Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on motherhood in the legal profession, in partnership with our friends at MothersEsquire. Welcome Lindsay Kennedy back to our pages.
I live in South Korea with my young daughters and husband. I work remotely as a federal tax attorney, a job I started only one month ago and already adore. I am experiencing the euphoric sense of truly finding my calling in the legal world. Yet, here I sit dealing with the struggles of switching from SAHM to remote, part-time working mom and getting to navigate this new thing called the Coronavirus.
I have lived in Korea for eight months, so I am not an expert by any means. I have had the pleasure of learning about the Korean culture and falling in love with it. The Koreans absolutely adore children. Every face lights up when a kid walks into a room — including and especially store workers, which tend to give kids a different look in the United States. The Korean people have always, from the moment I arrived in Korea, highly prioritized germ prevention. It comes as no surprise to me that a virus with a new name would be treated with such a high degree of concern.
I treated this new thing like any attorney smack dab in the middle of it –- I researched it. I learned the coronavirus spreads like the flu, has symptoms like the flu, kills the same demographic of people as the flu (those with already compromised immune systems), and lasts about the same amount of time in the body as the flu. Since no one in my family has a compromised immune system, I don’t find the possibility of contracting the virus to be all that scary.
I made sure before I started working, I had proper care for my kids lined up -– back-ups plus back-ups to my back-ups and a team of support from friends. This virus has eliminated each option one by one.
The Korean school my 3-year-old attends was the first to close until further notice. The American school was next to close, informing parents at 7:30 the night before it closed for the rest of the week. Then, the back-up childcare facility let me know at 8:38 the night before it closed until further notice. Friends that have been great assets in trading childcare have chosen to completely isolate themselves. They are scared and are choosing isolation as a means to find control. I am only on day two of having my kids at home and so far, I am lucky that they are being good about playing together and allowing me to work. I am also very lucky to have such a supportive boss.
Everywhere we have gone in the past three weeks, every single person is wearing a mask. Masks are never uncommon in Korea, but they have not been this overt. Hand sanitizers are everywhere. Every elevator has a bottle hanging in it, every store counter, everywhere.
My kids and I have allergies that are flaring up. We ran out of medicine just as the temperatures went from 50 degrees to a chilly rain. Since our allergy symptoms (runny nose, sneezing, coughing watery eyes) are similar to the common cold, flu, and coronavirus, I am scared of being seen.
I am not scared of contracting coronavirus; I am scared of sneezing in public. I do not want to be quarantined for 14 days. The easy solution was for my husband to get our refills. But I do not like feeling terrified that at any moment I could be detained, even temporarily for mandatory coronavirus testing.
The military is doing an amazing job at keeping families informed using social media in the perfect manner. In order to drive onto the military installation, we are now asked a series of questions and our temperatures are checked. Some of the gates to get on post have been closed. Getting on post used to take me three minutes, today after two hours, we were still not on post and gave up.
The airports and train stations all have thermal scans set up. A team stands on the side checking temperatures. I see very few people riding the public buses that are normally full.
There is a general panic in the air. I see the desperate pleas on Facebook by military spouses wanting to leave Korea. For the past few weeks, the Korean school has been sending me daily messages urging and begging families to not take children out of the house. The military has requested individuals not to leave their homes for social reasons, only if completely necessary. Of course, upon hearing this, the lawyer in me immediately started overanalyzing the definition of “social” versus “necessary.”
I used to live in Watertown, N.Y., home of massive snowfalls measured only in feet. When there was a massive overnight snow, we endured a sort of lockdown, as most families experience from time to time. But this is different.
There is a strong sense of panic in the air. Most businesses are closed. I get shameful looks when expressing a desire to take my family sightseeing in Korea. Things continue to change hour by hour. And, most challenging, there is not an end in sight.
Lindsay Kennedy recently took a position with Eaker Perez Law, doing exclusively U.S. federal tax law. She is also the Executive Director of MothersEsquire. Lindsay’s favorite thing, besides her family, is working to support changes in the legal profession to allow for more non-traditional options so both parents are afforded the opportunity to enjoy their family. She’s a proud mom of two beautiful girls and married to a loving and supportive husband. You can reach her at email@example.com