While the majority of apartment dwellers are by nature accustomed to less living space than, say, single-family suburban homeowners, those in denser areas can offset that lack of personal square-footage by living a larger percentage of their lives outside their homes—in restaurants, bars, and public spaces like theatres and concert halls, as well as parks and playgrounds. Of course that’s not to say that suburban home dwellers don’t go out to eat, but the choice of alternate spaces for urban residents is certainly larger in the absolute than for their suburban counterparts, and inversely, absolute private living space per capita is higher for suburban dwellers than urbanites. In many if not most cases, suburban residents have their own outdoor space as well—a luxury few urban dwellers can claim.
With most of the country (and large swaths of the rest of the world) on lockdown or observing stay-at-home/shelter-in-place orders to curb the spread and severity of the coronavirus pandemic, single-family homeowners are definitely feeling cooped-up and penned in—many are working from home, while also trying to keep up with regular housekeeping tasks, prepare meals, and help their stuck-at-home kids keep up with schoolwork and not strangle each other over the Wii controller. It’s extremely challenging—but the situation for apartment-dwellers in places where the outbreak has hit harder can be even more so.
Five’s a Crowd
Firstly, and perhaps most critically, with schools and offices closed everywhere, apartment dwellers are working from home while their children are also learning from home. For families in places like New York City—a world where two and sometimes three kids often share a bedroom, and where what could be described as ‘dens’ or ‘family rooms’ are extremely rare—whole apartments are being taken over by in-home learning.
Consider the case of one Upper East Side family, who preferred to remain anonymous to preserve their privacy. They have three children, ages three, nine, and 13. The 13-year-old was set up for learning in the dining area, and the nine-year-old in the bedroom he shares with his older brother. The parents are both working from home, and set up work areas in the master bedroom and living room, respectively. The three-year-old, normally supervised during the day by a live-out nanny, now has to be supervised by one parent or the other, in alternating shifts.
According to the parents, that supervision, as well as monitoring of the two older children’s video-schooling, makes it virtually impossible for them to accomplish any of their own work during the day. The husband, a professor, gives video lectures several times a week—so he closed the door to the master bedroom and hoped for the best. All this says nothing of the task of preparing, serving, and clearing three meals a day, or of laundry, or cleaning an apartment that’s normally empty five days a week.