For Métis families, particularly those of multiple generations, home is seen as a place of solace, comfort, and gathering of those closest to you. In many multi-generational Métis households, Kokums (Grandmothers) may gather every day with the next generations to pass along stories, Métis traditional practices, and wisdom.
With the COVID-19 pandemic and the mass movement to “work from home”, made possible by impressive mobile technological advancements, there has been an increased blurring of lines between notions of public and private space, paid and unpaid labour, work and down time, and the role and purpose of “home” in provide familial and kinship support, comfort and healing.
For Métis women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ Métis in safe, affordable, and comfortable housing, who have multiple rooms with dedicated space for working and disconnecting from work, the task of disconnecting is much easier. However, for other Métis in multi-generational households, in homes in need of additional space or major repairs, disconnecting from work is much more difficult and is often accompanied by increased levels of stress and fatigue.
As many Métis women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ Métis undertook paid labour in the home during the pandemic, they remained responsible for the unpaid labour of running the household and providing caregiving to dependants. They were expected to balance the competing and often conflicting priorities and pressures of working from home with child care, which often included assisting in the online education of their children.
In light of these very gendered challenges posed by the pandemic, throughout the Métis Motherland, the idea of “digital empathy” has taken hold. Now, meetings, engagements, webinars and other gatherings hosted online are held with the intention of meeting participants and attendees where they are at, and in the circumstances in which they find themselves – whether that is with a sick toddler on their lap or an aging Kokum in the kitchen.
Acknowledging the right to disconnect – and the right to connect on terms and conditions that uphold personal, family and community values – help support Métis women, 2SLGBTQQIA+ Métis, and their families not simply to survive global health crises, but to take a more holistic, integrated, family-centric approach to understanding the intersections of work and home.