My Turn to Walk the Dog: Moving Back Home During the Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many students have moved back home. Living with your parents again has its advantages — but it also brings with it some challenges and potential for conflict.

Credit: Mauritius images

Studying at home brings unexpected new duties with it: the ringing of the landline phone downstairs, the screams of children from the neighboring gardens, calls from the ground floor and finally the knocks at the door. Oh yes, today is my turn to take the dog for a walk. But does it really have to be already now? It is so early. On the other hand, at least after taking the dog out I am awake for my zoom call.

A lot of students have been spending this time of uncertainty and isolation with their parents in their home city, be it in Russia or abroad. There they swap freedoms and habits they have developed while living away from home, for family life in a kind of state of emergency, but they also have the advantage of having a lot more space than in the small shared apartment or room in the dormitory in their university city. And sometimes at home they even have a garden.

My parents live in a small city in western Germany and have a big old house with a garden here. So, I feel much less locked at my parents' house than at my small one room apartment without a balcony in St. Petersburg. My parents left my room largely untouched after I moved out. So, while it feels like it used to, the room is obviously not ideal for studying for university. During the zoom calls the tangled cables on my desk persistently try to swallow me until I am unable to move, and everything is more stable than the internet connection in my room. However, I feel good anyway. While I miss St. Petersburg and ITMO, unlike in St. Petersburg, you can take a walk or cycle around the countryside without meeting many people.

Another reason for students to move home in times of Corona is to do shopping for their grandparents or take care of younger siblings or pets so that their parents can work in peace. Which is obviously very convenient for their parents and grandparents. When I do the grocery shopping for my grandmother, she can avoid unnecessary contacts in the supermarket.

Photos courtesy of author
Photos courtesy of author

Despite all the advantages, living together also brings challenges since the daily routines of different generations collide. Who can have lunch at twelve o'clock if you only got up an hour ago and why should you go to bed at 10 pm when you are only really productive at night? Suddenly you must coordinate again, adapt to others. While this is maybe a smaller problem for people living in the dormitories it was a big challenge for me. I usually don´t have set meal times. I simply eat when I’m hungry or when I come from university. Now I eat when my parents eat, so I don´t have to sit alone at the table. Moreover, if you live alone you can watch what you want on the TV or Netflix. At home I now need to agree with my parents what to watch in the evening.

Moreover, anyone who is part of a household must also help in it because if there are more people there is more disorder and obviously more dirty dishes and laundry. Also, here adaptation is needed because not only did students get used to having their own household but also parents got used to a life without children. While after some time everything feels like it did some years ago this is not true: the children have become independent adults. Nevertheless, parents will soon fall back into old parents and start to tell their children what to do. So, in the parental home, different rules often apply than in your own four walls: nothing should be lying around and instead of letting the dishes stand for a day or two, the dishwasher is emptied as soon as it is finished.

Photos courtesy of author
Photos courtesy of author

Of course, students are usually home as a temporary guest from time to time, even under normal circumstances. However, this time it is different. Since my classes ended in July and will only start again online at the beginning of October, I had a lot of time for different things: reading a book in the garden, cooking for my mother and cycling in the countryside. In the last few months I (re)discovered beautiful new corners of my city and the countryside surrounding it. So, despite all the initial difficulties and additional potential for conflict it is nice to be at home. It's nice to know that there will always be a place for me here. Nice to know that my parents still care about where I am going and when I will come back. This time it took a pandemic to have such a nice time with the family. We will probably remember its beautiful aspects forever and laugh together later at the occasional clash.