Coping With Quarantine: Artist and stay-at-home parent Bethanne Harms

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Coping With Quarantine is a recurring feature that examines how people across Greater Lansing are being affected by the coronavirus. City Pulse aims to interview a diverse cast of residents as they adjust to a new lifestyle under the measures taken in Michigan to curb the pandemic. If you are interested in being featured, please contact ashleycitypulse@gmail.com

THURSDAY, April 2 — Bethanne Harms, 40, Lansing, is a stay-at-home mother and artist. She spent many years working for (SCENE) Metrospace in East Lansing, working the door for galleries by local artists and live shows by bands such as The Plurals and Drinking Mercury, before its eventual takeover by Michigan State University’s Department of Art, Art History and Design.

Missing live music is one of the biggest blows to Harms’ life since the coronavirus preventative measures put the squeeze on local arts, and large gatherings in general.

“That’s one thing I really miss from before the lockdown — having that ability to go out; see my friends and support their bands. Just giving back to the Lansing music scene,” Harms said.

Harms, who has high-functioning autism, did not have a full-time professional occupation leading up to the pandemic. Rather, she’s the stay-at-home parent to her 5-year-old son Jonathan, who is also autistic.

“We couldn’t afford child care. If I was to go back into the workforce, all of our money would be spent on child care or student loans, and it would leave me with a negative bank balance,” Harms said. “We thought the easiest way would be for one of us to become the stay-at-home parent, and I was down for it.”

The biggest factor in establishing some normalcy for her family is her son’s continued visits to his social therapist. Though coronavirus-specific precautions are taken by Harms, her son and her son’s therapist, such as flu masks, gloves and protective shoe coverings, the appointments have managed to carry on per usual.

“He loves riding in the car and going places. Having that ability to spend the morning at social therapy — it gives him time for himself,” Harms said. “Having that little bit of normalcy during a crazy time where we have to reduce our social interaction is nice. It’s that important bit of normalcy amid a crazy pandemic.”

At first, Harms was upset her husband, Derek Harms, was not staying home with her and Jonathan to maintain the quarantine. But she conceded that his job at Gordon Food Services was necessary and helpful to many people.

“In a way, I was angry. Because, ‘Oh my gosh, my husband needs to be quarantined with us!’ But at the same time, he’s out helping a lot of people in the local food industry,” Harms said. “It’s kind of like the Mr. Roger’s quote, ‘Look for the helpers,’ and my husband is the best helper.”

Harms said she and Jonathan spend a lot of time together watching Disney movies, eating popsicles and making structures with building blocks. The two also play with stickers to creative decorative planning journals, and also play video games such as “Animal Crossing” and “Untitled Goose Game.” When Jonathan naps, that’s when Harms has some time to herself to practice self-care. As Harms is asthmatic, she rarely ventures outside for nature walks.

“I have to protect myself and my son,” Harms said. “He prefers to be at home, and I don’t blame him because I do too.”

Harms said she is cautiously optimistic about the future after the coronavirus.

“I’m still upset that a lot of people are ignoring the stay at home orders that kind of frightens me,” Harms said. “I always say, ‘Stay safe; stay healthy and stay at home!”

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