ReVillaging: Hopes for work and family in the “new normal”
An intimate group of working parents and community members across BC gathered online on April 7 to discuss the concept of “ReVillaging” with us for the second time. Besides hearing from speakers Anthonia Ogundele and Patricia Lomelli, attendees broke into groups to discuss their hopes for what work and commuting will look like post-pandemic.
Patricia talked about her dreams about living in Canada when she immigrated from Venezuela, where it’s the norm for people to help each other. She dreamed of an inclusive, welcoming community where she and her husband could have a better life for themselves. She talked about struggling with the high cost of living, finding her academic credentials invalid, and studying ESL. That’s when she became pregnant with her first child and began learning about the childcare system in Canada, which she feels is lacking in terms of support.
She said it really takes a village to raise a child: community, neighbours, nonprofits, organizations that teach English, and childcare outside of the 9 to 5. Families all have varying needs to consider.
Anthonia has a diverse work background, but nothing prepared her for becoming a new mother. She and her husband didn’t understand the complexities of communities that share resources between families. She talked about how Ethos Lab is addressing the resources that are lacking for Black youth: childcare, education, and programming.
The topic of inclusion was discussed throughout. Moderator Vanessa Richards talked about taking a Black architecture course and thinking about what space looks like when humanity is centred and no one is excluded. Anthonia said that to her, revillaging means smaller, more personal communities where people are courageous, where they can be their full selves, and be supported for who they are.
“It means to care deeply, to love radically, and not to be afraid to be together,” she said.
Ethos Lab addresses the lack of representation in STEM for Black youth. Today, children are engaging more with each other using digital avatars, and yet they’re incapable of creating avatars with Black hair; coding or robotics should not have a bias against a 12-year-old, Anthonia said. Ethos Lab has hosted workshops to teach children how to create their own avatars.
The speakers were asked where they see the most potential for systemic change. “Even if you feel like losing hope, we can’t lose it. We need each other. We need to push the law, push for changes in childcare regulations that allow for diversity & inclusivity,” Patricia said. Anthonia said that her hope lies in youth like her daughter, who are concerned and speaking out about issues like climate change.
She said that as parents, we also have to let go of conversations around “good” or “bad” schools and programs. Mental health issues are arising in youth, and we must push on cultural norms that have kept us separate, different, and exclusive. This is especially important as we build the Nestworks community.
“We want the best not just for our own kids, but for EVERYONE,” she said.
Hilary Henegar, a Nestworks board member, was inspired by Vanessa’s acknowledgement of introverts and extroverts in the virtual room, and talked about how to reorient our relationships when we get back to working and socializing in communities. She said that “alpha extroverts” usually set the tone or pace at a workplace, and there are ways we can engage more introverts. Silence can be good. Silliness can be too, added an attendee.
After breakout sessions, we also discussed the importance of community members outside of parents and grandparents in raising children: aunties, uncles, and friends who have energy; we need these people to connect our communities so people don’t feel isolated.
You can watch the recap of the panel discussion here:
Attendees answered: Once vaccines have rolled out and we have returned to the ideal normal, how do you want work to look for you?
The common thread across the breakout sessions was flexibility and having different options. Employers must be more inclusive and accepting of options that work for everyone.
Attendees said that they liked working with video calls, not having to commute, and having their children be able to use video calls.
One attendee who works in the field is used to working from home, hotels, Airbnbs, and coworking spaces, and enjoys coworking far more because there are other people around, even if it’s just eating lunch with someone. One parent likes to be around people, even as an introvert. She likes working from home, but has used coworking spaces when she didn’t want to be at home. She would love a coworking space with childcare for times when she needs to work with her child around, because it’s nice to have the flexibility.
One father loves coworking (he started the first coworking space in Seattle years ago) and met his future wife there. They’ve been in Canada for four years and are still figuring out where they “belong” as parents. He’s a member of four different coworking spaces in Vancouver and likes celebrating wins with other members. He’s set his consulting business aside to be a full-time dad, and his wife is working full time.
Nestworks board member Shayna Rector-Bleeker has worked from home, at coworking spaces, and friends’ houses. She’s now working out of a coworking space close to home and is happy that others (during COVID) now know what she’s been experiencing for six years as a mom and an agile worker.
One attendee who has some experience with collective living, shared live/work spaces, and childcare models said that during one of the communal living projects he was a part of, many residents were single mothers who shared their talents and skills among the other parents.
One breakout room discussed the need for more investment in alternative childcare options and community spaces like Ethos Lab.
Hilary talked about the $10aday childcare plan seeming like a false hope, as Canada hasn’t followed suit from other countries who have built alternate childcare infrastructures during the pandemic. (You can download $10aday’s current roadmap here.)
Others would like to see childcare moved into the portfolio of the Ministry of Education and to be a part of a public system, as BC’s Ministry of Children and Family Development doesn’t seem to be effective. They also want to see living wages paid to childcare workers. One mother worked part-time when raising her children and wanted to have them cared for in the same space, but licensed daycares split children up according to their ages.
Some attendees said some of their children’s experiences in childcare were increasing the systemic issues of racism and childcare workers were oblivious to the lack of diversity.
One attendee from Pacific Immigrant Resources Society said she hoped to keep their Pop-up Childcare service going post-COVID. They are currently working with licensed centres and ECEs. Finding staff has been difficult during COVID, but they anticipate having more business once the pandemic is over. We need to keep parents engaged in these issues.
Other discussion topics included the value that new Canadians and immigrants bring. They have a greater capacity to be with children in a different way, and we should think of them as assets. Vanessa would like to re-imagine places like Granville Island Public Market as a market that celebrates cultures around the world, where refugees can feel welcomed. She’d like to see cloths, spices, shoe repair, tailors, and legacy growers like those who grow African products. Most organic growers don’t grow Asian vegetables, even though we have a large Asian population here. There would be a culture of hospitality and efficiency of space. Young people could work and care for children in that setting. She wants to see small businesses flourish, not just the big box stores.
How do you want commuting specifically to look for you?
As mentioned above, a common thread across the breakout rooms was having the option to work from home, at the office, or elsewhere. One attendee who worked in the office before the pandemic (even on weekends) is now working from home and wants to continue doing that. The spouse of another attendee doesn’t want to commute daily and wants to work from home some days during the week.
Some folks look forward to commuting so they have something to do before and after work, like cycling.
However, they said if they had to commute, they’d only want it to be a 15 to 20 minute trip.
We thank everyone for attending and contributing to a new vision for ReVillaging! Stay tuned on social media and in our newsletter for information on future events.