News·PARENTAL GUIDANCE

Can you still feel the love? For parents 2 years into a pandemic, it's difficult — but possible

As Valentine's Day approaches, romance should be in the air — but it seems COVID-19 might be the only thing floating on the breeze right now.

COVID, kids and copious isolation aren't a recipe for romance, but there are still simple ways to connect

Parents can try keeping the flame alive by focusing on those fleeting moments where you are together. If you're in a distance relationship, try getting creative with some dates at virtual events. (Credit: iStockPhoto/Getty)

 This story is part of Amy Bell's Parental Guidance column, which airs on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.


Parenting can be a bit of a libido killer in general for many, and throughout the pandemic it's been particularly tough to feel the love.

COVID-19, kids and copious amounts of time isolating in your home? Not exactly a recipe for romance as Valentine's Day approaches. 

For many couples, just finding time to be alone is the biggest hurdle. With so many people working from home, possibly with their children around the house most days and nights, it's hard to carve out time for any sort of connection.

Certified sex therapist Diana Sadat says she sees this pandemic disconnect a lot. 

"Parents have less alone time, they don't have as much time for themselves," she said.

"They have to be thinking about their kids and their children's well-being a lot more because their kids are more likely to be in contact with others. They're just generally thinking about the children and therefore have less time to prioritize the relationship." 

'There's no alone time, period'

For mom-of-two Paula Schuck and her husband, there are many factors keeping them from their usual ways of spending time together.

One of their teenage daughters has disabilities that require a lot of hands-on care and support, and that's been especially true during COVID-19. They can't leave her with someone who isn't well versed in her needs, and getting away for a weekend isn't an option.

They actually find the thought of romance rather laughable at the moment, Schuck said.

"How are people having babies during a pandemic?" she wondered. "There's no alone time, period."

Even if they could find the time, she said, she and her husband have both struggled with the unknowns of COVID-19 and how they can throw cold water on any intimacy. 

"To be honest, there are times when COVID is really bad and you're looking at the numbers and you're also looking at each other going, 'OK, you're going to work every day with a group of people that I don't actually trust to be vaccinated and be following the rules. So should I even be initiating anything?'" said Schuck.

Distance dating

For single parents, it's been especially tough to maintain relationships or establish new ones. But there have been some happy endings!

Odelia Bay, a single parent with an autoimmune disorder, has kept the contacts she and her daughter have kept extremely limited. However, she did connect with her now boyfriend, Brian Crimi, through an online dating site. 

While their connection wasn't immediate and they were separated physically by hundreds of kilometres — Bay in Toronto and Crimi in New York — they found an entirely new level when she sent him what she thought was a hilarious picture of some pandemic/kitten-themed art, and he loved it. 

They didn't meet in person for a year, but in a way the pandemic restrictions made their distance a non-issue and that allowed them to forge ahead.

"I wrote back to him and said, 'You know what? It's a pandemic. It wouldn't even matter if you were my next door neighbour, I still wouldn't be able to see you,'" she recalled.

Thanks to a little creativity, it hasn't stopped them from going on dates. They've virtually attended book launches, art exhibitions and even tarot card readings together. 

Simple acts of love

Thinking outside of the box like this when it comes to connections is something Sadat recommends. 

"It's so easy to talk about the pandemic or the kids because that's what top of mind," she said.

"How can you create more space to not be talking about these things but talking about the two of you? Turn toward one another, make decisions together. See each other as partner and not just as parents." 

So, manage your expectations and work with what you've got; focus on those small moments where you are together, and let those little connections maintain your bond.

So many people, especially parents, are beyond their breaking points right now. And even something as small as a cuddle with your partner can seem like yet another thing you need to do — while the mental hurdles to get in the mood can seem monumental.

But these circumstances won't last forever. And in some ways, we might even grow closer to our partners having shared such a unique experience.

Until then, try to savour any connection you get as a simple act of love. And, honestly, keeping yourself, and those you love, safe and healthy through a pandemic is a pretty romantic thing to do. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Bell is a digital contributor to CBC. She can be heard weekdays on The Early Edition as the traffic and weather reporter and parenting columnist.

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