In the midst of the crisis, some lucky couples find strength and support in each other to overcome the challenges arising from the pandemic.
On a sunny afternoon, Amélie and Marc-André enjoy a bit of fresh air with their nine-month-old daughter Mia-Jade, at Pere-Marquette park in Rosemont. Although this is only a brief and quiet outing, the family appreciates a chance to spend time together. For all the chaos caused by the COVID-19 crisis in Montreal, this opportunity is one of the few benefits it afforded. “It’s certain that we get to spend more time together since he doesn’t work 70 hours a week,” says Amélie. Marc-André, an assistant stage manager, abruptly stopped working when they suspended the movie project for which he was employed.
Photo: Amélie, Mia-Jade and Marc-André
Back then, his busy schedule meant he spent significantly less time at home. Fortunately, Amélie’s mother, as well as her in-laws were always happy to help care for the couple’s baby. “I was exhausted sometimes so I’d sleep over at their place and they would help me,” says the first-time mother. With social distancing making it impossible to keep up that arrangement, Marc-André’s sudden unemployment comes as a convenient disturbance. “I don’t think I could have managed otherwise on my own,” admits Amélie.
Photo: Amélie and Mia-Jade
Balancing their partnership as parents was made simpler by the lack of distractions from pre-COVID-19 days. “When you come home from work, yes you want to enjoy your time off but you have so many other responsibilities and things to do, it’s not so simple,” says the father. “These days people have a lot more time to sit down and talk.” Marc-André believes the situation gives people no choice but to live day to day. Perhaps he is able to make the most of his circumstances because of this outlook. “I’m happy this is happening because it’s nice to be with my family,” he says. “I also enjoy getting to be there and see my girl grow up.” These three are indeed amongst the lucky ones.
Photo: Marc-André and Mia-Jade
Celebrating a special occasion across town, Sheika and her daughter Ines both wear matching white outfits and red polka-dotted head-bands tied in a bow. “I wanted to dress up a little bit because it’s our first mother’s day,” tells the new mother. One particular guest is unable to attend the party. Oussama, Sheika’s husband, remains in Morocco. The global spread of COVID-19 has prevented the family’s plans to reunite in early May.
Photo: Sheika and Ines
Oussama, who has yet to meet Ines, will be unable to do so for as long as the pandemic goes unresolved. “He needs to be holding his daughter,” says Sheika. “She’s almost seven months and he hasn’t even been able to hold her, to kiss her.” Something she doesn’t believe her husband will be able to do before a vaccine is developed against the Coronavirus.
Despite delaying their reunion, the confinement has brought the couple closer together. As an electrical engineering student, Oussama led a pretty busy lifestyle. “Before he was always going out for school, homework, watching soccer games, this and that every day,” recalls Sheika, who describes the dynamic of their exchanges prior to the pandemic as always fighting. “Now, because he stays at home, he calls two times a day and we talk for hours.” These discussions gave them the opportunity to resolve some of the issues they had been facing, and make plans they were avoiding talking about.
Photo: Oussama and Sheika
As overwhelming as the disruption from the COVID-19 crisis can be, the couple is finding strength in their flourishing unity. “When this virus started then we started thinking of what can happen,” admits Sheika. “It just brought us closer I think.” After being separated from her husband for over a year, she longs for the day of their reunion. “I think the day they say the borders are open,” she says, “I’m just going to be buying my ticket and preparing everything and just leave.”
Photo: Oussama and Sheika
Seth Shugar is a couples and family coach with eight years of experience helping Montreal couples and individuals formulate life goals and develop strategies to achieve them. Along with the increased amount of fear and uncertainty created by the pandemic, he sees wonderful opportunities for more family bonding and closeness. “This period of time invites us to get really good value clarification,” he says. He also invites couples for whom things are going better to ask themselves, “what is it about this time that’s made things go better?” Keeping sight of those changes may enable them to preserve this new-found healthy communication once the crisis is over.