KAWARTHA LAKES – Women. The wearer of many hats, the single mother, the working mother, the business owner, the wife, the caregiver, the cleaner or the cook, our to-do lists never end yet we seem to always remain optimistic, strong, fearless and bold. We may tire but we don’t stop and we consistently tap into our “superhuman” powers that seem to never run dry.
But sometimes, when life has taken a turn like we have never experienced before, when an end isn’t in sight when we have taken on new roles, bigger roles, more exhausting roles than we have ever done before, life can seem hard.
And unfortunately, as this pandemic continues to wreak havoc on so many of us, women, in particular, have experienced hardships and exhaustion that have impacted our every day, our mental health and our overall wellbeing.
For Shawna Mackellar, a Psychometrist specializing in Psychoeducational Assessments for the school board, who also runs her own private practice part-time, and is a mom to three busy boys, she has felt the impact of the pandemic in so many ways.
“The hard part for me as a mother and working professional has simply been juggling work demands and responsibilities, which have never been greater, around having three boys at home who have ever-changing schedules,” she said. “Normally we have set bedtimes and a decent routine, whereas the pandemic has created a sense of chaos that has spilled over into every area of our lives and every corner of our home.”
As a result, Mackellar is usually doing a constant juggling act as her to-do list continues to pile.
“We now have papers, piles, and laptops everywhere, ridiculously late bedtimes, constant eating and snacking, constant messes, and constant shuffling depending on how the wifi is or who needs a quieter space. I seem to always be running around the house making meals and doing dishes while trying to tackle my own work responsibilities, all the while not truly knowing what is going on with my kids’ course work,” she explained. “Just a couple of weeks ago I ran out of the house to visit a school and came home to a kitchen that looked barely functional and a flooded toilet that ruined my basement ceiling, I definitely had to fight the tears that day.”
Mackellar noted that while the pandemic has created a new level of chaos in her life, she also deals with a side of guilt, constantly worrying about her children’s wellbeing, on top of everything else.
“And then there is the mom-guilt that you are doing everything wrong, that you are too safe or too reckless, and that your kids need more from you because you see their learning take such a hit, that mom guilt is a whole other article and topic in itself,” she said. “At home, there is no one hurdle, it’s such a combination of many things. The constant juggling of many responsibilities all at the same time is so hard.”
A new analysis of the University of Southern California, USC, Understanding Coronavirus in America Study, has found that women, particularly those without a college degree, suffered more job losses than men and bore a significantly greater responsibility for child care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scientists at the Center for Economic and Social Research, CESR, at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, which conducts the study, found one-third of working mothers in two-parent households reported they were the only ones providing care for their children, compared to one-tenth of working fathers. Higher levels of psychological distress have also emerged among women with children, compared to women without children and men with or without children.
Professionally, Mackellar has seen coworkers take a leave of absence or choose to retire in the midst of the pandemic as the mental health needs of students seems much greater than usual and many professionals are working non-stop and are short-staffed, she said.
“I love what I do and would not have it any other way, it’s just a lot. In recognizing my potential for burnout, which is right around the corner, I am now putting all of my direct contact work on hold until September and will spend the summer totally away from my laptop,” she said.
As a woman, Mackellar recognizes that we are complex human beings, noting that the pandemic has affected all of us in different ways.
“I have seen great resilience and positivity in many women through this but have also seen many strong and wise women become crippled with intense fear, anxiety, and irrational thinking,” she said. “It’s really very sad to see people struggle so much emotionally and be so mentally stuck. Balancing and juggling all of our many hats I’m sure has also been a challenge for most women one way or another. I think we are all tired, regardless of how we have coped.”
According to Mackellar, for those who have struggled with persistent and unmanageable levels of stress and anxiety, Covid becomes a trauma, and when people experience persistent distress, their health begins to suffer, which then impacts their ability to be productive at work, make good choices, maintain healthy relationships, and in general, function at their best.
“I think regardless of how you have coped, most women are tired. They may be tired for different reasons, but they need a break,” she said.
A new report by Statistics Canada says job losses due to The COVID-19 pandemic have been consistently more severe for women than men. The report says that from March 2020 to February 2021, women accounted for 53.7 per cent of year-over-year employment losses.
