How This Nurse Connects With Her Husband & Daughter While Quarantined

“I’m such a bad mum.” Five words we tell ourselves, veiled in the feeling that we’re just not doing it right. The truth is, with the bar of motherhood set so impossibly high, there really is no doing it right, all the time, in every way. And now, in the throes of a global pandemic, the bar has shifted even higher. If you, too, are making meals out of old cereal, abandoning screen-time limits, and, you know, are occasionally terrified about what the future holds, you’re not alone. No Bad Moms is a series about not just lowering the bar, but ditching it completely. It’s about finding the good mum within all of us. And most of all, honouring that in each other, on Mother’s Day and EVERY day. So, please share your stories about what it’s like to be a mom right now with #nobadmoms, because we see you. And, no matter what, we think YOU are an inspiration.
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Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images.
This Mother’s Day, many healthcare professionals around the world will not get to hug their children. A growing number of doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers are choosing to live apart from their families — staying in tents in their garages, sealing off sections of their houses, or moving out of their homes altogether — to eliminate the risk of spreading COVID-19 to their loved ones.
We spoke to a nurse at a community health clinic in St. John’s, Newfoundland, who has been self-isolating away from her immunocompromised husband and their four-year-old daughter for six weeks. She’s juggling the stress of her job, which puts her at risk of contracting coronavirus every day, and the guilt that comes with leaving all the childcare to her husband. “Kids are hard, but it’s hard to see people complaining about being at home with their kids when there are people who would want nothing more than to be able to hug theirs. I find that really challenging,” she says.
Here, she talks about how her job has changed since the pandemic, how she's staying connected with her family, and her plans for Mother’s Day.
How long have you been living apart from your family?
We were supposed to be heading to Ontario to Great Wolf Lodge for a week at the end of March. Our trip got canceled [because of coronavirus], but I took that week off anyway. When I went back to work on March 28, I moved out. There was a lot of uncertainty. We didn’t know if I was going to be working directly with COVID patients and we didn’t know if us nurses were going to have personal protective equipment [like masks]. I’m living in... I don’t want to call it a cabin... it’s a little small house with a loft and a fireplace. I’ve been lighting a fire every night. It’s absolutely beautiful down here. My aunt only uses it in the summer, so I asked her if I could stay here.
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How have you been staying in touch with your daughter? 
I’ve been FaceTiming my daughter, although sometimes my husband says it makes it harder for her. A part of it feels like a bit of a holiday because four-year-olds are really challenging — being able to eat my breakfast and drink my coffee hot and sleep in on the weekend, that’s been nice. But [on social media], I see all these moms baking cookies and doing crafts, and I feel like I’m missing out. I love being a nurse, and I’m very fortunate that I have a job right now, but there’s still a bit of grieving.

I’ve been FaceTiming my daughter, although sometimes my husband says it makes it harder for her. A part of it feels like a bit of a holiday — being able to eat my breakfast and drink my coffee hot and sleep in on the weekend.

And mom guilt, I imagine.
I feel most guilty that my husband is taking care of our daughter by himself. She’s been having nightmares the last few days, and I think it’s to do with this [virus] and me not being there for a bedtime routine and when she wakes up in the nighttime looking for me. I feel guilty that when she’s struggling — and she’s definitely struggling — that I’m not able to be there.
Do you think she understands about COVID-19?
A bit. Sesame Street has put out a bunch of videos about explaining this and my husband has been putting them on for her. She keeps asking “is the virus gone?” every time I talk to her. She understands that it’s a virus and she understands that she can’t go to pre-school and she can’t see her friends or her grandparents. She asks to go to the park, and you have to say the park is closed, and it’s a lot of “why?”
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How has your job changed since the pandemic started?
The building that I’m in has closed to the public because it’s a government building. So, it’s just me. Literally. Now, patients call my phone from the parking lot. I’ll gown up — full gown, gloves, full personal protective equipment. I’ll go out and wave them in. They put on a mask, and then I bring them straight to the clinic, do a COVID screening first, do their clinic visit, then they go straight out. Then I sanitise everything after they leave.
Have you had any cases of COVID-19 in the clinic? 
Not myself. If you’re positive, you stay home and isolate and nurses come to you.
Are you scared about getting sick?
I was initially because everything was changing so fast, but the last two-and-a-half weeks have been routine. I feel like the right measures have been put in place by giving us PPE for every single patient every single time, no matter if they’re high or low risk. We have additional cleaners. Plus, I trust my patients [not to come in if they think they have the virus]. I’m glad I’m not working as a nurse in New York because I don’t think I could go to work every day wearing the same mask. We know going into the medical profession that there’s going to be times when we are going to be asked to go above and beyond. Getting into nursing you always know that when the fire starts, you’re running towards it.
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How have your interactions with people outside have work been? Are people showing their appreciation? 
The public has been pretty great. We haven’t had any of these foolish protests. I was in a bakery yesterday morning getting breakfast and I had my ID on because I was on my way to work and they were like, “Oh, you can have a free coffee because you’re a nurse.” There are little moments of appreciation. Even our patients have said that they’re really happy with the care and that they feel safe. We’re very fortunate to be in Canada and honestly, I feel fortunate to be on an island because we’ve been able to control who’s coming and going. Even though being isolated is agony, it’s kind of a blessing this time.
What are you doing with your time and how are you managing your own mental health?
I’m used to being a really busy mom. It’s been weird because I have all this extra time so I’m actually doing the normal stuff that everyone does. Binging Tiger King and watching a bunch of Netflix, but that gets old pretty quick and it’s not good for your brain. For Mother’s Day every year, I do an album of the photos I took on my phone and give them to family. Usually, it takes me a month. I did it in a weekend. 

Everybody is painting their windows down here and my husband had “We can’t wait for you to come home, Mommy” written on the window. He sent me a picture of it and I cried.

How are you spending Mother’s Day?
Our province is doing pretty good [in terms of controlling cases of COVID-19], so I’m hoping I’ll be able to get home in the next week or so. We’re going to be cautious and I’m going to wear a mask. If I’m not at home, I’ll at least go there for a visit. I’ve actually been over to the house a couple of times — only outside. The first time I saw my daughter, I was dropping off groceries. We have French doors on our front porch, and she was kissing me through the glass. That was really emotional. Everybody is painting their windows down here, and my husband had “We can’t wait for you to come home, Mommy” written on the window. He sent me a picture of it and I cried.
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How else are you spending your time?
My girlfriends and I have been doing Zoom chats every Saturday night, which I look forward to all week. I find that I’m keeping in better touch with people because I have more time. Even though it’s challenging with my relationship with my daughter and my husband, other relationships have gotten stronger. Even my husband and I — we’ve been watching old episodes of Big Brother. We set up the tablet so we can see each other and we put on the show at the same time. We’re watching season 8, which takes place in the early 2000s and the clothes are hilarious.
What are you looking forward to the most when this is all over?
I’m looking forward to all the hugs and kisses and sleeping in the same bed. I just want to be there to comfort her when she wakes up from her bad dreams. And getting back to our own routine with our friends and seeing other people. Getting back to doing the stuff that makes us happy. But most specifically, I definitely cannot wait for hugs and kisses.
This interview has been condensed and edited.

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