The COVID-19 pandemic has swiftly and dramatically changed our daily lives. We’re speaking to Canadian women about how coronavirus has affected how they work, parent, run their businesses and more. For information on where to find the latest updates on the evolving COVID-19 situation in Canada, go here. Below, Katherine Flemming, a writer and mom of two (soon to be three) in Toronto, shares how her life has changed since COVID-19. 

I first heard about coronavirus through my husband because he religiously reads the Toronto Star. He just flagged it to me one day, like, “This thing is going on.” That was mid-January. My son’s school started sending some communication monitoring the situation in regards to travel, like, “There’s this virus, please be mindful.” Then in February, my husband was like, “Do you have a lot of events downtown in the next little while? I think you should avoid transit.” He’s not a controlling, paranoid person, but this was on his radar because I’m pregnant so my immune system is lower.

A couple of weeks ago, things really took a nosedive. I had dropped both of my kids off at school and gone to Starbucks to work, and the news was just suffocating. I felt pressure in my chest, and I was texting my husband, like, “You can’t get away from this. Everyone’s talking about it.” Then I had an assignment that was put on hold. It was an advertisement, and they said the client is nervous about COVID-19. You couldn’t even get your reusable water bottle refilled at Starbucks – they wouldn’t take my bottle. I was like, “Really?” It sort of just all came crashing down.

Then my dad called me and said to pull the kids out of daycare. He’s a financial adviser and was watching it all from an economic standpoint, and everything was crashing. 

I didn’t even have a chance to pull them out of school. By the time he called me, it was 1 p.m. on that Thursday, and my son gets picked up by 3 p.m. So I was like, “Okay, I have two hours to figure this out.” Then the provincial government made the announcement that schools will be closed in Ontario for the next three weeks. So the decision was made for me.

I’m looking at the big picture because I’m on a timeline that ends with another baby coming in four weeks. But when I first looked at it – like basically looking at a calendar – I really panicked.

I’m living in 12- to 24-hour increments now. I’m happy to work because, aside from income, it’s a distraction, and that’s what I need, even though I have children. I need something that keeps me accountable. So for the next three weeks, I am just compartmentalising – day by day, hour by hour. I have to go to mandatory appointments for my baby, but otherwise, my week just revolves around feeding my kids and trying to take breaks from the news.

And I’m actively trying to FaceTime people. I FaceTime my dad every day at 7:30 a.m. because he’s an early bird and he’s very positive. I call his mom, my grandma, to see if she’s okay – she’s 88 and really stubborn – and make sure she doesn’t need anything. We don’t want her to go to the store. But you know that generation – she has enough canned vegetables in her basement for the next 200 years.

I think about what we can be grateful for – we have a roof over our heads and we have food in our cupboards. What makes me sad about this situation in general (other than the people who are infected) is the people who are living paycheque to paycheque; those who worked at, say, a restaurant and made tips that paid for childcare. That really scares me. The economic recession is really depressing, but [everyone staying home] has to happen for things to rebound and for us to flatten the curve.

Maybe by the time I’m ready to give birth, people won’t even be allowed into the delivery room. But I don’t let my mind go there because it’s not going to help. I understand that people get stressed, but, in my particular case, I could put myself into early labour. So I have to interrupt those thoughts and be like, “Nope.”

I literally did nothing this morning because I was feeling a bit tense. The sun hadn’t come up yet and it looked like it would be really cloudy, so I just created some sun of my own. I lit a candle, put on John Mayer, ate a piece of chocolate and cuddled my dog. There are ways that I can stop the stress before the cycle begins.

 – As told to Victoria DiPlacido


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