As I write this, a wriggling 8 month old is trying to see how far my bottom lip stretches. The 3yo has a cape on. My son is shooting nerf arrows onto the roof. I see no reason to interfere.
In this time of global crisis, the school-aged children are home for the foreseeable future. They’ve turned to me, I who am disheveled, pajamaed and anxious, to run their school day. Ha! This is what streaming content is for. Don’t want to do your math today? Fine.
Productivity. I define myself in terms of my creative output. Being an artist and a writer is like being a sponge: I am either wrung out or brimming. I can’t expect my children to work diligently if I myself cannot even muster the will to plan a project.
I’ve realized that I need to think differently. What is productivity, right now? Closures of schools and workplaces, cancellations of events: it all feels dark and very scary. But, what is happening is a collective social sacrifice. Solidarity. We are coming together in our isolation from one another, oddly, in order to give our medical workers and institutions a fighting chance. We are saving the lives of our fellow citizens.
That is worth doing.
Why does that feel strange? I don’t think we like working, but we’re afraid not to. Capitalism is not amenable to a collective slowdown. I make money for no one when I decide to bake bread and paint or read a story to my children. Previously I’ve had to decide whether or not I deserved those activities. Did I get enough done in any given day to justify slowing down at the end of it?
What I hope we all realize is this: we’ve always deserved to rest, to eat well, and to enrich ourselves with the development of domestic skills. We are owed this, to be treated with dignity and to live well. Currently the necessities of life are acquired through wage slavery: I cannot eat, live, or receive medical care unless I work. If I cannot work, I suffer. Is it foolish to wonder if this crisis will force us to re-imagine the way we live?
I will continue to let my children play whenever they want. The guilt I feel has been planted there by the greed of a collapsing system, and I will instead try to live in a way that upends it.