A few months ago, I wrote how living through a pandemic has brought some unexpected blessings, mostly in the form of more concentrated time together as a family. As I said then, I firmly believe the strengthening of marriages and families is one of the best possible outcomes of this pandemic.

At the same time, however, I was recently reminded that there is such a thing as being together too much. Families who homeschool are probably accustomed to being together more than most, so we may not think about it too often. But I hope we don't forget that it is okay—actually, good and healthy—to take a break from one another sometimes.

The reason I was reminded of this is that our family was once again on the road this past month, tagging along with my husband as he worked near the beach. This time we rented a townhouse that had the amazing perk of being semi-oceanfront, but the downside of being quite small (probably about a third the size of our home). I figured that this would be no big deal considering we'd want to be out on the beach most of the time, but the weather had different ideas. Chilly temperatures, clouds, rain, and wind are not ideal for hanging out on the beach, so unfortunately the kids and I spent much of our two weeks indoors.

By the second week, I was starting to feel a bit edgy and was just realizing why, when one afternoon my two oldest daughters got into a shouting match over something random. Granted, they have various squabbles almost daily. But it was a little out of the ordinary that one of them was to the point of saying, “Could I please not share a room with [sister] when we get home, because I can't take it anymore!”

When this kind of conflict occurs, I usually talk the girls through it to try to resolve the issue. This time, however, I suspected that there wasn't much of an underlying problem. . . . These girls had just been sharing an unusually small house, a room, and even a bed for the past two weeks. I explained my thoughts, mentioning that we have all been around each other more often during this pandemic, but that living in closer quarters was even more challenging for everyone. Then I told one of the girls to go into my room, while the other stayed in their room, both with their headphones on and music playing so they wouldn't be in any danger of even hearing each other.

I wasn't sure it would work, but it did. Within about an hour, they were back in the same room laughing together. I'm certain a little break from each other is not the solution to all their arguments, but this success makes me think I should try it more often.

After a year of being mostly at home, I'm finding it helpful to get out of the house as often as possible. We've tried to keep the kids involved in church activities, we've participated in some local co-op classes, and one daughter has now started softball. Yes, masks often have to be involved, but activities are still better for the kids than sitting at home with their siblings so much that they start getting annoyed by each other breathing too loudly.

With warmer weather and more outdoor options, getting some space should become easier. Trips to the park or just playing in the backyard can be helpful. I am not naturally a very “outdoorsy” person, but at this point I am willing to push my comfort zone for the sake of everyone's sanity. (Bonus fact: Vitamin D is a great booster of both moods and immune systems!)

One more quick thought: Mom should be included in this plan, too (hello, Mother's Day!). The kids need breaks from each other, but they also need a break from you, and you from them! I had a chance last month to get away for a couple hours and meet with an old friend while my older kids babysat the younger one. I honestly can't remember the last time I had a one-on-one chat with a friend (at least not in person), nor can I remember the last time I've enjoyed myself so much. Getting away from the kids is great; making connections with another adult is even better.

So while I'm certainly grateful for the time we still have together as a family, I'm seeing now more than ever why it's beneficial not to remain in our little bunker all the time. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, and there haven't been many occasions for absence from one another lately! Let's be understanding with our children (and ourselves) when restrictions keep us in close quarters, and let's try to continue making connections with others as often as we safely can.

—Jessica