It’s going to be a Mother’s Day to remember.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to limit the way Canadians live their lives, holidays and special celebrations for some have also been put on hold.
Mother’s Day traditionally is filled with weekend brunches, family gatherings and other outings. But this year, people are finding new ways to honour their moms from a distance.
Front-line workers have been the heroes of this pandemic, many of them working away countless hours and putting their lives at risk with little praise. Add this on top of taking care of children and family members at home, and some front-line workers who are mothers seem to be carrying an extra load.
We spoke with several moms across Canada on what it means to be a front-line worker during the coronavirus pandemic as well as what Mother’s Day this year will look like for them.
The grocery store hero
June Alguram is an assistant store manager at a Metro grocery store in Brampton, Ont. The 38-year-old mom tells Global News working through the pandemic has felt like a “roller-coaster.”
“We are all learning to adopt our regular habits,” she said. “I’m fortunate to be part of a great team … from the start we all banned together and committed to keeping a safe and positive work environment, so we could serve our customers as best as we could. This commitment has made coming to work each day very meaningful.”
As a mother, she says she is usually concerned about her family’s health and well-being and even in the pandemic, she says she feels safe going to work.
“I feel very proud to be able to help keep other families fed throughout this difficult time. Being able to serve the community is my greatest pleasure.”
This year for Mother’s Day, Alguram wants nothing more than good health and the happiness of her family.
‘Even less scared going to work’
Tracy Moser has been a front-line worker for 22 years. The 47-year-old mom from Richmond, B.C., is currently an emergency room nurse and patient care co-ordinator.
“While we prepared and trained for other outbreaks such as SARS and Ebola, our hospital was largely unaffected by those viruses,” she said. “This is the first pandemic of my career where I’ve cared for affected patients, seen them be admitted to and discharged from hospital and, sadly, seen others pass away.”
Moser remembers the high level of anxiety she felt the first few weeks during the pandemic.
“We had to care for patients that had stayed at home too long, getting too sick as they were afraid to come to the hospital,” she said.
“We needed to alleviate fears in patients and family members when we weren’t really sure what was to come. We had to watch co-workers get exposed, tested and sent home under quarantine. We needed to allow ourselves to feel scared, too, but then pick up and keep going.”
But she said that over time, the anxiety decreased. Front-line workers were shown full support in her community and she appreciates all the “thank yous.”
“Our family dynamic has undergone huge changes during this pandemic as both my husband and I are working as essential workers,” she said. “Despite the stress of working outside of the home, our biggest challenge has been helping our two children adjust to social distancing, homeschooling and the cancellation of sports and activities.”
But as a front-line worker, she isn’t concerned about doing her job.
“I am less concerned about going to my job as I am about bringing any illness home to my family,” she said. “Now that I have seen the great results that we are having here in B.C., I am even less scared about going to work.”
This Mother’s Day, she wants her family to remain healthy and happy.
“I want to spend the day having a delicious breakfast followed by a family sporting extravaganza.”
Getting to know your kids
Debby Khan, 37, spends her days co-ordinating personal protective equipment and other medical supplies to ensure other front-line workers like her stay safe, as she works as a medical office assistant at the Rexdale Community Health Clinic in Toronto.
After her shifts, she goes home to her two children aged four and 15 as they all currently live with Khan’s mother. The children’s father also lives in Toronto, but they aren’t seeing him in order to follow physical distancing.
Khan worries about her family’s safety as she’s out of the house, in an office that sees patients every day, she said.
“There’s good days and bad days, but it’s scary because having younger children, it’s like you don’t know what’s going to happen at the workplace and what you could possibly bring home,” she said.
Both her kids are also completing work online as one is in kindergarten and one is in Grade 10. Supporting two completely different levels of schooling when she comes home has also been a challenge, she explained.
Her older daughter’s math lessons have been tricky to keep up with, she said.
“This is not the math I learned in school,” said Khan, laughing.
Along with schoolwork, monitoring the physical and mental health of her kids and mother while fielding questions about the virus at work has been tough, she explained. But Khan says she’s looking forward to baking with her children on Mother’s Day and for everyone to have a break from work and school.
“The brighter side of this is that we’re spending more time with our family. Being a single mom and working every day, I was missing a lot,” she said. “But now, it’s so personal. We’re in each others’ space and we’re getting to know each other more.”
‘We’re very fortunate in so many ways’
Dr. Ameeta Singh, 53, is an infectious disease specialist and clinical professor at the University of Alberta. She says her job as a doctor has changed drastically since COVID-19 emerged.
It’s also changed her life at home, as she and her husband, also a doctor, are spending more quality time with their three children, she said.
Based in Edmonton, Singh has been completing some appointments over the phone but has had to see patients in person as well.
She’s had to take precautions coming home to her husband and kids, aged 17, 19 and 23. Singh and her husband have a plan of who will sleep where if one of them gets sick, she said.
While her children spend a lot of time completing work online or talking to friends on Zoom, they are spending more time together, she said.
“Now most evenings we eat dinner together, which is great,” she said.
Mother’s Day for Singh is not what she’d hoped for, however, as her own mother is in her 80s and lives in Ontario. They won’t be able to see her this year.
“My father passed away last year and she’s still living in their home and has largely been alone for the last eight weeks,” she said. “It’s been very isolating for her.”
Singh and her mother had actually planned to travel in two weeks to Kenya and Tanzania to visit their family, but had to cancel due to the pandemic.
“Honestly, I’m afraid to go and see her because I do work in the hospital… I don’t want to expose her to that,” she said. “So I’m not sure when I’ll see her… On Mother’s Day, I’m going to try to do a call with my kids with her.”
Having dinner with her family and spending time with them for Mother’s Day is her plan, she said.
“We’re very fortunate in so many ways,” she said. “I know we all wish that this would be over, and it’s OK to get frustrated about it. But it will eventually end. My mother always said, ‘And this, too, shall pass.’”
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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