Tween site behind sewing machine as homemade masks are strewn on the table


My Kid Went From Quarantine Couch Potato To Mask Maker

Jun 30, 2020

What would you do if you had all the time in the world?

That’s the question I asked my kid a few months before the lockdown. What would she choose to do if she didn’t have to do anything at all? No school or activities or family obligations. I was trying to help her zone in on her passion while she was deciding what high school to go to next year. She was making the tough choice between art school, French immersion and the local school her friends would be attending.

Little did either of us know she would learn the answer to that question when we found ourselves in quarantine for months. She was suddenly faced with what felt like endless time on her hands.

"Most of my suggestions were immediately shot down."

At first, like many young teens, she spent most of her time lying around all day mourning her old life. Why was this happening? How long will it last? When will it be normal again? I had no good answers. I told myself she’ll eventually get bored and will actually want to do something. But secretly, I was nervous about how this social kid would fare with so much deprivation.

I tried to come up with fun activities she could do to kill some time while I struggled to manage my own fears and increasing workload. Most of my suggestions were immediately shot down. Eventually, I left her alone.

And then one day, I heard her digging around in the basement. I watched as she lugged her sewing machine up the stairs and unpack it onto our dining room table. She said she’ll maybe try to make a pair of shorts.

My daughter has always loved fashion and has shown an interest in sewing and designing clothes from an early age. When she was little, she delighted us with her creations made with everything from duct tape to garbage bags to fun fur. She’d turn pants into tops, shirts into shorts and legging into hats — all with just a pair of scissors. She got her first sewing machine when she was just six years old.

Protecting her teen's mental health while practicing physical distancing was Laura's priority. Read that story here.

And thanks to summer sewing lessons, courtesy of her grandparents, she actually learned how to design and make clothes. Each September, she would return to school in an outfit of her own making. It was a joy to see her model her latest creation on the catwalk of the schoolyard. But then life would get busy again, and the sewing machine would vanish into the basement until the next summer.

But this time was different. Now she actually had the time to focus on sewing without distractions. She made those shorts, then a top, then a dress, a handbag and even some wide-legged pants. A friend suggested she try her hand at making the reusable cotton masks that health professionals were recommending people wear. To be honest, I wasn’t hot on the idea. Sewing had been her escape from the realities of the pandemic. Sewing masks felt grim.

But then one day she said she wanted to give it a try. Masks were hard to find and she wanted to make some because she knew we needed them. It made her feel good to know that she could do something to help fight this virus, and I proudly displayed her work on Facebook. Suddenly the requests started rolling in. She made some for family, then friends and eventually for our neighbours. Then a friend of her aunt asked if she could buy some for her restaurant.

This mom airs her grief about the challenges of parenting duing a pandemic. Here's her POV.

Two months have passed, and she now has a booming mask business. She has been selling masks to three businesses, as well as our very supportive community. She is learning everything from marketing to budgeting to customer service and satisfaction. It feels like she’s getting a junior MBA and learning more about business than she ever could in Grade 8. And she is using some of the money she is making to reinvest in her company, save for the future and to donate to local charities.

For me, I’m relieved to see my kid so engaged. This endeavor makes her feel useful, excited and connected to our neighbourhood. It has invigorated her passion for fashion and all this sewing has helped cultivate her burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit.

COVID-19 sucks. It has taken away so much from so many. But it has also made space for new things to thrive. My daughter now has the answer to my question. She knows what she'd do if she had all the time in the world, because she does. I think it's something we should all ask ourselves once in a while.

Article Author Laura Mullin
Laura Mullin

Read more from Laura here.

Laura Mullin is a published playwright and writer and the Co-Artistic Director of the award-winning company, Expect Theatre. She is also the Co-Host and Producer of PlayME, a podcast that transforms plays into audio dramas now on CBC. She has worked in theatre, film, and television and lives in Toronto with her writer/producer husband and pre-teen daughter. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @expectlaura.

Add New Comment

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.