Photograher, Hermione Laake (young mum of 24 years, writer and ex-retail manger, 1990).
I thought I would write a Coronovirus diary, as I read one blog on behaviour during the pandemic from Toronto and found it interesting from a psychological perspective.
Covid-19 in 2020
Here, in our small town we have over four coffee shops; all are shut down and have been for a couple of weeks. There is a sign on the Coffee 1 store which reads “we know you wanted us to keep going” but they decided it was best to close. I suppose they must have made this decision before the government advice came into force. I don’t know because way back on the 12 th March I was visiting my former home town, Shaftesbury and visiting relatives when I became quite upset. At the time the general consensus seemed to be that this was an old person’s disease, or that the elderly were more susceptible. There was a lack of clear knowledge. My son, a trainee doctor, rang me on that day and suggested I tell his grandmother to go into complete self-isolation. He is level headed so I knew this was serious. I rang her straight away, and she went into immediate lock down. I’m sharing this personal story/ history because I feel it’s important.
Eventually, I returned to the coffee shop; before this sudden, dramatic change to our lives, I’d been a daily visitor. Like Ernest Hemingway, I found it stimulating sitting in a coffee shop to write.
Here, once the advice was changed and clarified, everyone, bar the odd person, has been abiding by the rules of social distancing. All coffee shops closed a couple of weeks ago. There are few shops open, just essential shops. People only go out to cycle, or for essentials.
Insiduous naming of people as “workers”:
I agree with the suggestion that things will alter when this is all over. Something has to change. It has seemed to me, for a long time, that employers and agencies are perpetuating a full-time work mentality. This is a form of subtle control. I’m sure that many mums like me would prefer to work part-time, 30 hours a week, not wall to wall working, which prevents you from seeing your family. I was fortunate to raise almost all my children as a stay at home mother and writer, except the youngest. I went out to work full-time once she was eleven, and starting secondary school. I had to work in a cafe before that because of the lack of part-time work.
Yesterday, I applied for a role which was advertised as flexible, and involved some night shifts, because I thought that this was better than nothing. It is proving more difficult to find part-time work during the pandemic, so I have taken the opportunity to start a gardening business. (The agency manager finally replied with the message, ‘this is a full-time role. We have a cleaning position which is part-time.’ This agency manager knows I am an English Graduate and experienced manager.)
I’ve been looking for part-time work since October last year. I was already working as a part-time key holder in a local shop. But the salary was just £6.50 per hour. In July, 2019, I got a job as a Sunday deputy manager. I worked every Sunday from August until February 2020. I left this role for reasons I won’t go into here, but it shouldn’t be the case that I have to work Sundays because there is a shortage of part-time roles for professional, experienced, and educated people like myself.
I really do hope the culture changes. I was reading an article in The New York Times about the mood in Wuhan this week. Family is now more important than work. I can see there is a shift happening, and look forward to the day when we can be meaningfully employed and present to our family.
Reflecting on What it Means to Work
Some of us have to work to keep a roof over our children’s heads, and in truth work is something enjoyable, particularly when we are using our skills, but pursuit of work should not be detrimental to family well being, or personal health. For example, a sedentary role means that time will have to be spent mitigating the health hazards of too much sitting, and this should be understood by employers recruiting for these roles and taken into account.
It is truly tragic that our young people feel compelled to work 24/7 to keep a roof over their heads; this has to change.
Notes: This post was given a new title in March 2022, to reflect the current working trends, and a new paragraph was added entitled: Reflecting on What it Means to Work