Rebecca Schooten, 32. Illustration: Sam Hester

Rebecca Schooten: A Calgary mom leans into the discomfort

Community moves mountains.’

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To close out 2020, we're bringing you 20 stories from an extraordinary year. Doctors. Teachers. Entrepreneurs. Activists. These are the stories of ordinary Albertans who were changed by circumstances beyond their control—and what they did to make their worlds, and ours, a little better.



Before the pandemic even began, Rebecca Schooten lost her job and became a stay-at-home parent overnight. But instead of turning away from the world’s suffering, she’s chosen to connect with the stories she hears from the community at large.

A community arts organizer and helping professional, Schooten’s dreams of returning to school this year were knocked out by the one-two punch of unemployment plus pandemic.

Her wife Ellie is the family’s sole income earner, and Schooten holds down the homefront; doting on their 4-year old son, Juniper, is a task they happily share.

This is a hard time, said the 32-year-old Calgary mom, “specifically for women and stay-at-home parents of all genders. Women and queer folks… are heavily affected by COVID-related unemployment and underemployment.”

Women and queer folks… are heavily affected by COVID-related unemployment and underemployment.

Rebecca Schooten

Yet the trio have forged a tight cohort of chosen family, and Schooten says she and Ellie are having the best relationship of their married life.

But still, she wrestles with the shame so many feel about not meeting societal expectations around parenting, a fear made more poignant by a crisis that heaps ever-more responsibilities onto burnt out parents.

Schooten has worked hard to adjust her expectations, set boundaries, and give herself grace.

“Sometimes it’s like, not a single chore or housekeeping item is getting done today,” she said. “Because I don’t have the energy for it and things weigh heavy on me.”

If Juniper is fed, watered, sheltered, and supported, that’s good enough, she says, and the day might be spent in a haze of blankets, cuddles, and Play-Doh.

But seeking ease doesn’t mean shying away from 2020’s hard questions.

The evolution of humanity has been in quiet time.

Rebecca Schooten

This year, Schooten has also been scrutinizing how best to use her privilege, how to centre others’ experiences, and how to raise her child to be empathetic and reflexive.

From Black Lives Matter to what we’ve learned in lockdown, Schooten hopes we hold onto one idea: “Community moves mountains, and putting pressure on community can do a lot of good if we don’t turn away from the discomfort.”

When asked her thoughts about the next year, Schooten feels hopeful.

She’s looking forward to hugs, and to a society that invests in health, education, and social institutions. Humans, after all, are uniquely skilled at creating new narratives about justice, belonging, and family.

“The evolution of humanity has been in quiet time, co-creating stories and singing songs,” Schooten said. “To watch that extend into my family is something I’ll remember forever.”

Brianna Sharpe is a freelance journalist who covers LGBTQ2S+ issues, politics, parenting, and more. She lives on a mini-acreage in the Alberta foothills with her family.

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