Quarantine road trip: We drove 7 hours to see our daughter's grandparents and it did not disappoint.

Quarantine road trip: We drove 7 hours to see our daughter's grandparents and it did not disappoint.
Helloooo Pittsburgh! My hometown and also the city of bridges, in case you were wondering.

This post was edited while our power was out thanks to the early August derecho, and after half a pizza and a glass of wine. For more information about pizza and wine, follow @natcmatthews on Instagram.

Let me preface this post by saying we are those parents who really didn’t do much pre-pandemic. When our daughter was a newborn, we took her out to dinner and she would sleep in her bassinet, but once we implemented her bedtime routine, those normal-people-timed dinners effectively ended and we developed this paralyzing fear of messing with her routine – as if keeping her up late one night or throwing off her nap would mean she would never sleep again, and she’d call me as an adult in the middle of the night, asking why I did this to her.

So, over the last couple years, we’ve watched our friends take their babies everywhere: Nice restaurants and parties and on faraway beach vacations and even to the mountains. Meanwhile, we stayed home and just hoped that the diligence with which we executed her schedule would pay off in the form of our little girl sleeping through the night and being in a good mood the whole next day, every day. Is that too much to ask?

Don’t get me wrong – we’ve taken her out to eat (mostly lunch/brunch), out on walks, to a couple of street festivals, and right before covid hit we started going to dance class (I miss that so much!). But after these outings we sometimes felt exhausted or frustrated, and wondered if the going out was worth the trouble.

All that to say, when we were trying to find childcare earlier this summer, the idea came up to drive eight-ish hours from Chicago to my hometown of Pittsburgh to have my parents watch her and, well, the traveling sounded kind of hellish. What would she do for eight hours? What if she just cries the whole time? You mean I have to get out of the car and go into a rest stop filled with germy travelers when all I’ve been doing for four months is avoiding going inside of ANYwhere? I have to change a diaper in a car? WTF does that look like?

But, without childcare set up for the summer, we needed help. And so, our decision was made – we would drive to Pittsburgh and stay for a month, until we could hire a nanny or otherwise figure out childcare in Chicago.

Before we left, we got tested and quarantined (at the time, Chicago testing was widely available with quick results). We packed up a month’s worth of things, three days’ worth of food (you never know what’s going to happen when you’re driving through Ohio), and made the long drive to Pennsylvania.

The trip there was incredibly fast (a record-breaking 7 hours) and our daughter was an ANGEL. (Not so much on the way back, but that post is for another day).

We ended up staying with my parents for five weeks, slightly longer than expected, and it was the greatest decision we could have made. I had been warned by some friends that moving back in with your old “roommates” might be fun at first, but eventually we’d all get sick of each other. I can totally understand how that might happen, but we really didn’t experience that (Hi, Mom!).

Not only were we spoiled with the comforts of homemade meals nearly every night (plus my mom’s excellent choice of local takeout – looking at you, Gaucho Parilla Argentina  and my dad’s random donut purchases that would appear in the fridge, thanks Dad!), but our daughter got to know her grandparents, and vice versa. In a year where being away from loved ones has been the norm, that’s worth any 7-8 hour drive. Plus, now we know that while taking a long road trip will throw off our daughter’s entire schedule for the day, that isn’t the end of the world. Not only was it worth the trouble, it’s been a highlight of our quarantine experience.

So thank you, Pittsburgh, for being our summer quarantine home. While we didn’t get to see much of the city, it gave us a place to stay safe, a place to see family, and trusted and loving childcare (that also allowed mama to go back to work full-time). The city gave us daily walks in quiet parks and along the river, the best Italian hoagies I’ve had in a long time, and a long drive with a toddler that was way less miserable than I expected.

If you’re looking for some guidance in helping you make decisions like this one, I found this article (that went viral earlier this year) very helpful.

More notes on moving back in with my parents:

  • For the first couple of weeks, my nightly glass of wine would be confiscated if I left it unattended. I learned that my Dad has a habit of clearing the entire table after dinner and dumping out whatever’s in the glasses…I now hide my wine if I have to leave to change a diaper.
  • The first time we ordered pizza for Friday pizza night, trying to decide what toppings we were going to order was like trying to beat back coronavirus in the U.S., aka never-ending…then we realized we’d have five more Fridays to pick whatever toppings we wanted.
  • I have never seen a cheese drawer so full.
  • One day I left my daughter’s shorts on a chair because she refused to put them on. My dad picked them up and thought they were my underwear…awkwaaard.
  • One time my parents’ landline phone rang and they both turned to me, like, “is it for you”? I had to remind them that I haven’t given out a landline number since I was 16.

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