You know, sometimes I really wonder exactly how I got to this point in my life, and the more I contemplate the answer, the more I realize that only potential reason is consistently true; I’m not just myself, but a synthesis of the best parts of the folks in my life, and the reason I got to absorb some of their best traits is because of a mutual care. (And in the case of Jamie, it’s because she’s the absolute love of my life. If you’re reading this, just know that you’re what keeps me moving forward!) Yet, the mutual care does not mean that it is a balanced one; admittedly, most days I’m sitting in the proverbial red wagon while my parents drag me around, and there are a few rare moments where they’re holding on for dear life while I steer them through a slump. “The Post Pandemic University and the Caring Gap” by Gabriela Saldanha brought back to mind a lot of concepts from my psychology of women class from a year ago; namely, the challenges faced with getting respect for unpaid labor, the need for a work-life balance, and most importantly, the difference that having a little care for something and someone other than yourself can make.
A key group that Saldanha was able to highlight the importance and struggles of through this pandemic are “carers” which I can best define as the folks who in addition to their career obligations are also bound to being the primary source of all basic and emotional needs of those dependent on them, which can in turn be seen as a handicap in the professional world, and the world of academia as well. These folks are the ones who see-saw more towards giving care and receive less from academic institutions in turn. She also invoked the different intersectional factors that further compound this issue of care, such as gender, sexuality, religion, race and ethnicity, and cultural norms to name a few. According to this article, there is a disproportionate amount of women and minorities who are affected by this ever-widening gap. I feel compelled to share with you the unpaid labor calculator, just to really drive home how deep the divide between the way work in and out of the home, as well as work stereotype as being for one gender is perceived. No matter what values you plug in, it’s a humbling experience for sure, even if like me, it isn’t entirely relatable. (My mother took this calculator as an opportunity to say “I told you so” after I had said that it was very possible she does more work than my Dad.) Considering how this article had to do with a care gap, I wondered why it is so hard to have care and respect for the work we don’t see. Perhaps it’s because we live in a capitalist society, where anything we see as unmonitizable is useless. Or maybe it’s because we expect it; after all, everyone has to struggle in order to gain respect, right?
To me, care and respect go hand-in-hand with one another, and I do genuinely believe that everyone is inherently deserving of both. Yet, a phrase I see thrown around all too often and with an air of superiority and ostracizing intent is, “respect needs to be earned.” When is enough ever going to be enough in this regard? What does someone need to do to prove themself? How is it that we can accept pressure makes diamonds, and resting makes dough rise to give us bread, but we think that one is inherently a better mentality than the other?
When the issue of where “the workday” ends, and how hours differ for everyone because lives differ appeared, I was thankful for the breakdown of the phrases “overworker” and “overworked.” I had to consider what side I fell on for a moment. While I may not be a carer, I work a job that isn’t exactly consistent, both in terms of scheduling and what I do whenever I’m on the clock. Sometimes I’m punching in at six am, and sometimes I’m starting out at six pm. Some of my shifts are three hours, and some can be nine. (On a rare occassion, even twelve.) I’m there five days in a row some weeks, and every other day others. I get to deal with a bunch of folks, but I also get to move around very heavy pallets and pack trailers, or stick my earbuds in and push freight. This sort of labor is more physically taxing than anything, but it also leaves me longing for a somewhat synchronous schedule, without lingering uncertainty. Having something consistent would make me feel valued and cared for, and I can only imagine how carers would feel. I’m falling more on the side of overworker, and as the article stated, I’m more time-rich than anything else. I could easily change my availability, and maybe push for consistency, or even go to another extreme and quit if I made it to that point. But not everyone has that luxury. I’m also thinking about what it means to be time-rich in academia, but I just don’t know how to articulate those thoughts. It’s very complicated to wade through.
The last point of Saldanha’s article that I really wanted to touch on is how she noted that the main, and most effective way to change the care gap is through policy changes, as well as a cultural shift. The tone was pretty bleak in the article, as Saldanha did note that a cultural shift takes generations to occur, but the stupid, bright-eyed optimistic kid in me is screeching that it’s already occurring in academia. Just look at the care letter that Dr. Zamora wrote to us at the beginning of the academic year! Look at everything the Equity Unbound community stands for! Consider the fact that folks finally got the day off of Thanksgiving who normally wouldn’t. Look at how all of us are starting to change our mindsets and seriously consider care as critical and not just a formality. Maybe we aren’t the Care Bears quite yet, but if Love-a-Lot taught me one thing, you have got to be resilient and never, ever give up on folks for a single second.
I’m going to be brutally honest here; I’m not the kind of person who is meant to be a parent. I don’t have it in me to do day in and day out everything that I’ve been lucky enough to receive, and I don’t think that I could also try forging a path into academia, or continue to do what I do while also shouldering that level of invisible work. If I tried, I’d have to tear down traditional academia and forge something else.
There are days when I cry in the middle of the night from the strain of everything weighing down on me, days when I lie in bed way longer than I should in the morning because I just don’t know if where I’m going is where I want to go, days when I can’t sleep because I’m just so incredibly frustrated, but these days don’t happen as often as the days when I get to see the sun rise while I’m running or on my way to work, the days when I run out of class for a few minutes in the second half to go hug my Dad and let him know I missed him, or the days when I can laugh and smile for no reason other than the fact that I’m still alive. The good days outweighing the bad is proof of care and above all else, love in my life, and I hope I can extend that to others in academia as well.
Now I’m all misty-eyed listening to “Today” by The Smashing Pumpkins, so I’m going to go cry one out before class. Also, if you’re inclined to, check out my five-picture story down below. Later, gators!
a Five Card Flickr story created by The Sun That Runs
flickr photo by Serenae
flickr photo by bgblogging
flickr photo by Serenae
flickr photo by Serenae
flickr photo by cogdogblog
I looked out over the rooftop for what felt like miles, but I couldn’t find you, even in all the marks that were made in the snow, or in the branches that swayed in the air. You were gone from the path outside our home, which I checked the next day, and found smoothed over. How fitting to have left me with a temporary fresh slate. I poured a glass of wine for your ghost that lingered at my table and my mind wondered if you would have been more satisfied had it been a bowl of soup, to warm your cold heart. I went to the theatre to escape into another world, but instead, I found the arrow in was just pointing back to you, and the inverted, warped sense of love that was barely recognizable that you had left me with.