Many haven’t lived with Mom and Dad full time since going off to college. Most couldn’t remember the last time the house they grew up in served as their permanent address.
Their parents had come to grips with the fact that they were no longer the default emergency contact listed at gyms and doctors’ offices. Some handled it better than others.
But as cases of the coronavirus began to mount in densely populated cities like New York and Philadelphia and models predicted surges still weeks away, many young professionals — urban homeowners and renters, singles and young families — turned to their touchstone of reliability and protection: Mom and Dad’s house.
“Plus, the child care’s free,” said Hailey Barton, director of digital media at a New York City ad agency.
Barton, 35, and her husband David have leaned on both sets of grandparents for essential child care; both have been expected to maintain some semblance of standard business hours telecommuting from home, while usual methods of child supervision and enrichment like nannies and day care are off the table.
For Andrea and Bill Apter, Barton’s parents, it means a full house once again, and though under suboptimal circumstances, cherished added time with a grandchild and peace of mind to have all three out of New York.
“They’re happier having us out of the city,” Barton said. “Because they know how it would be if we had to be locked inside a two-bedroom apartment.”
After deciding to leave their home in Astoria, Queens on March 20, Barton, her husband David and two-year-old daughter Lucy spent three weeks with Lucy’s paternal grandparents in suburban Connecticut before decamping to Barton’s childhood home in Dresher, where the quarters may be close but there’s more room to breathe.
“It was too difficult to do work with a child (in New York),” she said. “And, also, there wasn’t enough ability to go outdoors.”
Playgrounds in Upper Dublin Township are closed, but the township’s parks are options and woods and creeks around the Apters’ Dresher neighborhood abound and are ripe for the extended afternoon hikes keeping both mother and daughter freshly oxygenated and sane.
But like many others, the Bartons are improvising. They bake, they hike, Barton pitches new business via Webex and hopes Lucy is otherwise occupied and doesn’t decide to try out a toddler’s take on Zoom bombing.
“We’ve now been gone almost five weeks, and we’re planning to be gone for at least three more,” Barton forecasted soberly. “We packed to be gone for one week.”
“There’s definitely been a lot of needing to adjust … to everything.”
That might sound like a strange way to describe moving back in with those who know you best, but the dynamic that attends this particular live-at-home
scenario is not a revival of the old high school song and dance.
“Typically when we come home, it’s actually like that, but with the added stressors of work plus planning a child’s day, it’s beyond just being able to enjoy family time,” Barton said. “There’s too much on our plates to feel like teenagers again.”
Nancy Kurtzman and her husband Morris, of Wynnewood, can relate. Their daughter and son-in-law, Efrat and Aaron Bloch, who live on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, brought their 1-year-old daughter Noa to the Main Line for Shabbat and a long weekend on March 12. They’ve been there since.
Kurtzman’s daughter, 28, a health and benefits actuary and her son-in-law, in his final year of medical school at Weill Cornell Medicine, typically hunker down for the day, attending to work and school in the manner of the new normal.
Meanwhile, the recently retired Kurtzman already has a new role.
“We would call it split duty,” Kurtzman said. “My husband’s really great in the morning, then (Noa) naps, then I pretty much do the afternoon, with help from Aaron.”
It’s a labor of love, Kurtzman acknowledged. Cooking, food shopping, maintaining toilet paper supply and doing it all for a full house — these are things she and her husband haven’t done in some time. Delegating responsibility and accounting for feelings makes for hard work, she said.
“But I’ll take this every time,” she added. “My granddaughter, my daughter, my son-in-law here. We’re navigating and doing the best we can.”
And improving, Kurtzman added. Her son-in-law will begin a residency at Thomas Jefferson University next year in psychiatry and his perspective, she said, has been instructive.
“He’s gotten to know us a lot better,” she kidded, adding that through this crucible “families are learning how to communicate with each other better.”