Back when America was marked by cottage industries, people worked in their homes or on their land, coordinating with neighbors to produce goods and services.
Fathers passed down trades to their children, and mothers often taught school lessons and cooked from “scratch.” Families had two or three meals together nearly every day, and spent their evenings reading something called “books.”
Sadly, those days also were known for rampant diseases, filth and hardship.
In the era known as the Industrial Revolution, factories began to spring up, and laborers abandoned low-paying jobs in their homes for low-paying jobs on assembly lines.
As transportation and technology advanced, more and more fathers started working in any place but the home. Soon, mothers started leaving their homes in massive numbers too. Incomes started to increase, and wonderful inventions made life more convenient and comfortable. Medical advances and the abundance of food produced by modern farming techniques resulted in people living longer and healthier lives.
But as time went on, ever more moms and dads rushed through their mornings, carted even the youngest of babies off to daycare, and children headed off to long hours at school and “after care.” Family members spent their days splintered from one another. Children became warehoused in colossal schools, while moms and dads became warehoused in separate, sterile office buildings.
By the time COVID-19 hit us, we had become so consumed by the busyness of life that the average family spent only a few waking hours a day together. The number of family meals had plummeted to three hurried dinners per week, many of those spent with iPhones in hand.
No one is advocating a return to the challenging days of cottage industries. But when this virus crisis has passed, should we automatically return to the mass warehousing of family members away from each other? Maybe it’s time to harness what is best from both worlds.
Recent weeks have seen families spending lots of time together, even if under stressful conditions. COVID-19 aside, the majority of that stress is because the American family has forgotten how to be together. Sadly, the reality is that most have never known togetherness in the first place, so there was really nothing to forget.
But something is happening in homes across the country that is positive.
Parents are opening their children’s textbooks and providing guidance while they study online. Imagine that: Parents engaged in their kids’ education, learning for themselves what is actually being taught at school. Many are even beginning to wonder if there’s something to home schooling after all.
When the virus mayhem passes, every parent should focus on how they can become and remain deeply involved in the education of their sons and daughters.
All of us should pledge to abandon our old habits of spending massive amounts of time with everyone but the people we love the most. If we harness the potential of new technologies with a focus on strengthening our families, America can advance to the next golden age.
It’s time to redo the way we do business in America.
The fact is that we live in an era where more jobs can be done at home. I’m not sure when we developed the idea that “real work” only occurs within the four walls of an office building, but our nation has suffered from that mindset because our families have suffered.
Of course, not every job can be done at home, but some portions of nearly every position can. By allowing employees to telecommute at least part of the week, companies can save costs on office space, equipment and electricity.
And workers? The savings in gas, wasted time commuting and the reduction of the stressful daily grind can greatly improve their overall satisfaction with life.
Studies show that happier employees equals better employees. What boss doesn’t want that?
When we are again free to roam as we please, the challenge is to resist resuming a chaotic lifestyle. Whether you are looking for a new job or returning to an old one, fight for more time with your family, even if it means less income. Remember, although your children might beg for the latest gadget or coolest clothes, what they really crave is more time with you.
In the meantime, take advantage of the opportunities that come with home quarantine. Rediscover those things called “books,” play games and create warm memories. Let each of your family members know that you don’t want things to return to normal, you want things to be better. And that starts with your commitment to spend more time with them from this day forward.
⦁ Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.