The Power of a Mama Hug

I don’t often suffer from writer’s block, but I’ve certainly wrestled with it lately. After weeks of COVID-19 lockdown we’re trying to negotiate a gradual re-entry into daily life—what is being referred to ad nauseam as, the “new normal.” It’s hard to imagine what tomorrow will look like, let alone this next month. My mind discards topics as quickly as I think of them: too trite, too mundane, too irrelevant. How can I possibly know what will be useful or inspiring to parents over a month from now?

Deep. Breaths. Required.

A pause to reflect and observe. If nothing else, this virus has gifted us time for that. I notice that, despite often oppressive fear and uncertainty, our communities are responding to this crisis in many positive, heartening ways. For example, we are collectively acknowledging those amazing people whom Mr. Rodgers would have lovingly labelled, “The Helpers,” be it on social media, when we see them on the street, and even from our front porches and balconies at 7 p.m. each evening, pots and pans in hand.

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People are hanging hearts in their windows and decorating their sidewalks with colourful chalk messages of peace and kindness. There is an overwhelming (in a good way) feeling that we are all in this together; therefore, we are going to get through it together, even though we must stay physically apart.

So, we’re reaching out to each other in the safe ways available to us. Friends check in (“Are you still alive over there? How’s your wine supply?”), and parents comfort their children, even as we struggle, ourselves, to make sense of how the world seems to have turned upside down overnight. I’m giving my son as many “Mama hugs” as possible without smothering him, but I am missing my own mom’s hugs in a way that physically hurts sometimes.

I can’t help but wonder, sadly, how many of us have been unable to give our moms a physical hug, either because of social distancing measures, geographical separation, family rifts, or because they are no longer with us in this world.

What is it that makes a “Mama hug” so special?

For me (thanks, Mom!) it’s the feeling of being wrapped in a cocoon of unconditional love, an unspoken promise that things will be OK, and an injection of unwavering faith in my ability to rise up and do what I think I cannot.

Right now, “mamas,” maternally-inclined caregivers, all over the world are being taxed to their limits. Kids are home from school and, in many cases, are confined to the house (or apartment!): bored, scared, and missing their friends. Mamas are juggling childcare and the new frontier of homeschooling, often with working from home or venturing into the new scariness of the world so that they can continue doing the essential jobs that keep society safe, healthy, and fed.

Mamas not only make sure their households are functioning, that there is food to eat (and toilet paper in the cupboard), but that everyone’s emotional needs are cared for as well. All this while they’re feeling the fear of the unknown, fear for loved ones, fear of lost income, fear of lost learning, fear of psychological ramifications…the list is long, and it keeps them up at night.

But, despite everything, the vast majority of mamas are holding it together. They are finding a strength they didn’t know they possessed and they share this strength with their families. They get up each morning and face another day, try to look for the good, teach their children to “look for the helpers,” and to make the best of things. And they dole out “Mama hugs” to all who need them, even if (for now) they are mimed over Zoom, expressed in emojis, or transfigured into kind words and understanding in a phone call.

So, to the mamas, I am sending all of you the biggest, warmest hug I can muster, and I know that you will do the same for anyone in your life that could use a “Mama hug” right now. I see you, I applaud you, and I believe in you—you’ve got this!

Kelly McQuillan
Kelly McQuillan
Kelly McQuillan is a writer, musician, teacher, and fledgling mother living in Comox, BC.