How ‘Social Pods’ Can Help Families Find Joy Again

In areas where the coronavirus pandemic has waned enough for real reopenings, families are trying to bring some happiness back into their lives

Jessica Valenti
Published in
4 min readJul 7, 2020
People gather for a picnic in Central Park on July 4. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

It started with a hike. My nine-year-old hadn’t seen her best friend — or any friend — in months, so in early June we decided an outdoor activity where everyone could stay six feet apart would be all right. The day was an unequivocal success: Sure, it was hard for my daughter not to hug her friend, hold hands, or whisper conspiratorially, but just being around another kid for a few hours made her happy in a way I hadn’t seen in months.

Now we’ve decided to form a “pod” with that same family. Our daughters are best friends, we’ve all spent a lot of time and vacationed together before, and so we jumped at the chance to broaden who we consider family.

Pods have gained traction throughout the country: The idea being that you expand your isolated immediate unit to a small number of trusted friends or family members. You can go to each other’s homes, hang out without masks, eat together, play games — socialize as normal — because you trust your pod is taking the same precautions you are. (Also because a pod is small, if someone does get Covid-19, the number of people exposed will be limited.)

What used to feel mundane now feels incredibly special.

The time we’ve spent in a pod has been a game-changer; not just for Layla, who is an only child, but for my husband and I, as well. All of our moods have been better, and — most importantly — we have something to look forward to. That’s a big deal in a time when every day feels like Groundhog Day. All of a sudden we can make plans again — whether it’s for a family dinner or a playdate. What used to feel mundane now feels incredibly special.

Pods may not be the best solution in places where infection rates are rising — in many parts of the country, the safest bet is still to stay home with immediate family. But in areas where things seem to be getting better — like in New York state, where I live — families are doing the same thing we are: trying to figure out what’s…



Jessica Valenti
Writer for

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.