When Covid first reared its corona capped head, my employer (the school district), sent everyone home with the belief that we would be back in school in a couple of weeks. When it became clear that was not going to happen, they gave all of the paraprofessionals training videos to watch (80+ hours of them!). At that time, I enjoyed learning from the videos and hanging out with my kids, as they were all home from school/college because of the virus. I baked, read and generally rested. The slow pace and lack of anywhere to go, felt nice.
I was still getting paid and my husband’s job (in the grocery business) ramped up exponentially. Financially, we were good. We could both work from home. We cocooned with our kids.
That’s the white collar/privileged side of my Covid employment experience.
No more work at home privilege
This fall the school district decided to have special education students return to school in person full time. The rest of the student body is 90% online/distance learning. I work with the special education population, so I work every day in the school building.
Everyone in the school wears masks and has their temperature checked every day upon entering the building. That provides a modicum of security, but we still tense up when one of the students has a headache or coughs more than a few times. The teachers and paras take temperatures in the classroom with the high tech new thermometer the district provided. We also have the school nurse in our classroom several times a day. There is a lot of hand washing and sanitizing going on.
Barely into October, co-workers are already calling in sick with any symptoms that resemble the Corona list. What is going to happen when the flu and colds mix in with covid signs? Not only do staff members need to stay home with suspicious symptoms, they need to get tested for Covid AND wait for the results (usually 3-5 days). Not only is contracting the Corona virus scary, juggling a full special ed. schedule with missing staff is a nightmare too. Substitutes are extremely hard to come by these corona days.
Women drop out of the workforce
According to The New York Times, women were four times as likely as men to drop out of the workforce during the last quarter. The demands of childcare (schools closed), housework and employment outside the home proved too hard to manage during the pandemic. This makes me very sad.
Although my children are mostly adults, I still feel the pull to be home and take care of things. The food shopping and cooking alone take up a huge portion of my outside work time. I miss the early months when I was there nurturing and resting with my family. That privileged time was a gift.
Now, I work all day in a school while my kids and husband are home working and attending online school. After school, I run to the grocery store for the third time in a week. I cook and do any other household tasks that need doing. I listen to my kids vent about how unhappy they are living online. Thank God they are older and academically independent (for the most part). If my kids were in elementary school, I would have to quit my job to be home with them.
Working hard at home and at school
I want to make clear that I am not saying my children and husband are not working hard at home. They are. My husband gets to avoid the stress of a commute and the details of business trips, but instead he has the stress of six hours of zoom calls and longer working hours because, hey, he does not have a commute.
My kids do their best to learn from the readings and breakout room discussions for each of their classes. Teachers are often inaccessible and all hell breaks loose when the wifi goes out.
I also want to clarify that I truly enjoy my job (most of the time). It is just that it would be nice to be home when my family is home. It would be nice to work AND rest with them. Although, there is not a lot of resting going on anymore.
No more cocoon
I have one of those jobs that requires me to be there. I do not get to work from home anymore. I did all of the training videos, all 80 hours! It’s no longer possible to cocoon from Covid.
This is the non privileged side of my job experience during Covid.
How is your job going during the pandemic? Are you able to work from home? If not, how are you doing?