On Dec. 14, 2021, my family of five all tested negative for COVID while on vacation in Mexico.
On Dec. 19, 2021, my husband tested positive for COVID and entered strict isolation for 10 days, sequestering in our main bedroom.
This is where the movie of my life would turn into a split screen because on Dec. 14, 2021, (the same day we all tested negative), the person my husband would eventually get COVID from was getting exposed herself.
As a public health professional, I applied the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines with fervor in our home as soon as we saw the rapid test results. My husband remained in our main bedroom, with me bringing him meals and other items he needed (movies, books, laptop, etc.). We both wore masks whenever I was in the bedroom serving as an at-home concierge (or prison guard, depending on how you look at it). I kept a 6-foot distance and stayed no more than 5 or 10 minutes in the room.
Upon exiting the bedroom, I immediately sanitized my hands, the doorknobs, and anything I took out of the room, then washed my hands with hot, soapy water for 20 seconds in the hallway bathroom before going downstairs. It was a laborious process, but my three daughters and I remained COVID-negative throughout his isolation and our quarantine. The stringency was worth it.
I am so lucky my husband’s COVID experience was limited to feeling pretty crappy, and never ended in an emergency trip to the hospital.
Everyone in our home is vaccinated, and both my husband and I are boosted. And once the CDC advises kids to get a booster, I’ll be right on it. Even so, being down one parent did not make this Mama’s experience a picnic.
While my husband was doing exactly what he needed to do (keeping his distance and healing), I was “running the show” and more for my husband, two cats, and three kids (ages 7, 7, and 9 years old) home on winter break.
The struggle is REAL.
I’m used to being in charge, but this experience highlighted just how much my husband does domestically. He helps with meals, does dishes, and takes the lead on the kitty litter box, the girls’ schoolwork … and general refereeing of our kids. Our girls seem to have just two modes: screaming and running in circles amidst squeals of delight, or screaming and chasing one another amidst shrieks of disdain. Either way, our house is just loud.
Cooking meals for everyone is something I typically take the lead on, but add on delivering food and snacks to my convalescing husband, implementing a strict sanitizing routine, generally cleaning up after everyone, and keeping the house in some semblance of normalcy and order (during winter break) was more than I was used to. I was also simultaneously working my regular job and navigating the tough emotions and tears of “Dad is just upstairs,” as the girls missed their father. It was HARD.
Here’s the other thing – people check in on the patient, but not the caretaker.
Handling daily inquiries about how he was doing from people without any sense of concern or thought to how I was doing was a surprisingly hard pill for me to swallow.
I eventually vented about the struggle with a close friend who was in the same boat with three young daughters and a COVID-positive spouse. She totally got it.
This inspired me to drop off COVID-Quarantine-Mama care packages to her every few days. As an avid cook and baker, I dropped off mushroom soup, matzoh ball soup, pumpkin bread, a variety of cookies, and challah. This gave me something fun and different to do instead of the Groundhog Day experience of carrying the whole household on my shoulders day in and day out.
Without expecting anything in return, she dropped off an amazing care package for me with everything I love: chocolates, toys for the girls, a restaurant gift card, rosé bubbly (yes please!), and an amazing orchid plant (my favorite flower). This kindness blew me away and soothed my heart more than words can express.
So, if you know someone in the role of caretaker in a COVID quarantine home, reach out and ask how they are doing, ask if you can do anything to help, or just send them food (already cooked and ready-to-eat or via restaurant gift card). I promise it will not go unnoticed and will revive even the most downtrodden soul.
During a time where we’re experiencing another sense of “lockdown” and distance from loved ones (even in our own homes), it’s so meaningful to feel connected to our village in other ways. We are in this together.