We've been at home for four months now. Between parenting, schooling, sanitizing things and worrying that someone I love very much will get sick and die, I have been working. But the snatches of moments when I can make progress on an analysis or a paper have been few and far between. I know from conversations with my friends, colleagues, and students that I am not alone.
Do I need to keep actively parenting my children? They are relatively big as far as kids who live at home go - 12 and 8. They wouldn't burn the house down if I ignored them, and probably wouldn't do anything stupid enough to warrant a hospital visit. But I find myself _unable_ to ignore them. Desperate for a sense of normalcy and a powerful and pressing need to show them I love them...just in case. I am simultaneously in constant need of connection and space; begging them to give me time and space to work, but once I get it I am unable to do anything but miss them. This time is scary and we need each other.
Under such circumstances, it is absolutely impossible to have deep thinking time. It is always interrupted by something that seems far more pressing (be it a band-aid request, a funny line in a book someone is reading, or making plans for lunch). I need to be there for them, but my patience is thinner than usual, plagued by a constant sense of guilt for not getting things accomplished. I give a hug, half listening to the story of the stubbed toe, worrying "Oh shoot, did I agree to a manuscript review? What journal was that? When is it due?".
We are living, right now, under the increasingly likely possibility of someone in my house needing to teach my kids about algebra and five paragraph essays next year. Home schooling. I am such a strong advocate of the public school system, and the thought of teaching my kids at home is counter to my identity as a scholar as well as my support for equitable access to education. Even with my largely independent children, teaching them at home will take a lot of work. So much work. Even if we decide that fourth and eighth grades can just be basically skipped, and that my children can be ignored, they still need some supervision and they still need some love.
I am at a complete loss as to how to continue to contribute to science, though I desperately want to do so. Under different circumnstances, I would be providing you with data. There are so many people who have this so much worse than I do as well. My BIPOC friends who are currently being asked to serve on 100 extra committees on top of their other work, life, and home demands. My friends who are parents of young children, children who would burn the house down, and who would end up with a trip to the hospital if they were ignored for a day. My friends who are supervising 45 masters students, and trying to place them as student teachers in this impossible situation. My friends who care for live-in elders, or who have children with disabilities that need doctor visits and supervision, or who are adjunct teaching and unsure if they will have a job next semester, or who have parents or a partner with the virus. Just so many "or"s.
I am thinking about you all all the time. I will keep trying to convert my anxious energy into positive energy and send it out into the world. I may not write as many papers, put in as many grants, or do as many reviews in 2020/2021 as my tenure committee would like. But goodness gracious do I want to keep doing this work. I look forward to reading all of your papers, if my worry will give me more space to do it. And gosh I would love to exchange ideas with you a conference sometime. Maybe we can again someday.
Please wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep staying home so we have a shot at doing things like that again.