The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions to home and work life. Primary carers with school aged children are disadvantaged and struggle to get focussed working time. Caring responsibilities extend to caring for aging parents, sometimes at a distance, as well as mental health.
In response, the Design and Creative Practice ECP has formed a working group to explore the lived experiences of primary carers working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic and to broadly to capture the complexity of care responsibilities, its affects and effects on wellbeing, mental health, and career disruptions.
This project also aligns with the ECP’s A Fairer Start Initiative and builds on research conducted by the Women’s Research Network. This research emerged out of the need to better understand how creative industry and arts-based practitioners who are carers aligned with the academy are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It will utilise the caring resource material gathered from creative ethnographic methods in order to advocate for and provide evidence of the challenges and disruptions to life and career through the lived experience of participants.
We are asking potential participants to respond to the following prompts, you can choose one or more: writing, mapping, photography:
For further information and to submit your responses to the prompts below, please contact Gretchen Coombs, via email.
Draw a map of the new ways your home is being used during the pandemic. Working from home not only brings a new level of familiarity with our domestic space but also prompts us to use it in different ways. For example, a hallway becomes a gym, a bedroom a private office, or a living room a school. Draw a map of how your home was used while working and caring from home. See an example here.
Writing prompt 1: a paragraph that describes your current ‘workplace’ to someone who has never seen it before.
Writing prompt 2: a humourous set of six instructions on how to get through your day at home while balancing work, care and domestic and emotional labour.
Writing prompt 3: Employ a humorous take on a paragraph beginning with the phrase, “This week, I failed at.…”. For example:
This week I failed at keeping my voice down, at following the link provided, at taking out the kitchen garbage. I can’t help but think that everything from this period qualifies as some sort of failure: I couldn’t manage to upload the child’s half-finished schoolwork; I went to bed without feeding the cat. On Tuesday I’d done none of the tasks to prepare for that day’s meetings. I completely forgot to shower. On Wednesday I blew my top with my son (“Why must you continue to interrupt?”), on Thursday we went without lunch. Have I been striving to care, but failing to do so with anything you might call quality? Have I been striving to work but failing to do so with anything like the focus required? Perhaps there are some failures that are black and white while others dwell in more murky territory. I know I’ve failed at my creative work: I’ve not even attempted it once. (“Rule number one: show up!”). Then there are the failures in grey, a more textured series of near misses and occasional wins – there was that week I jogged three mornings in a row. Great! I’ve managed nothing since. Nothing from home is ever pure-cardio, is it? The teaching semester too, seems like a series of failures punctuated here and there with a modest pass (“You’re on mute.”). Can you cook three family meals a day, seven days a week on budget? Fail. Out walking with a friend on Sunday, she declared, “I’ve only ordered a meal delivery once during the whole of lockdown.” Clock them up, sweetheart: small victories, many battles lost. Sometimes I think of a string of women, from across the city, linked to one another by a tired series of hyphens: working-from-home-singleparent-home-schooling-during-lock-down. It’s a discrete conga with a long tail, the whole lot of us failing gloriously, simultaneously at whatever we can manage
Photo Prompt 1 DIY Office: Take a photograph of your workstation that includes the surrounding domestic environment and/or have someone photograph you ‘at work’ (being sure to include the wider domestic environment).
Photo Prompt 2 Work/Life Balance: Photograph your work/life balance. Look for juxtapositions of objects in the home that you feel represent the challenges and realities of working and caring from home. This might be a photo of a laptop nestled amongst toys, multitasking in the kitchen, or working at a local park.
Photo Prompt 3 New Routines: Photograph or make a video tour of your ‘commute’ to work. Photograph the ‘school’ or ‘childcare centre’ in your home.
If you have any questions, please contact Gretchen Coombs, via email.
RMIT Human Ethics Approval: 23705