forseen that within days of making that decision – with all three of my children in different cities across the country –  we would be cringing with literal embarrassment over our parental decision-making. Despite our school district making an 11th hour decision to cancel all school sanctioned group travel, we still sent our oldest daughter to Florida’s Disney World with many of the members of her high school dance team; we sent our middle daughter halfway across the country on a ski trip to Colorado with friends; and my husband and I flew with our youngest daughter to Florida to enjoy the beautiful coastal communities and most importantly to meet our new baby nephew. 

As the realities of this worldwide pandemic, Covid-19, shelter-in-place magnified, I found myself ruefully laughing at the thought that this is possibly the only time suburban living may possibly elicit a sense of envy from my urban friends. The “bubble” literally and figuratively of living in the suburbs has felt like + positive for the first time. The wide-open spaces, relative lack of congestion of people and space makes this an almost perfect shelter from a deadly, quickly spreading, highly contagious viral infection that is at its most lethal when introduced into densely populated environments. 

The irony of course is that what I miss most about living in a big city is that feeling of being most at home when lost in a crowd. Even if I didn’t interact or make eye contact, just being a part of the bustle, shoulder to shoulder among so many people, from all walks of life, backgrounds and ethnicities and where being Asian, being Korean, did not make me at all special – is exactly what I loved most about living in San Francisco and before that Seattle. 

Now that we have mostly settled into what feels like our new normal, notwithstanding an underlying layer of persistent privileged survivor’s guilt, I finally feel able to acknowledge and to appreciate just how thick the insulation has been and how much protection it has provided for my family as the worst ravages and impacts of Covid-19 have caused barely a ripple in our day to day existence. 

It is not until I read the news, watch endless videos, live updates and talk to our friends living in the densely populated big cities, that I am reminded how precipitous life is and how uncertain our world has become. 

While I will never, ever drive a minivan, I appreciate the comfort and camaraderie of our sweet suburban community and I am deeply grateful that my family has been spared the ravages of Covid-19, and for now, we are safely riding out this exceptional and unprecedented time in the safety and security of our home.

Shelter-in-Place Positives: reading books, listening to audiobooks, cooking with new recipes, diy ginger lemon cayenne shots, economy of grocery shopping, using what we have, morning yoga, baking, family dinners, sister bonding, renewal of friendships past and present, more conversations, and deeper mindfulness.


Published by kimberlystrenk

West Coast native, enjoying life in Austin, Texas with three teen daughters, awesome husband, and one adorable, vertically challenged doxie pup, Ollie.

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