It’s been a year since we began living life in a global pandemic. For us here in Montreal, March 13th was our official day of lockdown, just after our spring break. I remember volunteering in the library of my children’s school as I have done every week for years, but this time it felt so different. I was acutely aware of “all the kids” and some were talking about their vacations away and how they took a cruise ship or a flight and it was getting me worried. I am not one to listen or read the news but this month, I was listening and reading everything. That day, we found out schools were to close indefinitely, and family units remained in their homes, without knowing what would happen next.
For my family, talk of the imminent future was whispered to us before it became official in Canada. My in-laws had come to visit from Switzerland, and they were staying with us over the March break. There had been talk in Switzerland even before they left to visit us, that there was a virus spreading quickly in Europe. We had even suggested they not fly to us in case of a problem going back. But they really wanted to come, and so they did.
On a personal note, we were at the tail end of having our family cottage built; a dream of ours that was many years in the making. Things were not livable yet, but walls had gone up and paint colours were next to be chosen. It was an exciting time for us, especially to share with my husband’s parents. At the time, we were wishing that the cottage had been finished early enough for them to enjoy fully, but we also reminded ourselves this was a home for our family to enjoy for years to come, and that all of our family and friends would be welcome during the summer to enjoy it.
Little did we know.
At the very beginning of our lives changing as we knew it, people of influence had a lot to say. The big word on the internet was PIVOT. Now was the time to change the way you write, the way you stream, the way you create all content and make it work for you to built your audience. It was labeled as an advantageous time for us influencers because everyone was online right now, stuck in their homes with nothing to do. All of this made me want to throw up. I couldn’t get into the positive side of this for my career. It wasn’t in me to use this global catastrophe as another way to grab an audience.
Granted, this was not my only form of income, and as many people were having their jobs cut without any indication when they would get back to work, I understood that some people needed to change the way they were working or living out of necessity. Specifically, the small businesses and the entrepreneurs needed to think fast. I was amazed at the level of creativity that exploded online. Local businesses got to work making e-commerce sites, and artists from all over the world were performing live streaming events just to boost morale as we all waited for news. The public came together like never before. First in Italy, where people sang together from their balconies and then everyone followed suite with performances, benefits, and all-around positivity.
I was not one of them.
I couldn’t get into it. I couldn’t open myself up more for the benefit of others. If you have been here before, you know I am happy to share limited things online. I wasn’t going to start baring my soul now. I selfishly internalized my strength and harvested it for my mental wellbeing and the wellbeing of my family. My family needed me more than ever. I needed to be there for them, 24/7, 365 days. If you speak to any mother, that is a given with or without a pandemic. However, this included changing our lifestyles with virtual learning, staying home without external activities for them to see friends and change their minds, cooking and baking more than I was doing before to be sure their meals were healthy and safe, and slowing down on my own work.
STAT – This last year has been labelled a she-cession, due to a 30-year low in women in the workforce due to the pandemic. Shut down measures, school and daycare closures have caused many mothers to change the way they were taking on responsibilities at home for their families. It was estimated that over 20,000 women left the workforce (based on a study in Nov, 2020). *
My husband and I were extremely lucky because we were seasoned in the work-from-home life. For over a decade, we have been singing the praises of working from home and making our own hours for jobs we love. We knew how to do this better than others. Still, it was hard for us. So, my heart went out to those families that had never even imagined (or wanted) a work-from-home lifestyle. The major difference was, by far, the lack of school structure for the boys and the inability to break out into an outdoor activity with friends (for the boys and for us).
Days moved into weeks, and then into months, and now, here we are a year later. Can you believe it? I remember having a conversation with a friend not long ago and catching myself say “well, it has been a year, so..” I took a short breath in. Wow. Those days really did roll into each other. It was time to re-evaluate things for the weeks and months to come. What did I want to continue to do with my family? What did I want to change for myself? What could we do differently moving forward? What could we keep doing the same?
This video of Tom Foolery’s poem The Great Realisation (or as it came to be known, Hindsight is 2020) went viral and for good reason. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch:
What I Learned
I learned that no matter how reasonable, logical and crucial something may seem to one person, it will not ring true to another person. Scientists must be freaking exhausted. Imagine working tirelessly for THE WORLD and then a massive percentage of the world comes back with “nah, I’m good. I don’t believe in what you have developed over there. Also, I’m going to let everyone know how I feel.” I’m still so in awe that a vaccination has been created in this year and is now being distributed! Yay, science!
I learned that my privilege needs to be checked at the door, and I need to step the heck up and educate myself more and be more awake to atrocities in my own neighborhood. Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate, Stop Femicide. These are just three massive movements that are not new by any means, but they had a chance to be seen and heard by more people than ever because of the pandemic.
I learned that my children are more resilient, more forgiving, more aware and more courageous than some adults. This year brought on a new form of bullying – being bullied for fear of getting the virus. I know kids find reasons to bully no matter what, but this one takes the cake.
I learned that teachers are sorely under valued in good old Canada. As well as healthcare workers, social workers, grocery clerks, postmen and postwomen, basically all essential workers that have kept our communities safe, fed, educated, and alive. What would we do without them? And how will we ever be able repay them?
My hope and prayer for the future is that everything that has occurred in this last year will be a wake-up call to the world. Sadly, history has a tendency to repeat itself in sly, in reshaped ways. I wish we could all learn from this. I really do.
WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE
How we treat teachers, healthcare workers, and all essential workers. They are the backbone of our society. They need better wages, better work environments, and sincere gratitude from us all. They need to be appreciated for the valued people they are.
The way we look at others. I’m sure you have heard it before “you don’t know what someone else is going through” or “don’t judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes” Mental wellness, chronic illness and immune disorders are invisible. You know what else is invisible? This virus. Every single one of us has our own pandemic situation. None of them are the same, and many of them have been horrific. When the world needed to come together, we kind broke apart even more. But I believe there is one more invisible thing that will get us through it and make us stronger once we are on the other side: faith. Faith in humanity, faith in science, faith in whatever God you believe in. Faith is stronger than hate. The hope that things can turn around is what we all need to hold to.
Solid decisions to keep our community healthier. When your child is sick, keep them home. When you are sick, stay home. And for jobs that render this impossible, I hope this situation we have been facing changes that and makes it possible for the good of everyone. Sick days, mental health days, days for family, days for rest – they should all have a place for our lives moving forward. Also, it’s not lazy to savour the day and not “just stay busy”. It’s healthy to schedule less in a week for your family so you can enjoy each other.
WHAT NEEDS TO STAY
- Appreciating the little things.
- Appreciating your family (near and far) – staying connected online, offline, however you can.
- Learning something new just because – tie dying a t-shirt with your kids, baking bread, making pizza, crocheting a blanket, whatever makes your heart sing. Because, why not?
- Letting go of negativity in all forms.
- Knowing who your true friends are.
- Keeping your mental health in check (and that of your family).
- Flexible work hours for you and your family.
- Respecting others. Period.
Once again, my post is very long, so I will stop here. As you can see, there is a lot to discuss still. I don’t have answers, just feelings. But I believe this is the very thing holding us all together. Talking it through with a friend, laughing out loud about the insanity of it all, trying to get through it the best we can…that is what this is about now.
Sending you virtual hugs, Mama MOE.