There’s a secret issue lurking deep within the many layers of this coronavirus episode and the “work from home” restrictions imposed by governmental entities, like Ohio, in response to the pandemic. It’s a delicate, explosive, almost taboo subject that isn’t really being addressed by the people who are directly affected.
The secret issue is this: in “boomer” households where one spouse works outside the home and the other doesn’t, the forced “shelter in place” requirements are seen as a kind of trial run for the retirement period that is coming down the road in the near future. And neither spouse really knows, for sure, how it’s going to work when the one spouse stops trotting off to work on weekdays and ends up hanging around the house with the other spouse all day. To be sure, they hope that the retirement years will be the golden period of bike-riding and pottery-making togetherness that the commercials depict, but they wonder if the reality is going to be more difficult . . . and darker.
To put it plainly: is constant togetherness, without the “down time” created when one spouse is off at work, going to drive the stay-at-home spouse nuts? And is the mere presence of the working spouse during the daytime period going to noticeably interfere with the habits and routines of the spouse who is used to having the run of the home, to do whatever s/he wants, without having the still-working spouse getting in the way or following him/her around like a lost puppy or a bored child who demands attention every waking hour of the freaking day?
Of course, this stay-at-home period isn’t a true trial run for retirement, because the working spouses are supposed to be working from home and, therefore, presumably have things to do that will occupy their time and command their attention. Still, the need for adjustment is the same. You might call this shutdown period a kind of partial dry run. And, in a sense, that makes the situation even more delicate — because if the presence of the working spouse is getting on the stay-at-home spouse’s last nerve even under these circumstances, what’s it going to be like when true retirement comes and there is no work to serve as a distraction?
In households across America, spouses are walking on eggshells. And if they aren’t, perhaps they should be.