My husband had to take some management training for work this week. They were asked for examples of difficult management problems, and his example was about helping his team remain effective while they are dealing with the problems around child care. He has several people on his team who have young kids and that has created some challenges for them and also for him as their manager. I am dealing with this, too, in my role as project manager. It is nice for a company to say "we'll give our working parents flexibility" but saying that does nothing. It is the middle managers who have to figure out how to make that flexibility happen while also getting work done. I haven't heard of any company saying they'll just aim to get less work done.
Anyway, my husband told me that one of his fellow managers in the training said something to the effect of "I don't have kids and so I hadn't realized what a big problem this is."
I wonder if that manager has been living under a rock. But, as my husband pointed out, there is a lot of news right now and it is human nature to gravitate to the news that matters to you, personally. He said this manager is a nice person, and he doesn't think she was trying to be dismissive of the problem. She's probably heard about schools starting online and whatnot and just hadn't thought about how that would create logistical problems for parents. It is disappointing that his company hasn't offered more guidance to their middle managers on this, but then again, what real guidance is there to offer? I guess they could explain the challenges working parents and other care givers are facing right now and state a company policy of providing flexibility, but again... that doesn't do much. It falls to the manager to figure out how to provide that flexibility.
We talked about how there are no good solutions right now, not at work and not for schools. My husband's boss lives in a school district that thought they could petition to open elementary schools and was gearing up to do that. They were going to make every parent make a binding decision for the entire school year: in person or remote, but they hadn't provided much detail about what their plans were for either. There were acrimonious meetings and stressed out parents... and then the district discovered that they didn't meet all the criteria for the petition, anyway, and so nevermind! Everyone is starting with remote learning.
That district didn't cover itself in glory, but honestly, I feel bad for school administrators, too. They have been given an impossible problem to solve, just like the rest of us. They are probably doing their best.
Here's what I think: There is one real solution for this mess, and that is to do a real lockdown and get the virus transmission down to almost nothing then open slowly and carefully with adequate capacity to test and trace to keep transmission levels low. This is what other countries have tried to do, with more or less success. We'd either have to do it nationwide or institute a real quarantine on people coming into the locked down region. We'd need to give people money so that they could survive a 4-6 week lockdown. Doing any of this would require a different federal government than the one we have right now. So the real solution is off the table.
There are no other real solutions that the rest of us can cobble together from the things we can control. There just aren't. All we can do is try to pick the best of the bad choices in front of us and try to remember that everyone is trying to do their best in a situation in which there is no winning.
Here's what I have decided I can do: Wear a mask when I'm indoors anywhere except my home. Wear a mask when I'm outdoors if I'm within about 10 feet of anyone not in my immediate family. Keep our outings to a minimum, while still letting the kids see their friends (outside, distanced) sometimes because we're looking at another 6 months of this. Try to give the people on my projects as much flexibility and understanding as I can. Give everyone who is trying to make a plan for anything right now (e.g., schooling) the benefit of the doubt and meet them with kindness. And work to make sure we have a different federal government come January.
So, how about some links.
Speaking of schools... I am worried by this article about extracurricular programs expanding into remote learning centers here in San Diego. The headline frames this as something available for people who can pay, but one of the programs is our local YMCA and as the article explains they do a sliding scale for payment. I think there should be programs for the kids of essential workers. It is clearly not something we can do for all kids, because if we could do that we could have regular schools. But if you try to make rules about who can use these services, where do you draw the line? I am back at "there are no real solutions available to us right now just people trying to make the best of the impossible hand they've been dealt" and all I can confidently say is that we won't be using one of those services.
Here's what my school district has said about plans for distance learning. I think we're supposed to get more detail next week.
If you haven't read Ed Yong's piece on our American failure during this pandemic, you really should read it.
This tweet succinctly states how I feel. I'm planning for no meaningful improvement until after January. My county and state look to be getting our current spike under control, but I expect more spikes and no ability to reopen indoor things until we get a better federal response.
This is the key point right now. It’s really hard to see how we get to a durably better place under our current leadership. https://t.co/60OOluGXZi— Jeremy TEST/TRACE/ISOLATE - NO SHORTCUTS Konyndyk (@JeremyKonyndyk) August 7, 2020
I did a recorded interview today about working with a lack of childcare and at 12:15pm my child burst into the room in tears saying "I couldn't find you and I'm so hungry and why were you hiding and when is lunch" And cut. That's work and childcare during COVID.— Betsey Stevenson (@BetseyStevenson) August 4, 2020
As we look ahead to how we might "build back better" here are some things I've been thinking about.
David Roberts has a really good look at the promise in Rewiring America's jobs report. If you want to know why we're replacing our aging furnace with a heat pump, it traces back to me listening to Ezra Klein's interview with Saul Griffith, who is one of Rewiring America's founders. He makes the case that we shouldn't frame decarbonizing our economy as a story of sacrifice, but one of getting a better life. Listening to that interview really changed how I think about the task ahead of us in dealing with climate change.
Truck bloat is a real problem. It is also symptom of the same problem that gives us the gun extremists and the anti-maskers, and also I think the anti-vaxxers. This is the dark side of American individualism. If we are going to make any progress on our problems we will have to find a way to deal with this aspect of our culture.
Incidentally, my book club read a book that is both a really fun crime novel and an insightful look at the good and the bad of American individualism. I found it to be an engrossing read: American by Day, by Derek B. Miller. It is the second in a two book series, and I wish I'd read the first book first. It is called Norwegian by Night. I am still deciding if I want to read it since I know the outcome from having read the second book.
In less weighty news... Scalzi had some smart things to say about the Disney+ Mulan release.
I think I need to start doing the "things that made me smile" section again, so here's what I have for this week:
This is delightful
Little Man is jammin with the big folks. Some people are just born with it...pic.twitter.com/2k1B8FIf3l— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) August 8, 2020
This made me laugh:
For the love of god UNMUTE THIS pic.twitter.com/LjbQhfNdnI— Nature & Animals 🌴 (@AnimalsWorId) August 2, 2020
I love this cake:
This mama duck!
Merganser spotted with 50 ducklings. Looks exhausted, asks merely for coffee and childcare support. Is all of us. https://t.co/znptX4tibt— Bethany Brookshire (@BeeBrookshire) August 7, 2020
And here's your bunny for the week:
びよよよーん pic.twitter.com/VutriTuQ0A— うさぎ飼うってよ (@fluffys20200320) August 3, 2020
Have a good weekend!