Angus Sewell McCann
The photojournalism students continue to capture complex images of the interplay of work and family during the COVID-19 pandemic. These candid moments reveal that striking a balance between work and family has been made more difficult during the coronavirus outbreak for a variety of reasons. Some families include health-care professionals who are finding it hard to find time, space and energy for family life as they deal with the pressure of their essential jobs. Some family members are working from home because their school campuses and offices are closed, and the family has had to shift its routines and living spaces in order to accommodate work (including school work) that normally would done away from home. Other families are working to find healthy, productive ways to adjust to a family’s members loss of paid work. Another theme that emerges is the struggle to divide limited time between necessary work and the family life that is occurring in the same space every day as the pandemic keeps us living and working in our homes. The images form a powerful mosaic of what life is like for all of us in this difficult and unprecedented time in our cultural history.
GUEST ROOM OFFICE: Here my dad is working from home in his new office. Previously his computer was in our dining room, but we figured he needed a semi more professional work space. We set it up in our guest room and put in pictures of our family for a more office feeling. Photo by Thea Cahoon.
WORKING LATE: With my mom working from home because of the Coronavirus outbreak, her hours are much less structured. This means that she may be working later than normal, which she really hates. She keeps a picture of my brother and I from when we were little at her desk to remind her of what she can come home to normally. She has since moved the photo to her home office because she said she still likes to be reminded of the good things even though her job is much more stressful right now. Photo by Megan McHorse.
NOTE-ABLE ENDEAVORS: My dad has a series of sticky notes covering one wall, a few windows, and the center table. There are many different moving parts to running a business and the simplest way to keep track of all these different factors is to write them down on sticky notes and put them in easy places to remind him. Systems like this are used frequently to improve work efficiency throughout many different industries but they are usually digitized; I have never seen anybody use actual sticky notes other than him. I don’t see how it is any better than just putting them into some form of “reminders” app but it seems to increase his productivity so I trust his process. Photo by Angus Sewell McCann.
SO MUCH TO DO: My dad is a very busy person, especially now because of COVID-19, he has about 5 conference calls a day. In this photo, he’s talking about creating a virtual user, basically meaning just figuring a better and faster way of talking with each other on the computer. Photo by Carter Eason.
TAXING OUR FAMILY’S PATIENCE: Waiting to be unpacked, tax documents sits atop a stack of full boxes in our study. With our family’s current move, my dad being an ER doctor in high demand, and my mom struggling to reopen her business, the unpacking and organizing process has significantly slowed down. We anticipated a quick, timely move due to the lack of work, which is not the case due to the situation both of my parents are in right now. Photo by Scarlet Craig.
WORKING WITH FAMILY: My parents, unable to go into work, both sit in the living room working together. Photo by Olive Embry.
MOM’S FLOWERS: My mom’s favorite social distancing hobby she’s picked up is her garden. In this photo she’s watering her flowers in order to keep the house quiet while my stepdad records in the dining room. Photo by Georgie Murray.
DIGITAL DAD: While many families are forced to work from home, some of them require a little more adjustment than others. I would put my dad in this category, as he is trying to find good lighting for his Zoom call in this shot. Photo by Addison Phillips.
MOVING DAZE: One of my dad’s many pairs of scrubs is draped in his bathroom, as they are all over the house. Working in an emergency room, his schedule is extremely busy, not giving him much time at all at home. Living in a new house constantly organizing and having unpacked boxes everywhere, there is not much motivation to keep tidy. Photo by Scarlet Craig.
THE OFFICE: My mom’s office is a small one-room office that we had built behind our house for her to work. You see, my parents run a business together, but they work and live separately because they are not married anymore. They are both good friends and all but it still astounds me that they can still pull off running a business together after a divorce. My mom is seen here holding her new boyfriend’s dog that she has kind of adopted as she works. Photo by Angus Sewell McCann.
WORK ON THE COUCH: My parents sit on the couch working next to each other. Photo by Olive Embry.
BASS: This is my stepdad’s set up for working from home. He is the jazz professor at UT and because of COVID-19, he’s working out of home as most everyone is. He misses his students a lot so to cheer him up during his Zoom classes, my mom picked some of her flowers from the garden she’s been slaving away at during self isolation. Photo by Georgie Murray.
YOU HAD TO MASK: With our family always on the fly with our busy schedule, it has been important to keep our masks in a place where we remember them. The one time I tried to walk in a grocery store, I found myself itching to pull my mask off, not being used to it. My dad is used to wearing his, because it’s been a fundamental aspect of his job for years. Photo by Scarlet Craig.
SUITABLE FOR FRAMING: This is the view from the laundry room of my daughter’s taking a Zoom ballet class in the garage. You can’t see it but she has a Mac lap top propped on some boxes so she can watch her instructor and so that her instructor can see her. She had to move her brother’s car and her mother’s car out of the garage so she would have room to dance. The wooden chair is her makeshift barre. We moved to a smaller house about a year in a half ago. She had her own dance room in that house, but even though that would be better than her current set up, she has a lot more space than some of her classmates. I just thought it was cool how the door window made a picture frame and her dance pose made a picture worthy of being framed. Photo by Dave Winter.
WORKING FROM HOME: This photo captures the aspects of work along with the presence of family. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, my mom is now working from home, which she doesn’t always love. However, she is always happier when our dog comes and sits with her. She is helping us all make the best of being quarantined. Our dog is enjoying quarantine with all of us being home everyday, giving her all the attention she wants. Photo by Megan McHorse.
MOM’S SUNFLOWER: My mom has always grown her own herbs, tomatoes, and peppers, which I think is kind of common. But since the pandemic ordered everyone to stay inside, she’s been ordering all kinds of seeds for our backyard garden. My mom was an English teacher at the Art Institute until she got laid off because of the virus. Now that she’s not teaching, she has a lot of time to tend to her garden. This is a photo of one of many newly bloomed sunflowers. That’s not all she grows, since that photo was taken, her cucumbers, cantaloupe and berries have started to bloom. Photo by Georgie Murray.
PAPER PUSHER: In this photo, Leviathan Phillips (pictured) looks at the onslaught of work ahead of him. COVID-19 has forced my dad to work at home, and our many pets can create a unique and challenging work environment. Photo by Addison Phillips.
MAKING IT WORK: My dad works in his makeshift home office. Photo by Olive Embry.
DEVELOPING SKILLS OUT OF NECESSITY: With my mom’s business being closed down, my family is trying to use our little bit of extra time to build some new furniture for her and for our new house. Over the past two months, I have turned from the least handy person in the world in to a masterful woodworker with the ability to become the CEO of IKEA. Since we have two houses now, aspects of my parents’ work are physically integrated in to our home. Photo by Scarlet Craig.
UNFOLDING AN IMAGE: I was trying to juxtapose work and family in this image to show how work and family has become layered in the spaces of our home. Folded laundry, including the facial masks my daughter learned how to sew, sit in the lower left corner while my daughter is taking her B-day ballet class in the adjacent garage that she has converted into a dance studio when she has dance or drill team classes. Her schedule is about half core classes and half dance classes so about half the time, her classroom when at school is a dance studio. Photo by Dave Winter.
MOM AND DAD: My mom kisses my dad goodbye before going out to get some exercise. Photo by Olive Embry.
This story was originally published on The Shield Online on May 14, 2020.