What We Might Have to Look Forward To

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Look, Coronavirus sucks. I get it. I get it 1000%. On the extremely bad end, people are dying. On the extremely good end, we’re healthy but stuck at home trying to simultaneously work and homeschool our bored kids. We’re lonely, we’re frustrated, we’re scared, and it feels like there’s no end in sight. So I know..it sucks!

But.

I sincerely believe that when this is all over, and the world is irreparably changed, some of those changes might be for the better. It’s possible–even plausible–that we have some good things ahead to look forward to.

1. Telehealth and Other Virtual Healthcare Services: So far I have loved virtual medical treatment for two distinct issues. My son takes ADHD medication and has quarterly med checks. To be frank, these appointments are a huge hassle, and I’ve always thought they could easily be done by phone. We spend 10x as many minutes commuting and filling out forms as we do with the doctor. Now they are effective and efficient…same results, no commuting time, and no need to bring a healthy child into a germy environment. Given how overburdened our pediatricians and family clinics are, I hope they continue to offer these types of appointments virtually.

The other virtual medical care I’m loving is therapy. I have my own therapist and my husband and I also do couples therapy. We usually have to hire a babysitter in order to get to an evening appointment, and don’t even get me started on the difficulty of finding a couples therapist who has evening slots available. While I recognize that therapy works best face to face with everyone in the same room, we could certainly benefit from more frequent sessions, which are now made possible by virtual appointments. Rather than all having to be in the same room, I can be at home with the baby, he can be on his lunch break, and we can do the therapy session remotely. I see this as a huge win for struggling couples who feel like they need help but can’t figure out how to fit it in. I hope the mental health community will continue to offer these sessions, and I’m inclined to insist on it.

2. Employee Trust: Much has been written in the last couple of years celebrating employers who don’t insist on “butts in seats.” Nevertheless, many employers continue to require rigid working hours for employees, even in industries where they may not be necessary. On some level it feels like employers don’t trust employees to effectively work from home, despite all the data indicating otherwise. Working moms in particular crave flexible work, and now we are all proving that we can do it. Of course, what we’re being asked to do–homeschool our kids while working without childcare–is impossible, but we are all doing it to varying levels of success.

What I see happening is this: employers have been forced to let go of rules that it turns out never mattered. People want to be employed. They want to earn a paycheck and have health insurance, and they want to do good work they can be proud of. People also want to be present for their families and be trusted to get the job done on time. These things are true now during this pandemic, but they were true before and they’ll be true after it’s over. If we can do our jobs from home under these conditions, imagine how great we’ll be at them when the kids go back to school.

I hope employers across the nation will be more open to flexible schedules and more trusting of their employees to work without being in the office. Now that all the necessary systems are in place, there’s no reason to commute to work when all that’s on the schedule is one meeting. Research shows that happy employees are more productive, and employees are happier when they have more flexibility. It’s really a win for everyone.

3. Neighbors: I live on a cul-de-sac of fewer than thirty houses, but before Coronavirus, I only had contact information for five of my neighbors and knew another three by name. The rest I only saw on Halloween. I think this was probably true for a lot of us. Now, neighborhoods are pulling together to create community. From scavenger hunts for bears or rainbows to six-feet-apart lawn chair happy hours, neighbors across the country are getting together. You can’t un-know your neighbors. So, while I know that I won’t continue to go for four walks per day past my neighbor’s house when this is all over, I will continue to know her name and stop to say hello when our paths cross. This is a type of connection that has been lacking in my life, and I am grateful for it.

4. Using Social Media for Good: A few years ago someone told me Pinterest was ruining her self esteem. “You’re doing it wrong!” I exclaimed. At that point in my life, I had a good handle on what craft projects and recipes were out of my league, and so I had a great relationship with Pinterest. It was the source of creative workouts, delicious (unhealthy) recipes, and decor ideas. Similarly, I’ve rarely felt that Facebook or Instagram breeds dissatisfaction with my own life. Instead, I’ve used Facebook to connect with friends from childhood and to support my business. That said, I understand that for many, social media has been a source of comparison, disappointment, and criticism, real or perceived.

However, now that we’re all quarantined, it seems the people are really using social media for good, as it was always intended to be used. My sister and I Zoomed with my mom last night. Grandmothers are learning how to video chat. Facebook is flooded with encouragement and resources for support of all kinds. Pinterest is a great source for homeschool ideas, exercise plans, crafts for kids, and easy recipes to use what’s in your pantry and avoid the grocery store. I love how this pandemic is bringing out the best in all of us. It would have been weird six months ago if I invited my law school friends to a Zoom happy hour, or suggested that my mom friends start our day with a Zoom coffee hour. But now, these things are normal and welcome. There is no reason to stop doing them once Coronavirus ends. Who’s with me?

Look, I know I can sound a little “Pollyanna” at times, putting a happy face on things that are not happy at all. Know that I do think it’s detrimental to our mental health to fail to acknowledge reality. I am immersed in the reality of this virus all day, every day, but I’m also doing my best to balance those overwhelmed, scared, paralyzed feelings with some optimism about the future. We all know that the world will be forever changed by this virus. My hope is that some of the changes in store are positive, and I think we have a small amount of control in making that happen. I find that comforting, and I hope you do, too!