I can barely concentrate on my words as I type. I’m writing this blog post on a Friday afternoon – four days later than planned. I missed my deadline because my life has been filled with interruptions from online meetings – and…life!
First, there was Nana K, the kindergartener who needed me to help him with his multiple art assignments (“MUUUMMMMYYYYY, I NEED YOU TO HELP ME CUT MY DRAWING. RIGHT NOW!”) Then Lady A proclaimed she needed to speak to her grandma – my mum – who lives several time zones away – “right now, please??” She wanted to pick her grandmother’s brains about a popular Ewe cultural tradition she could share with the school. For those who are unfamiliar, Ewe (pronounced ‘Eh-veh’ is the ethnic group my mum is from.)
In-between classes, they’d jostle for my attention in the loudest ways, by arguing in front of me as I tried to respond to work emails, dancing behind me during work meetings, or by pestering me to play a game, with them. The game of this week was Nana K’s favorite role-play game, ‘Hotel.’ It pretty much does what it says; someone is going to a…well…hotel, and is looked after by the host, taxi driver and chef. It was hilarious when we first played it 11 months ago. These days, not so much. But — and I’ll give Nana K credit here – he switched the storyline up, by announcing the hotel was in Lagos, Nigeria. Somehow, I ended up playing every character BUT the tourist. Ten minutes into the game, I realized the ‘pretend’ driving, answering questions and cooking felt too much like real life, so I stopped playing in protest.
I did my best not to sulk about it, but clearly, I failed, because he gave me a huge hug as he reassured me that he wouldn’t be sad if I didn’t play with him anymore. Five minutes later he demanded that I watch him jump and run around.
Moments like these by themselves are funny to tell, but they’re overwhelming when you experience them. Especially when they follow mornings of cleaning sticky, sugary milk off the dining table you’re supposed to be working on; running interference between your kids and a partner who is in back-to-back meetings; remembering all the school schedules and passcodes – all while trying to meet your own obligations. After a year of living life like this, not having a moment to yourself is enough to have you spiraling into a rage. A silent, fiery, gut twisting one that you keep to yourself, because you don’t want to take it out on your family.
I say this knowing I’m one of the fortunate ones who has stumbled through the pandemic by squeezing my work duties in tiny gaps of time. I don’t have to risk my physical health by going into the office — and I’m not one of the millions of women who have fallen out of the workforce because of these pressures. Yes, millions. Women made up 100% of America’s job losses in December; women accounted for 80% of people pushed out of work in January.
And – as Monifa Bandele reminded me during her interview for my podcast, “Sista Brunch,” most of those women “were almost exclusively Black women and women of color.”
Heh…Is that so?
So, basically, we’re seeing the gains made to bring more women into the workplace being rolled back by the pandemic…
…or maybe (if we look through a different lens) the gender equity we fought for was built on a foundation so tenuous, all it took was the pandemic to make the system crumble.
We’ve got a long way to go on this equity road. I know it’s not easy for anyone, but let’s have an honest conversation about how the invisible labor women take on, while trying to ‘keep the trains on the track’ is breaking their backs. You, what I’m talking about, picking up random items around the house, making appointments – also known as ‘the details’ that allow life to function smoothly.
It’s a big deal. That’s not to say men don’t do it, I know some who do. But the weight of this expectation, and the economic impact on women is heavy.
And to think, March is Women’s History Month – and almost Spring. On one hand I feel like a new day is ‘round the corner. There are vaccines, which promise a return to life on the outside. For some of us, that means a return to ‘normal.’
That’s not the kind of ‘normal’ I want. I want a new one, something that helps everybody. We have to create something different.
Monifa Bandele said in her “Sista Brunch” interview, you can’t fix something you can’t talk about. You have to name it. So, let’s call it what it is. This pandemic has set us back. Women are hurting. Many of us are staying silent about it. So, I suggest this: when you’re tired, say so. If you need a break, take one. See those shoes over there? Maybe go take that nap before you pick those shoes up. You never know, someone else might move them — or trip over them (lol). The truth will help us create a new normal that works for us all.
On that note. I’m out. My retinas are burning – it’s time for a nap.
Until the next time, fam!
Photo by ActionVance on Unsplash