It’s been exactly a month since the Canadian economy shut down, and exactly a month since my daughter’s daycare was closed. At first, for two weeks, than an additional two weeks, and now, indefinitely.
(or, until there is a cure, or until there is mass testing for antibodies).
For now, we are in limbo.
I began my career in sex work when I was 19-years-old, and I’ve transitioned in and out of the industry a few times over the years. Of the three times I’ve left sex work, only once was it for me.
Sex work has always been an option for me. It’s something I can leave for a time and come back to. It’s comforting that way.
Now, our “red lights” are off and many of us are no longer available for in-person appointments. Those who want to offer in-person appointments cannot, since demand has (essentially) dried up as people huddle in their homes and respect social distancing measures.
Some sex workers immediately transitioned to online work through porn, cam work and providing a “virtual girlfriend experience”, and others have simple vanished. Some, such as myself, are not capable of offering virtual services because they are at home with children. Honestly, by the end of the day, I barely feel motivated to shower, let alone create alluring content for paying clients. By the way, I haven’t shaved my legs in 5 weeks!
(Side note: how many dissertations will be written about the virtual GFE? I can just imagine the titles: “Love in the time of COVID-19: The Virtual Girlfriend Experience”, “Virtual GFE during COVID-19: Sex Work(er) Resistance during a Global Pandemic”, “Middle-Class Sex Work and the Virtual GFE”, “Offline to Online: Social Distancing and Sex Work” Someone has to write about the sourdough bread phenomena. I can image the title of that one: “Turning a Whore into a Housewife: Sourdough and COVID-19.” Speaking of which, you can find a lovely picture of the sourdough loaf I made on my Twitter feed.)
I’m incredibly privileged. My housing is secure, my incall is secure, and I will not struggle to feed myself or my daughter through this difficult time. There are people in my life supporting me, in addition to Canada’s Emergency Relief Benefit. I’ll be alright, so don’t worry about my basic needs.
Nonetheless, I feel immense grief. As a result of this crisis, my professional life is on pause. Prior to this crisis, I was saving up money to invest in my private practice as a psychologist and was attending online university courses. Now, I can do none of the things which gave my professional life meaning. In addition, I recently resigned from my position as Finance Officer with Ottawa Independent Companions. I felt it was time to pass the torch along. Leaving my position with OIC was the right thing to do, but the timing, however, makes me feel like I’ve lost a lot in a short period of time.
My life revolves around my two-year-old and whatever activities I can squeeze in during her naps, or while she plays beside me. I admire parents who dedicate their lives to raising children. I really admire stay-at-home mamas in particular, because it’s the hardest work I’ve ever done, and I don’t like it. Surprise!
I loved when my daughter started daycare. I’ll always remember the feedback I received from other mamas on her first day. They said, “be gentle with yourself, have a good cry, you’ll miss her terribly” and I didn’t. I yelped with joy when I dropped her off (despite her tears) and proceeded to get a mani/pedi and read a book quietly at a coffee shop. Having a break did wonders for my mental health and I was able to find myself again. I started working again, practicing yoga, reading and writing. Now, 5 weeks into this pandemic, I feel myself slowly eroding through the monotony of The Wiggles and reading the same toddler book over and over and over again.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter, but I don’t derive joy from being a mother per se. There’s a reason I’m not a early childhood educator. There’s a reason I wanted my daughter to start daycare. I won’t be shamed or judged for not enjoying huge parts of motherhood. In fact, I think more parents need to talk about how shitty parenting really is to normalize the shittiness. (Another dissertation title: “The Burden of Childcare on Mothers during COVID-19” and “Gender Equality?”)
I find myself envious of people without children – people who post on social media about all the projects they are accomplishing while in quarantine – you know who I’m talking about.
Initially I felt angry by the push to be “productive”. “How the fuck can we be productive during a global pandemic?” I found myself thinking. Apart from cooking and cleaning, there is little I do that goes beyond childcare and sleeping when I can. It’s such a neoliberal response. We must be productive at all times (read make money at all times) in order to have value. Fuck that bullshit.
In the first week or two of the school closures, I saw academic professors trying to transition their work online with their (also grieving) students. I witnessed High Schools and Colleges attempt to do the same. Our routines and habits under quarantine were not even established when institutions began telling us all the ways we need to stay busy.
I was so angry and I resisted it with all my might. I was happy to see some social media posts with people doing the same. people critical of our social and political economy that pushes people to be productive during the worst of circumstances. It is OK to have a weird relationship with food right now, and it is OK to binge watch Netflix everyday.
I’m happy to see most have stepped away from this, and schools are being gentle with their quarantined students. This doesn’t even take into account those people with lower incomes who may not have access to the best computers, or may not have enough computers for all the children to complete their work online. This pandemic, in fact, is highlighting how broken our system is. How unfair. How unjust.
The pandemic is also showing us how broken we are. Feminists have always said the revolution starts with us (from within us).
Since suicide isn’t an option for many of us, time will simply continue to move and somehow, we will get through this. I fundamentally believe it is OK to not be OK right now. This blog is part of me acknowledging that I am not fucking OK right now. Hopefully it gives you permission to not be OK, too.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s OK to meet your basic needs and leave it at that. Now is not the time to be a superperson, doing super duper awesome stuff and if you do, please don’t fucking rub it in.
Be compassionate with yourself, and don’t expect too much of yourself right now. Surviving is good enough. You can work on self-actualizing another day.