I am a parent with chronic illness. For the past three years (and some change) I've been moving through a (very) non-linear journey of figuring out how to simultaneously work, care for my child + others, and care for my own medical needs.
Along this journey, I've picked up some coping strategies and tools that may be useful to other caregivers learning how to cope in the time of #CoronaVirus quarantines. Here are 3 lessons and suggestions for caregiving + parenting in the time of pandemics
1. Let Go (where you can)
In light of school + care facility closures, many working caregivers (including parents) are suddenly faced with the challenge of figuring out how to work AND care from home, without access to previously established routines and kinship networks (i.e. in-laws, elders, aunties/uncles, in-person talk therapy, the medicine of a queer/POC+ IRL dance circle).
The good news is that there are many caregivers who've been caring and working from home and so there is an abundance of resources including curated kid friendly Netflix content, film archives* (including this library of Indigenous films), this hotline for caregivers, live zoo, museum stream options (including the Museum for African American Art and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center) for virtual field trips/edutainment, and social justice curriculum guides.
Still, the reality is care-work takes up A LOT of energy and we might not always have time to incorporate these resources or activities into our day. Sometimes all we have time for is a shower and exasperated texts (or tweets) to friends (or twitter frenemies)
So for me the question isn't "how can we get things back to normal" but "what new ways of and relationships to learning/caregiving might emerge from this collective change?". Seriously, what can our kids and elders and friends teach us about moment? What can we learn about ourselves?
To answer these questions, we first need to let go, where/however we can, of unrealistic expectations and an idea of 'staying on rigid track' in the middle of a crisis.
2. Sing! Dance! Even if you don't feel like it!
This one is simple, but also difficult. If you like me get caught in a cycle of adrenaline fused fight/flight responses, it can be difficult to stop automated stress responses in order to dance and sing.
Knowing how difficult it is, I take extra care to notice when I'm in an "automated response" , take a deep breath, and ask: "when was the last time I danced or sang along aloud to a fav song?" And if the answer is: "its been days", I encourage myself to put on music (something I can do with a toddler around) and dance and/or sing. Sounds silly, but even 5 minutes of this helps me radically change a mood, shift an outburst to a sing-along, and remind me that our bodies can hold more than just an adrenaline fused response.
3. Activate your pod. And if you don't have one, create one!
In the weeks, months, and years to come there will be a need to show up for each other and eventually, create change so that we don't re-create the injustices that make this pandemic so scary in the first place.
"began using the term “pod” to refer to a specific type of relationship within transformative justice (TJ) work. We needed a term to describe the kind of relationship between people who would turn to each other for support around violent, harmful and abusive experiences, whether as survivors, bystanders or people who have harmed. These would be the people in our lives that we would call on to support us with things such as our immediate and on-going safety, accountability and transformation of behaviors, or individual and collective healing and resiliency.
Transformative justice values are a key part of pods/pod mapping that make pods distinct from other kinds of networks and in fact remind me so much of Black/Indigenous feminist ways of building radical kinship.
Logistically speaking, pods are networks of friends, family, and colleagues that take the shape of a snail shell (or caracol like the Zapatistas!). Imagine you + a few loved ones are in the center and your networks kind of radiate around you. The people closest to you are people who might call first in a crisis, a celebration, or if you truly needed an honest opinion to keep you accountable. Then beyond a first set of circles there are people who are farther out from the center for geographic or other reasons.
As a child of diaspora and with a need for lots of care, I grew up witnessing my mother create networks to help us survive and thrive. And while she may not have called them that then, i'm so grateful she taught me how to pod. If you have a pod (or a crew), its time to activate with them. If not, time to get in pod formation. :D
Here is a link to a twitter thread from brilliant organizer, writer, and prison abolitionist Mariame Kaba with resources (in English) to help get you started on creating a pod.
If you don' t know people around you, maybe it's worth writing about or exploring. So many cities are plagued with ableism and other barriers to creating and maintaining community and community accountability (i.e. prisons) and building connection can be difficult. For people in Grand Rapids (where I currently live), the Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network is a great place to start building and activating pods.
Those are my three tips: Let go (where you can), Dance/Sing, and Activate Your Pods! Thank you for reading. Please take care of yourselves and each other.
Note: Another version of this blog was posted w/o some crucial information about BATJC, but my edits to that post were't being saved so I deleted the old one and created an updated post.