This story was originally published in Issue 719/720 of HELLO! Canada magazine.
Motherhood is often called the hardest job in the world, but once that world is engulfed in a pandemic, things can only get more challenging. Just ask mom of two Cheryl Hickey, 44, who has been balancing family life with a full-time job hosting ET Canada and the demands of a newly launched business. Cheryl's Home & Family is a source for home and care products.
HELLO! Canada spoke with Cheryl and six other Canadian mothers about the challenges they face working from home.
HELLO! Canada: How long did it take to establish a daily schedule in quarantine?
Cheryl Hickey: We honestly take it day to day. We've tried to be consistent with reading every day, seeing what's due every day and focusing on our mental health. You have to take into account the willingness of a child when they're missing their friends or they're feeling lonely. Then you go from there.
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Happy Mother's Day. I know it is not politically correct to say this but here I go. This this is my favorite job. I know it's much cooler to talk about how hard it is, how are kids drive us crazy so on and so on, we all have those moments but I have to say I get way more out of being their mom then those moments. I don't know where I would be without them. They make me smile everyday, they make us be very present, they love with no boundaries at all times of the day and night. I want to be better for them. When they are good I feel good. So today especially though this difficult time I say thanks to them. Feeling so grateful to be their mom. #HappyMothersday #mothersday
Why did you decide to launch a business during a pandemic?
I actually created the first product nine years ago, but I realized that I needed business partners. We were planning to launch the company in March and that's when everything shut down. We thought that it wasn't right to go ahead with it, but my sister, who is a long-term care behavioural support nurse, said, 'Our products are meant to comfort seniors, babies, and pets. And right now, what people need is comfort.' So we decided it was the right time.
What has been your proudest moment?
I put one of my weighted blankets on my dad, and he loved it, and he said, 'This feels so good.' He has dementia, and I wasn't sure if he understood that it was from my company, but he lit up when he saw the logo with my name.
How have you been handling working from home?
I've always had a bit of guilt that I wasn't able to be home with my kids after school, so I am enjoying getting that time back now. But of course it's a balancing act, and some days my daughter will put a note on my door that says, 'No more interviews.'
How do you think you'll be different after this experience?
I've always been a big family person. And I want to find a way to effectively do my job and still be there for my kids the way I feel they're going to need after this is over.
Balancing work, life and lockdown might not seem like the ideal setting to bring in a new family member. But never one to shy away from a challenge, Melissa Grelo, 43, has happily welcomed a Doberman puppy named Cleopatra!
"We had been talking about it for years," says the Toronto-based TV star and mom of one. "But in the long run, pets are so good for you mentally and physically. And if we're in for something long and difficult, this might just be a pressure-relief valve that we didn't know we needed."
Pressure is something Melissa knows a lot about. Along with co-hosting The Social, where she recently led important discussions surrounding racism and privilege, she heads up the kids' clothing brand marQ. Plus, the former teaching has been busy helping her six-year-old daughter Marquesa with her schoolwork, something that, she says, gives her hope for the future.
"There's pretty profound stuff that is getting through to our kids and they're turning around and teaching us," she says.
For Marci, 50, working from home while making herself available to help her daughter, Blaize, 16, and son, Dash, 8, with their schoolwork and answering hard questions about the world can be exhausting, but the outcome is nothing short of uplifting.
"You do the best that you can and hope for the best, but I'm seeing it come back to me now," says Marci, a co-host on the The Social. "Having my kids say, 'Thank you. I appreciate you' - it's a small thing, but it's a big thing because they see me."
In addition to her TV work, the star has a bustling business – footwear brand IEN LEE – though she and co-founder and JUNO-nominated singer Diane Lee Clemons decided to put things on pause during the pandemic.
"We're all trying our best. I don't even think I'm doing it right half the time," she said. "I wish I had some sort of solution for other parents out there, but I don't think I quite have one. I'm just happy when everybody has survived the day, basically."
With her husband, Sam, working at a hospital throughout the pandemic, HGTV's Home to Win and ET Canada's Sangita, 41, has had to take her family's self-isolation seriously, but the mom of two is a pro at making it fun. Between interviewing celebrities like Linda Cardellini and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sangita has organized family game nights, baking challenges and costume parties.
