Celebrating Mother’s Day During a Pandemic

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Illustration by Drew Buchanan

Zoey Jia
Contributing Writer

Mother’s Day during a pandemic has challenged the way we celebrate our mothers. As health officials across the country issued warnings against traveling and visiting parents during the holiday, many skipped tradition in favor of safety. 

The Bottom Line spoke with members of the community on how interacting with their mothers has changed.

Dr. Dorothy Imrich Mullin is a communication professor at UC Santa Barbara who lives 20 minutes away in the same valley as her 86-year-old mother. She visits her about once a week, helping with tidying the dishes and trash. “I used to go to see my mother twice [a week], yet the pandemic limits both the amount of grocery-shopping time and the time spent with her,” Dr. Mullin explained.

When Dr. Mullin hugs her mother, she tries to avoid face-to-face contact, in fear of potentially spreading the virus from the outside world. Dr. Mullin and her mother also call each other several times per day. Because her mother’s memory is not as good as before, she calls to ensure she’s safe. 

“Sometimes she remembers to take the pills by herself, but a lot of the time she doesn’t. So I have to make sure I remind her of taking them,” Dr. Mullin explained. 

Apart from “daily checks,” the two get lost in conversations about old movies and what the family is up to, like where her nephew is going to college and how their dog is. “After she calls me to share what happened recently, she may call back five minutes later to share it again,” Dr. Mullin said.

The pandemic has Dr. Mullin feeling more concerned for her mother than before, but not without cause. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to grow. Santa Barbara county reported 58 new COVID-19 cases on Mother’s Day, raising the total to 1,308 confirmed cases in the county. 

Bruce Fan, a first-year student majoring in economics, stayed in the Bay area with his family. His mother is a graduate student at UC Irvine, so the mother and son study together at home. 

“In the first few weeks of the pandemic, I often called my mother to inform them of the potential danger of the pandemic while she also reminded me to take certain precautions,” Fan said. They now discuss topics of daily life and the pandemic in person. 

Whereas Fan used to celebrate Mother’s Day by sending her his paintings, this year he had no special plans or gifts. Dr. Mullin is in the same boat. She used to take her mother out for breakfast during Mother’s Day but now may only visit her with some flowers. 

While both Dr. Mullin and Fan stayed at home, others decided to celebrate Mother’s Day outdoors. As a senior majoring in communication, Kimmy Bao went hiking with her parents to celebrate the holiday. This was an adjustment to her traditional Mother’s Day celebration. Other than sending cards every year, Bao prefers to celebrate Mother’s Day by enjoying outdoor activities with her family. 

“I used to go out to eat with my family members, and do other outdoor activities such as going to the park, visiting somewhere, or hiking,” Bao said.

Though COVID-19 has certainly shifted Mother’s Day around, it has strengthened the appreciation for our mothers as all three interviewees were concerned about the safety of their families. 

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