There’s no question that COVID-19 is impacting every Canadian in unique ways, but Canadian women bear a disproportionate amount of the burden when it comes to the economic impact felt by the pandemic. Women make up 82% of Canadian health care workers, 81% of single parent households and earn, on average, only 75 cents for every dollar Canadian men make, a gap that grows wider for women who are Indigenous, disabled or new to Canada. As the financial impact of COVID-19 grows, women are feeling the strongest impact. Struggling to cope with the realities of managing your household and finances during COVID-19? Here are some strategies to help you cope.
Be aware of the unseen pressures
According to the International Labour Organization, women perform 76.2% of the unpaid care work that goes into running a household. The pressures of this unpaid labour have only increased during the pandemic, especially as virtual homeschooling is now the norm in most school districts. Add that to the emotional labour — the need to manage the emotions of others — that comes with running a household, and women are pulling an extraordinary amount of weight in these times.
You might not even be aware of this pressure but before too long it can lead to burnout. These are some common signs of burning out:
- Finding your daily chores and tasks increasingly frustrating and stressful.
- Growing increasingly cynical about your job or family, you might distance yourself from people you love and withdraw.
- Headaches, stomachaches, dizziness or intestinal issues.
- Have a hard time performing simple duties such as answering emails, making appointments, creating a grocery list, washing the dishes or looking at your budget.
- Brain fog or forgetfulness.
- Change in appetite — either eating too much or binging.
While it can seem almost impossible to reduce stress when so many people are relying on you, remember that taking time alone to recharge and look after yourself will be better for your family in the long run.
If you’re in need of psychological support in Alberta because of the pressures of the pandemic, here are some places you can turn:
- For healthcare workers: The Psychologists Association of Alberta is offering one to three free counselling sessions for healthcare or first responders who are traumatized by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Alberta Health Services mental health resources: AHS provides some mental health services. You can view a list at their website.
- Text4Hope: The Mental Health Foundation of Alberta has launched their Text4Hope initiative. Text COVID19HOPE to 393939 to subscribe for daily, inspiring messages throughout the pandemic. After the Fort McMurray fires, research indicates that a similar tool reduced anxiety and depression by 25% for those who used it.
Be financially proactive
Because women are chronically underpaid and largely responsible for family finances, the COVID-19 pandemic presents heightened financial pressures, especially in single parent households that are lead by women. Here are some ways to protect yourself financially right now:
- Consider the debt you’re taking on: Chances are you might need to take on some debt to make ends meet. If your gut instinct is to put extra expenses on a credit card it might be worth re-thinking this strategy. A personal loan could be a better option as often the rates are lower and, as it’s installment debt, a personal loan has clear terms to let you know when you will be out of debt if you keep up with monthly payments.
- Find emergency support: The federal and provincial government has set up several emergency support strategies such as CERB, to help with income shortfalls as a result of COVID-19.
- Defer bills or debts: While deferring your bills doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for them in the future, it could help you deal with immediate expenses now.
- Reach out for help: There are many financial decisions to be made right now and it can be very confusing or stressful, especially if you have dependents relying on you to make a sound choice. Reach out for support — whether you just need someone to explain your options or help you decide what’s best for you and your family. You don’t have to go it alone.
- Improve your skills: If you decide you need to enhance your education during this time, consider applying for Alberta Learner Income Support or the Skills Investment Bursary for financial support.
- Consider affordable housing programs: If your housing situation is unstable you can pursue options available from the Alberta government through the Community Housing Program for subsidized rental housing. The Alberta government also offers rent supplement programs, to apply call 780-422-0122.
- The Good Neighbour Fund (Edmonton): The Good Neighbour Fund provides assistance to those who are not covered by provincial programs or other local charities. They serve those within a 100km radius of Edmonton.
Protect yourself from abuse
Self isolation and social distancing can be incredibly dangerous for women who are experiencing domestic violence and abuse at home. If you are living in an abusive situation there are resources available to help you right now:
- Interval House: website, 24/7 crisis line: 1-888-293-5516
- Alberta Health Services: Domestic abuse webpage, 24/7 crisis line: 310-1818
- Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters: website with map, phone: 1-866-331-3933×1
- Shelter Safe: A list of Alberta shelters.
- Waypoints: website, crisis line: 780-743-1190
A pandemic can seem like a scary time to make a significant change in a domestic violence situation, but if you are enduring abuse there are people around the province waiting to help you.
Check in on other women
As women, we have a unique perspective on the pressures of this pandemic and are specially positioned to help others dealing with similar issues. Whether your stress is financial or emotion, whether your problems seem big or small, there is probably another woman in your network who is going through the same thing. Sometimes support each other and talking through our issues together makes the difference.