6 pandemic habits I refuse to change back


For better or worse, pandemic restrictions are lifting across the country. Masks are coming off, people can gather and travel, and there’s a tentative sense of hope in the air (until the next variant comes along, anyway).

There are a lot of “new normals” I won’t miss about the last two years (cutting my own hair comes to mind). But at the same time, there are some pandemic habits I plan to keep long after COVID lockdowns are just another fuzzy memory, like landlines, that we regale our grandkids with someday.

Surely some good has to come out of all we’ve learned while sheltering in place, baking sourdough bread, learning TikTok dances and playing Wordle, right?

In that vein, here are six pandemic habits I won’t change back (and you can’t make me!):

1. Wearing wireless bras and rompers in public

It didn’t take long for fashion to fall into the comfort zone. By that first summer of lockdown, it seemed like the entire world was dressing like a mom in her fourth month of maternity leave, and I have never been more comfortable being my authentic self.

I was already on maternity leave when COVID hit, so I was well ahead of the athleisure-wear trend as fashion brands all added “cozy” and “for the home” sections to their clothing websites. Now that we’re two years in, my entire wardrobe is rompers, leggings, scrunchies, and sports bras that replaced nursing bras that replaced maternity bras.

A mom and her young kid sit on fold-up camping chairs in her backyard. They're holding big skewers with marshmallows on them over a fire pit

Photo: Courtesy of Natalie Stechyson

I don’t think I’ve worn underwire in three years. I’m free. FREE! And I won’t go back.

We deserve comfort, and we know it. The other day I met a mom who answered her door wearing a full romper and slipper boots. I recognized the brands because I own the exact same outfit. We nodded at each other knowingly. We are cozy COVID moms, and we have no effs left to give.

I went out to a restaurant with my husband last weekend wearing a sports bra and T-shirt—something I never would have done three years ago. But I survived a pandemic! I can wear what I want.

2. Curbside pickup and delivery

I remember grocery stores. But if I can avoid them for the rest of my days on this earth, I will.

Curbside pickup and delivery may have been annoying in the first few months of lockdown (who among us hasn’t accidentally ordered seven cucumbers, a single orange, or had to ask your Instacart shopper to check if they have any Canesten behind the counter?).

But, now that I’ve finally figured out that you have to order bananas individually, not by the bunch, it really is much more convenient than dragging two kids to Loblaws and watching them melt down in the cookie aisle.

Sure, there are service fees (which I will happily pay since I am asking someone else to take on the risk I’m skipping by staying home), but I’m also saving money by avoiding impulse purchases in the bakery section.

Or the athleisure-wear section. Can’t have too many rompers, amirite?

3. Avoiding human touch

Other than my kids, a medical professional, or my husband after I’ve had a few glasses of wine, there is no good reason for another human being to touch me ever again.

Thank you, pandemic, for making personal space the norm. Handshakes? Nope, not sad to see those go. Keep those sweaty palms to yourself. Friendly hugs? Pass. I want to feel your body pressed against me about as badly as you want to feel mine pressed against you. The stranger trying to pinch my kid’s cheeks? I’ll make an exception to my rule to SWAT YOU AWAY.

And if I can smell your shampoo, cologne, or body in general, you are standing too damn close.

I have spent the last few years perfecting my smize (smiling with my eyes), my friendly wave, and that fake air hug we all do while pretending we wish it was a real hug, except not really, because don’t touch me. All to avoid human touch—and we were in it together.

Let’s keep it that way! What a time to be alive!

4. Comforting hobbies

Mom and young kid garden together. Mom helps the kid water the one pink tulip that's blooming with a big blue watering can

Photo: Courtesy of Natalie Stechyson

We all needed to pass the time while we were stuck at home, whether it was baking bread, giving ourselves bangs that we still regret years later (who, me?), or taking up Extreme Crafting (raise your hand if you now own a Cricut) or Extreme Fitness (raise your hand if you now own a Peleton).

My comfort hobby was gardening and I can’t stop, won’t stop.

There was a time last spring when garden centers were one of the only stores that allowed in-person shopping. And while I wanted to avoid grocery stores, my kids could do a lot less damage in a plant nursery. Plus, I needed something to do when schools went virtual other than scream into pillows.

So, I became an Extreme Gardener. I channeled my COVID anxiety into perfecting my edging, pulling dandelions well past sundown, and staking my gigantic Dahlias. I turned my front yard into a veritable botanical garden of flowers. I became known in the neighbourhood as, “that house with all the flowers,” or “that lady in the romper digging holes at midnight.”

Out back, my husband channeled his anxiety into rows of vegetables. We could live off the freaking land! And we might have to if the price of food keeps going up.

Anyway, I’m already planning this year’s garden. And it will be epic. I’m going to need more edging.

5. Staycations

Last summer, I figured that since I’d put so much time (and money) into making our yard beautiful, we might as well enjoy it. So we stayed home instead of going to a cottage or on vacation, watching the kids enjoy the kiddie pool and swing set during the day, and sipping cocktails surrounded by my plentiful planters at night.

If I’m proud of anything I achieved during the pandemic, it was making our house a place we truly wanted to be stuck in. And now that we can go on vacations again, I…don’t really want to.

A little kid sits in a red wagon in front of a bulldozer

Photo: Courtesy of Natalie Stechyson

I look at photos of trips my friends are taking to Disney World, Hawaii and Mexico, and while I’m a little jealous of the warm weather and the happy memories they’re surely making, I’m not jealous of the logistics of travelling with young kids, jet lag and the credit card bills.

Last week, I took my toddler to a strip mall parking lot to see a real-life bulldozer. I’ve never seen him happier. Truly. Best March Break ever!

Staycations forever, please.

6. Masking and isolating when needed

Remember when going to work with a barking cough was like a badge of honour? Or when we’d give our borderline-feverish kids Advil before daycare and hope it held until we picked them up? Or keep snotty tissues in our coat pockets from all the nose-blowing during cold season?

What was normal a few years ago now seems gross, selfish and dangerous, and I truly hope the pandemic habit of staying home when we’re sick sticks around for everyone.

Sometimes I think about how common it was to be sick and still go about our days, and I can’t believe the human race lasted as long as it did before this current plague. These days, thanks to self-screening and the fear of getting or passing along COVID, we have all been forced to become acutely aware of even the mildest symptoms of illness.

When once I might have worked a full day with full-blown Strep throat, now if I wake up with even the slightest tickle in my throat I take pause and assess if anyone in my family should leave the house.

Is it COVID? Allergies? Exhaustion? COVID? Motherhood? COVID?!?

Could be any or all, but I don’t plan to risk it just because the government says I can go shopping, you know?

After all, I really do have enough rompers.

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