I started the Shine Mama! podcast a few months before the pandemic hit. My goal was to interview amazing local mamas in the region about balancing parenthood, work and dream-chasing—including the truth behind the struggle.
What I didn’t anticipate was how big the struggle would become.
Immediately after the pandemic hit, I did a series of six interviews focusing on the effect of the pandemic on mothers. When the series was over, the pandemic was not. And so, the virus has become an important part of every conversation I’ve had.
And the virus hit mamas hard.
One example is the prevalence of mental health struggles, particularly during the early days. I went through my own period of anxiety and depression, as did many other moms and it was important to me to shine a light on this so other moms felt less alone.
Dr. Melissa Bingeman, a local naturopathic doctor, suffered from postpartum depression because of the isolation brought on by the pandemic.
“[With quarantine] I lost my social support, I lost all of my contacts…and help with the kids, and I was no longer coping,” she said.
Along with stories of mental health challenges, I spoke with mothers dealing with job loss, keeping businesses alive, the stress of working on the frontlines, and balancing work and home life. Every single mom, regardless of their circumstance, had struggled in some way over the past year and a half.
Yet despite the struggles, the local mothers I’ve interviewed have shown strength, resilience and creativity in dealing with everything life has thrown at them during this pandemic. They’ve had to learn to set boundaries and prioritize their well-being more than ever before. They’ve been inspired to make changes in their own lives and to help change the lives of others.
For one, they have learned to let go of control. Something that has been difficult but necessary for moms.
Kitchener Centre MP Laura-Mae Lindo says that we must let go of perfection—for example, eating fruit roll ups for breakfast is perfectly valid when you’re juggling back to back meetings and homeschooling three kids.
“I keep reminding people, it’s a global pandemic…none of us are thriving. These will be write-off years at some point, so just try to keep it easy.”
The truth is, when we let go of things that don’t matter, we create room for the things that do. Loosening the reins on perfectionism has allowed moms to carve out a bit of space for themselves at a time where self-care is harder than ever.
In fact, the topic of boundaries came up again and again in the interviews, with many moms learning to set them for the first time in their lives.
The pandemic also helped moms learn to be more present, more grateful and more socially aware. Slowing down and taking a break from over-scheduled lives has given many of the mothers I interviewed the opportunity to recognize how stressed and disconnected they really were. And they’re making permanent changes to their lives because of it.
Kate McCrea Bristol, dean of students at Wilfrid Laurier University, admits that life before COVID-19 was jam-packed with social obligations, but that she plans to carve out more space in her post-pandemic life.
“I really cherish the time with the kids that allows me to have those moments where it feels like time is standing still a little bit. And I find that those really happen at home,” she said.
For Martha Linkletter, a doctor and front-line worker, the pandemic made her more aware of her privilege.
“I’m not that worried about my own kids…I feel very strongly that I need to be advocating for those without a significant voice…the marginalized people and the racialized people who have been most affected by this virus,” she said.
So how has this pandemic, and its challenges, changed motherhood forever? Not only are the mothers I spoke to making their way successfully to the other side, but they’re emerging with a little more grit and a lesson or two in tow.
And if there’s one thing that stood out over the past two seasons of the podcast, it’s that mothers in the region have realized we are much stronger than we thought.
And that’s something that will outlast this virus.