This morning, my Facebook memories served up a post from this day in 2015:
There is fresh, cool air wafting gently through my bedroom window and it’s making me want to stay in bed. If only I could.
This morning, I got to savor that cool, fresh air for a few minutes.
Way back when, before Pandemic Times, I would wake up around 6am to get the kids off to school and get myself to work. I would jump out of bed and keep one eye on the clock as I hurried through my preparations. During part of the year, I would curse the fact that it is still dark out when my alarm goes off, and how unnatural it feels to me to have to get out of bed before sunrise. (Then curse again as I drive home from work in the dark.)
But now, in the 6th week of stay-at-home, my alarm goes off at 7am and I lay there for a few minutes, breathing and stretching, giving myself time and space to wake up. I get out of bed and get ready at a pace that is neither hurried nor frantic. I do not have to remember to make sure my son is awake, or rush him out to the car, scolding him for not packing his lunch last night, and wondering whether I have enough time to wait in line to drop him off in school parking lot or should I just do the lazy/late thing (again) and swing through the shopping center across from the school.
In the midst of this weird dystopia – where I am required to stay in my home except for “essential” trips, where I must cover my nose and mouth with a cloth face mask before entering a grocery store, where I am down to my last roll of paper towels but still have plenty of TP (which feels like something I ought not to brag about) – there is one silver lining: I have taken back my mornings.
Of course, there are lots of reasons why this arrangement feels strange and disheartening. I have been wishing for a while that I could telework, but it isn’t nearly as empowering when you cannot do it on your own terms. It’s nice to be able to take a short walk through the neighborhood to break up the day, but always odd to watch approaching pedestrians scurry to the other side of the road lest they pass within the mandated six feet of you. It’s sad to be limited to dropping off home cooked food for my older two boys, who are sequestered at their dad’s place because dad works in a hospital and is still going to work every day. I can’t wait to hug them as they come in for dinner at my dining table every Thursday like before. And it’s really counter-intuitive to have to tell my 15 year old son, who loves nothing more than a good game of pickup, that he can go out and shoot baskets but not with anyone else, please, just alone.
But. Instead of taking breakfast to go, or buying it, I have time to make my own. I get dressed, but I put on comfy house slippers. I have two windows on the street and can watch all the dog-walkers go by:
When it’s time to start work, I am already here. I don’t have to put gas into my car or check the traffic report to see whether it’s OK to take the interstate or better to take “the back way.” I’m not spending $12 for lunch every day. And when I finish at the end of the day, I’m not an hour from home – I’m already there.
I know that there is no substitute for in-person communication. But, as much of the world’s workforce shifts their thinking from work being less of a place we go, and more of a thing we do, I believe this pandemic will force employers to rethink the confines of work. Many will be forced to reconsider what’s possible when you empower and trust employees to do their jobs without regard to their physical location – either that, or lose valuable employees to companies who permit greater flexibility. I hope that once the restrictions are lifted, employees whose work is well-suited to location independence can find some balance that works for their own lives, that includes work and family obligations, and doesn’t come with the connotation that anything other than a regular 9-5 schedule is an exception to some norm that was established decades ago.