Creating a Pod

During this pandemic, extended families of blood or affinity are forming. The term “pod” is being used to describe small groups of households who are sharing tasks like shopping and childcare. Modern pods are usually neighbors or parents of school-chums.

Being in a pod involves a good deal of trust that the people in your pod are practicing Covid-19 safety at a level that you are comfortable with. It requires hard conversations about personal behavior and choices. It might lead to hurt feelings, if friends disagree about safety levels. What would you decide if someone wants to join your pod?

  • What if they work at a hospital? A grocery store? The post office?
  • What if they drive Lyft on the weekend? What if they use the MBTA every day?
  • What if they are flying once a month?
  • What if you have high-risk relatives?
  • Who is in their pod? What do those people do… Repeat all the questions above…

Once you establish who can be in your pod, what activities will you participate in?

  • Outdoor, socially distant play dates, parties, meetings?
  • How many people limit? How much time limit?
  • Sharing food?
  • Sharing cars? How long a ride is acceptable?
  • Indoor meetings in houses?
  • Will a toilet be available?

How are we going to keep together when winter is upon us?

People are already thinking about how to see other people after the summer and fall are behind us (and we still need to limit our contact with other people). Here are some ideas:

  • Where fire codes allow, build a fire pit. Patios will serve until November or December, when we get to freezing temperatures.
  • Patio heaters serve this purpose, too.
  • Consider upgrading air filtration. If you have a big playroom in the basement or attic that can use a HEPA filter before, during and after visits.

Two-family houses were particularly well-suited for pod living. Many two-family houses have a one or two-bedroom unit downstairs and a three to five-bedroom unit upstairs. This allowed flexibility for extended families in the Boston area.

A young couple used to be able to buy a two-family house. They could live downstairs, collecting rent on the larger unit. When they outgrew that unit, they could move upstairs. Then they could rent the downstairs to a stranger, or another adult in the family, or aging parents. When the kids were grown, they could move downstairs and collect the larger rents again.

During times when both units were occupied by family, children often moved freely between the units, so childcare and eldercare was shared without going outdoors. It was a natural pod.

That was then. This is now. As two-family housing became more expensive and less available, due to these building being converted to condos, extended families still live near one another, but fewer are in the same building. So, there are fewer buildings where an uncle and aunt or grandparents live on the other floor. That means that extended family help is not in the same building. It may require having a car. It may require using MBTA or getting a Lyft. The decline in two-family house ownership has made pod living harder.