The analysis points to a high proportion of women working at small firms in service industries, which it says have been hurt particularly hard during the pandemic. The report says those differences are the main reason for the disparity.
For Trish Dougherty, Owner of The Kawartha Store, it has been challenging and difficult, navigating through the pandemic as a retail business owner.
“No question, it’s been a terrible, long haul and I’m not even sure that it’s over,” she said. “I feel peoples shopping habits have changed, the pandemic has caused people to stay in, I have clothing and fashion, people say this is nice but where am I going to wear it, they have changed their habits.”
Dougherty noted that she also has a great online store but reaching online shoppers has been difficult.
“When you’re in business, your overheads don’t go away, so I still had the taxes from the building, heat and hydro and everything else, I have been closed for months at a time, no questions, a tough go,” she said.
Dougherty also noted that the governments’ rules and regulations have had a harder impact on women than anyone else.
For Deanna Allison, Owner of Polished Day Spa and Salon in Bobcaygeon, she has successfully operated her business for five years, serving a steady flow of clients and obtaining a good income. But since the pandemic hit, she has been shut down for a total of seven months and has considered giving up.
“I think during the pandemic we have all thought of should I give this up. It’s been stressful. There has been a few times that I thought I don’t know if I should just throw in the towel or keep going,” she said. “Mentally this pandemic has been very hard. I was wondering about going back to school for nursing. But I’m not ready to throw the towel in yet. I just pray this is the last lockdown.”
Allison noted that as a professional in one of the highest women-based sectors, the pandemic has posed many challenges mentally and financially.
“We as hairstylists and estheticians are social people. I think a hard thing for me has been not seeing my clients because I love to interact with people, I have since I was a kid and still love it,” she said. “I think one of the hardest hurdles I’ve had is realizing I’m not in control of this, I don’t really have any say. When you’re a business owner, you are in control all the time. This I have no control over and that has been very hard.”
For City of Kawartha Lakes Councillor, Owner of Kawartha Coffee and El Patio in Bobcaygeon, and mom of two, Kathleen Seymour Fagan, the pandemic has brought on a whirlwind of emotions.
“Initially when it started last year, we looked at it as a bit of a break, we had just arrived home from Europe and everything went haywire. We were actually able to spend some quality time together and it was nice, no running to sports, work, school, that lasted about two weeks,” she said. “When it started dragging then everybody got on each other’s nerves as we were all home. Thankfully summer came with some normalcy. It has been such a roller coaster of emotions from anger to resentment to hope. We are so fortunate to live where we do where we have the space and fresh air. We have learned to appreciate the little things.”
And with ever-changing regulations, staff shortages and lack of supplies, running a local restaurant has been harder than ever for Seymour Fagan.
“It has been extremely difficult, this is normally one of the toughest industries, add Covid and it’s overwhelming,” she said. “It was hard to keep up, but my staff were amazing and so were my customers. We tried our hardest, to do everything the right way. It was very stressful, I do hope that this year is better but sometimes I wonder if I want to continue with the business.”
As a local councillor for six years, Seymour Fagan noted that this year has been the toughest by far. Phone calls, emails and meetings have nearly tripled while many other changes have also taken a toll.
“We are all striving to do our best for our constituents,” she said.
And as a busy working mom of two, Seymour Fagan noted that the pandemic has been particularly hard on women.
“With home-schooling and working full time it has been incredibly hard. Imagine having children, trying to homeschool and work full time while taking care of the home,” she said. “I remember the days of “mom, mom mom”!”
Seymour Fagan added that while women are strong, we can also be soft and need others.
“Take it day by day. Set your goals, try to achieve them but if you don’t that’s okay, talk to your friends, get support from others. We are all going through this with differing effects, but it is impacting everyone,” she said. “Be kind to yourself, breathe, and look at the little things, attitude is everything. Women need to remember we are the creators, from life to art.”
For more information on El Patio and Kawartha Coffee visit kawarthacoffee.com. For more information and to shop online for The Kawartha Store visit thekawarthastore.ca.