"Everything has its challenges," she says. "But it's amazing how you can actually thrive to survive to make things happen."
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Spot the difference (2020 vs 2015) Same spot, wearing the same jean jackets (swipe left) Kinda cool to look back to when Sam and I were adjusting to two toddlers and still thinking "yo, we’re parents"! I’m always in awe watching Sam (especially during isolation) as a dad...making Shyla’s fav dessert (Churros), sewing their pants (yup, he knows how to sew), playing 4 squares, chilling while watching Fuller House - he’s always there to chat about their feelings...even though sometimes we just don’t understand their mood swings, am I right?! As Ava becomes a teenager we'll be adjusting once again and...I’m not that worried since she has a Sam as a dad 珞 I’ll just have to make sure she doesn’t know how to use dads' visa! Happy Fathers Day to all dads, including my amazing Papa To those whose dads who are not physically with you, remember he is your very own guardian angel ❤️ #HappyFathersDay #RecreatingOldMemories #Blessings
In addition to a busy career and helping daughters Ava, 13, and Shyla, 10, get through grades 7 and 4, respectively, Sangita has been devoting a few afternoons every week to help deliver hot lunches to shelters, hospitals and long-term care facilities in Toronto.
"If there's something that I can do to help, I will try to step up and do it," she says.
From flying back and forth between Los Angeles and Toronto for her popular web series, New Mom, Who Dis? (now in its third season) to filming segments in a locked room while her two-year-old twins, Rio and Diego, nap, 38-year-old Jessi's way of working has seen a big change, but it's also seen a major benefit from lockdown living.
"We're still in a survival-mode schedule," says the former host of CBC's The Goods. "But my husband, Evan, does the early mornings [with the kids] – God bless him - while I work. And then we switch off for breakfast, and we go back and forth all day. I've had to get much quicker in my work and become much more productive because my time is so limited."
Despite the many appearances her sons have made on her show, she says their tolerance of being in front of the camera has gone way down, adding another level of difficulty to her day job.
"I have to respect their wishes," she says with a laugh. "As talent, I cannot work with them anymore!"
While she may technically be isolating at a cottage on maternity leave after welcoming her second son, two-month-old Blake, to the family, the Sportsnet anchor doesn't seem to be kicking up her feet at all. Instead, between naps, feedings and rigorous outdoor games with three-year-old George, Evanka has been interviewing parenting experts and recording her podcast Moms in the Middle with co-host Melanie Ng.
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Excited to share some positive news during these not so positive times... My quaran-team family grew by one healthy boy earlier this week. I can’t thank all the doctors, nurses and staff at Toronto’s Mount Sinai hospital enough. THANK YOU for helping deliver and nurture my newborn. I know they were only doing their job, but their kindness, support and encouragement meant a lot when my anxiety was especially high given all that’s happening today. Quarantining with a newborn and a toddler just got a lot more fun (and exhausting)!
"It's good for me, because I get my mom questions answered," she says with a laugh." We've discussed potty training, sleep schedules and recently talking to your kids about racism. It's been a really great side project for me and a totally different job than what I normally do on the sports desk."
With her successful podcast in its fourth season, Evanka, 39, has a lot to be proud of. But few things make her cheer quite as loud as watching her oldest child learn to ride a bike without training wheels.
Nana aba Duncan
Before the lockdown, Nana aba, host and producer of CBC Radio One's Fresh Air, would have Mondays and Tuesdays off to rest, regroup and prep her show for the rest of the week.
"Those days are now taken up just by taking care of children," she says, referring to her daughter Ofei, 7, and son Ebo, 4. "Everything just gets pushed to the edges. But I think when I come out of it, I will feel very lucky that I had this opportunity."
When Nana aba's pandemic focus shifted from setting up a recording studio in her home on an ironing board to having difficult conversations with her children, she says she enjoys precious moments of levity with them all the more.
"I can redirect my frustration into happy moments of planting in the garden or watching my daughter do back flips on the couch," she says. "It really grounds you. And I'm really grateful for it."
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