Discover more from Other Feminisms
What We Hope To Keep After Covid
How has the pandemic rendered some work more humane?
Last week, I asked what changes you hoped will last beyond the pandemic. I’ve collected some of your answers below. Next week, in lieu of a usual Monday post, I’ll be sharing responses from “When Women are Left Out of Medicine.” And then that’s it for the year!
I’ll take off over Christmas, and be back to you all with a new post on January 4th. I’m so delighted by how the list has taken off, and I’m looking forward to next year. You can always suggest topics or articles to feature by emailing me. And we’re 20 people short of 500 readers at the moment.
Now, on to your visions for the post-pandemic!
Abigail talked about how her shift from work to homeschooling came with new difficulties, but more freedom to tend to the needs of others. (I’m excerpting her full comment):
After years working at Fordham as a therapist and a grad student in Spirituality / Ethics, I quit to be a stay at home mom four years ago. I mourned my job for a long time, and recently I had been slipping into ennui and acedia. Rediscovering this “responsibility for joy” and magnanimity towards my vocation has been my experience during the pandemic.
Practically, the biggest thing that has changed is that I homeschool now - not distance learning, but independent homeschool. We have curated activities to the ones that truly matter. This allows our girls more time to play and more time for us to spend together as a family. We have become more intentional about relationships, now that we can’t relay on casual contact anymore. I would like this to continue.
We have also learned to take more notice of the vulnerability of others. This year the girls rode along with me when I delivered Thanksgiving baskets to people in the community, many of them elderly, who need assistance (yes, they social distanced and wore masks.) They did not do things like this in the community when they were in school all day and busy with too many activities in the evening. My children have also become more aware in general of those who are vulnerable; they see the them now, and they are getting a sense of interconnected responsibility towards them as members of society. I think that is probably one of most valuable things many of us have gotten out of this pandemic.
Sophia highlighted some shifts in her job that should have happened a long time ago:
At one of my jobs, part-time workers (which is almost all of us) get paid sick days if we have Covid-like symptoms. This means if we get sick, even if it's just the less deadly flu, we can stay home without worrying about our paychecks. Which means fewer sick people have been stuffing themselves with medicine and dragging themselves into work (and sharing germs with the rest of us), and so we've actually seen less sickness overall. Also, people have actually been washing their hands, people give each other personal space, we're not handling items from members of the public. . . and so, I've gone without catching an infectious disease (and I say this without exaggeration) longer than ever before in my life. If people could remember the benefits of just these two relatively simple things when the threat of death is no longer attached, the future could be noticeably better.
And Martha points to labor unions as the most reliable tool for winning what should be common-sense measures.
I couldn’t agree more with Kathryn about the benefits of working from home. I fondly remember the time I was waiting for edits on a piece at FiveThirtyEight and made muffins during the lag, rather than pretending to look busy in an office.
Now that I'm just walking into the living room instead of riding the train to work, I'm getting more sleep and have more time in the morning to spend in prayer. I can eat dinner when I'm hungry instead of commuting home with a growling stomach, and even when they're quick, my dinners are healthier and more filling. I'm exercising more often because I don't have to fit a trip to the gym around my work schedule. I hope post-COVID there are companies willing to accommodate this kind of work-life balance--sometimes it seems like "work-life balance" at many companies just means "we won't force you to work after 6 pm and also there are some good restaurants in the area you could go to at lunch".
I've also been a better worker while working from home, without spending extra time working. I write marketing copy, which means I spent most of my day staring at various Google docs. But while working from home, if I get stuck on an assignment, I can go unload the dishwasher or take a walk to get my brain moving again. I have the silence and space that creates better writing, which is so difficult to replicate in an office. I loved my office and miss it, but it's undeniable that offices are bad spaces to nurture good writing. My dream office would make space for people doing creative work to get up from the computer and do something else for a while, instead of monitoring whether or not we're sitting at our desks. (And writers would get big signs we could put up on our desks that said "IF IT'S NOT ON FIRE, ASK ME LATER".)
Some of these benefits are available, even in an office, if your boss is willing to be more interested in what you actually accomplish than how busy you look while doing it.
Liz hit one of the more difficult snags of not having a clean division between work and home:
I'm a social worker working with individuals experiencing homelessness in central New Jersey and much of my work is done on the phone which I'm able to do from home. This does create an issue of being able to mentally separate from my work but I'm getting better at that and I do still enjoy going into the office a few days a week and meeting clients in the field.
I have known a friend who did volunteer shifts at a rape hotline, and, since she was taking the calls at home, she always did them in a specific closet, so she could formally leave that work behind when it was done.
Mostly folks discussed shifts in how their work was structured, rather than shifts in shopping, cooking, or some other part of their lives. I do want to stick to having more calls with friends in other cities, which had a big uptick for me once everyone was equally far away in lockdown. In the tightest quarantine, my family did more hymn singing when we couldn’t go to Mass on Sunday, and I’d like to keep that going, even when we can sing at church again.
Finally, my husband and I both had pieces up recently at Breaking Ground on what changes we hope last. Alexi wrote on “Small Apocalypses:”
Let us wake up to ways the world ends every day, responding with compassion when we encounter others going through one slow-motion apocalypse or another. But let us also not turn a blind eye to the grace-filled apocalypses of first steps, surprising kindnesses, and new possibilities. Just because a baby, for example, is a small and ordinary being doesn’t mean she is not also an apocalyptic prophet, tearing with tiny hands at the veil that keeps us looking only at what is and not at what ought to be.
And I wrote on the lessons scifi stories of generation ships offer for our long-haul isolations:
In generation ship stories, the children of the ship play with models of the engines. Algal food protocols are conserved through nursery songs. The walls are painted with murals of the history of the ship and the future it was built for. All these things are too important to be left only to classroom instruction.
The same is true in our own lives. Whatever is most important should be before our eyes and knit into our bones. If you can’t see the people you love, hang up their pictures in your house, and schedule a monthly phone call. If it isn’t safe to gather for worship, make your home a place of contemplation, hanging up religious art.
This has been quite a long email, but I do want to say that if some of you have stories of how to build back better, I can make an introduction to an editor at Breaking Ground if you’re hoping to find a writer to tell your story or are a writer yourself.