As ‘stay home’ orders ring out from provincial press conferences and social media posts, one Sooke mother of two is pleading with the public to stop shaming her for taking her kids along for errands during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Janene Walker says her options during essential outings are limited. Her husband is deployed with the military, and without family in the area, there is no one to help her with babysitting.
She also says that as an able-bodied and healthy stay-at-home mom, she doesn’t fit the bill for many volunteer and delivery services available to more vulnerable community members during the crisis.
Walker says she takes social distancing measures seriously, and has talked to her children about the importance of leaving space between themselves and others. So she was surprised, on March 28, when she encountered hostility twice while grocery shopping with her two-year-old daughter and six-year-old son.
The first incident occurred while she was changing her daughter in the back of her van in the Langford Lowes parking lot. She says a man in a truck yelled out his window at her: “Keep your kids in the house for Christ’s sake!”
Walker was hurt by the comment from someone she calls a member of the “pandemic police.”
“You don’t know what my situation is,” she says. “It’s not like I’m pulling up to the grocery store and letting my kids run amok and lick everything.”
Walker says there was another altercation that day in Quality Foods. She says her daughter was strapped in the shopping cart and her son was close to her side when a man called her a “s***ty mom” for taking her kids out with her.
The incident escalated, with Walker and the man yelling at one another before he paid and left the store. Walker cried when she got to her car.
“I’m not breaking any rules by having my children here as long as we’re practising social distancing,” she says.
Many grocery stores have now limited capacity, regulating entry at the door. On March 29 the province released specific guidelines for grocery stores and retail food outlets, and while the rules include everything from providing hand sanitizer and implementing two-metre markers for check out line distancing, there is no mention of how many family members can enter a store at a time.
Walker is only a solo parent while her husband is away, but she says compassion should extend to all kinds of single parents who are struggling to keep their household afloat while maintaining physical distancing and isolation.
“There has not been a rule that says kids can’t go with you to the grocery store. Is it ideal? No. Would it be my first choice? Obviously not, but I don’t have any other options,” she says. “All these people just, they think that they know better. And their shaming people publicly when they don’t know their situation.
“We should be helping each other and lifting each other up and showing compassion.”