Families separated by the pandemic yearn for personal contact on Mother's Day

The mother of a newborn wants to see her own mother cuddle the baby, while adult children must rely on virtual connections with their elderly mother. COVID-19 proves challenging physically and emotionally for many this Mother's Day.

Easing of some COVID-19 restrictions in Saskatchewan could mean long-awaited hugs on Sunday

Shawna Enns holds her daughter Rosie, who was born on March 24. Rosie's grandparents haven't been able to hold their granddaughter due to COVID-19 guidelines. (Matt Howard/CBC)

While Shawna Enns would love to hug her mom on Mother's Day, what she really wants to see is her mother hugging her new granddaughter for the first time.

Enns gave birth to Rosie on March 24 in Regina, as COVID-19 restrictions were in full force.

In the last six weeks, Enns' parents and in-laws haven't held or kissed Rosie, instead restricting themselves to visits from a distance in the family's backyard.

"I think my mom said it best when we were visiting her: she said, 'I miss hugs,'" Enns said.

"I think that would be definitely a Mother's Day wish, to be close to people, share a meal and give those giant hugs that we've all been missing. 

People all across Canada will be celebrating Mother's Day a little differently Sunday as COVID-19 proves to be challenging both physically and emotionally.

Shawna Enns is a busy mom, with newborn Rosie and six-year-old twins Moses (far left) and Floyd. Enns and her husband Skott have not been able to lean on their parents for help with child care due to COVID-19. (Matt Howard/CBC)

In Saskatchewan, the government announced Thursday a further relaxing of restrictions around gatherings.

Previously people were advised they could group together with up to two other households while maintaining physical distancing. The government has broadened that so extended households can now come closer than two metres and even share a meal, as long as no one is considered high risk.

The community of La Loche in northwest Saskatchewan is an exception. Due to an outbreak there, the province is asking people to maintain their distance.

Enns and her husband, Skott, said they could use some extra hands from grandparents to help with the baby and the couple's twin boys, Moses and Floyd, who turned six just two days before Enns gave birth to Rosie.

But Enns says she wants to be cautious. The couple hasn't decided when they will extend their circle, although grandparents will be first on the list.

"I'd love to have the help because, you know, you're tired sometimes and you almost find yourself feeling like really emotional thinking, 'I need my mom," she said

Rosie's grandparents welcomed her in a parade. Maureen Hughes is pictured at top and Jackie Enns at bottom. (Submitted by Shawna Enns)

Spending time in isolation, with Mother's Day around the corner, Enns has reflected on how different this experience has been compared to her twins' birth six years ago.

"I needed so much help and my mom was just there.... She would be there at five in the morning, and I'd be just waiting for her because I'd have been up all night long, and she'd come and hold the baby and she'd help us get ready. The same with my mother-in-law and my grandmas."

Family forced to visit mother, 87, via video

For families who have mothers in long-term care homes that can't accept visitors, the physical distancing feels intensified heading into Mother's Day weekend.

Coleen Tallon's 87-year-old mother, Phyllis Robbins, has been a resident at Sherbrooke Community Centre in Saskatoon since she had a stroke two years ago.

Before the pandemic, the mother and grandmother could expect at least one visitor a day. The family routinely takes Robbins out for lunch or to the park and would normally celebrate Mother's Day all together with a potluck and games.

Phyllis Robbins has a glass of wine while meeting via video with her children. COVID-19 has prevented them from visiting her at Sherbrooke Community Centre in Saskatoon. (Submitted by Eric Anderson)

Now, Robbins's four adult children are just grateful to connect with her online every week on a Zoom group chat organized by Sherbrooke's recreational director. They each sip a glass of wine, talk and laugh.

"[We] need to see the eyes, need to see mom's smile. That makes a world of difference for us," Tallon said. "She needs to see us as well. We're a close family, and you need to see the faces.

"I definitely think it helps mom's mental health. She's lonely."

Tallon, a schoolteacher, said she tries to stay positive and give her mother hope, but admits she desperately misses her mom.

"I'm a very 'huggy' person so it's hard to not have that physical contact."

For Mother's Day, Sherbrooke staff are expecting a lot of requests for video chats. The care home is in the process of trying to upgrade its internet bandwidth.

According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority, long-term care facilities can accept dry paper gifts, including cards, books and art, as well as flowers from a florist.

Florists are busier, messages are sweeter

Michelle LaPointe, owner of Michelle's Flowers in Saskatoon, said Mother's Day is even busier than usual this year.

"It's actually busier now, with COVID, because a lot of people aren't able to see their loved ones, and they're reaching out with gifts," said LaPointe.

MIchelle LaPointe, owner of Michelle's Flowers in Saskatoon, says some of the messages she's relayed are heart-wrenching. (Don Somers/CBC)

The florist said a lot of orders are from people who want to send a flower arrangement to their elderly mothers who are confined to care homes.

LaPointe said some of the messages from adult children to their parents have been heart-wrenching.

"To be honest, I'm not an overly emotional person," she said. "But this Mother's Day, wowser. I've probably cried three times already. When I'm speaking to a customer on the phone, if the customer gets choked up, then I get a bit teary too."

LaPointe, who lost her mother four years ago, understands why people crave time and personal contact with their mom.

For Shawna Enns, that contact will likely wait a bit longer. Instead, she will focus on holding her children close and staying patient.

It was that mindset that inspired her daughter's name.

"Whatever happens everything's going to turn out Rosie."

Rosie sleeps in the arms of her mother. (Matthew Howard/CBC)


Adam Hunter


Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for more than 14 years. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him:

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