Navigating a COVID-19 Diagnosis as a Mom of Young Kids
It started on a Friday with a funny feeling in the back of my throat. I blamed it on dry air (as we had just turned on our heat) and I told myself the tickle would be gone in the morning.
Instead, the sore throat was joined by a headache, fever, chills, dizziness, body aches, and a tightness in my chest. I tried to convince myself that it was probably just the flu and that my rapid breathing was from anxiety.
I received my positive COVID-19 test result on Sunday and my husband received a positive result a week later.
And while we are smart, thoughtful people, we were totally unprepared for the reality of a month-long quarantine with two young children while ill.
Here’s the thing…
It’s easy enough (if you’re young and healthy) to believe that maybe you’ve already had COVID-19 and were asymptomatic, or that you simply won’t contract COVID-19 if you’re being careful, or that if you do catch it that you’ll have mild symptoms that won’t disrupt your life. I fell into this trap and encourage you not to!
Here’s what I wish I would’ve known, and prepared for, prior to our bout with COVID-19.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you will be required to quarantine for 10 days (or longer pending symptoms). The tricky part is that everyone else in the household is instructed to quarantine for 14 days AFTER the last day that a confirmed-positive family member may be contagious (due to the variable incubation period of the virus before symptoms appear). For us, this meant a total quarantine period of 31 days! This included my 10 days of quarantine which was interrupted on day 7 with my husband’s positive test, his 10 days of quarantine, and another FOURTEEN DAYS of quarantine for our children (who never tested positive but could have, in theory, contracted COVID-19 on the last day my husband was contagious).
My husband was out of the office for the entire month of October. As an hourly worker, I clocked 10% of the hours I typically would. Working from home during our quarantine period was nearly impossible because of our symptoms (looking at the computer made me dizzy) and our lack of childcare.
I encourage you to research the following before you get sick in order to make a possible quarantine period easier:
- What is your company’s policy for COVID-related absences? Does this policy change based on absences due to exposure versus absences due to symptoms?
- Are you eligible to receive paid time-off? Use this Department of Labor tool to determine if you qualify for paid time-off under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the "FFCRA"). If not, do you have a financial cushion for being out of work for 3-4 weeks? Is there anywhere you could cut costs in your budget now in order to build up a financial cushion for potential unpaid time off or medical costs?
- Have you saved basic instructions for your work tasks (ideally in the Cloud) so that someone else can take over your role for a few weeks if needed?
Planning for these things before a weeks-long quarantine will save you a lot of energy down the road when you may not have any!
Kids don’t have a “mommy’s sick” sensor-- they don’t stop having needs and being loud and wanting your attention just because you’re ill! The most challenging part of COVID was not our own symptoms, but rather managing our illness (and attempting to keep working) while also having no childcare.
While we feel lucky that our 4-year-old and 1-year-old never showed symptoms, taking care of them for such a protracted period of time with no relief, while ill, was truly one of the hardest experiences of my life. Here are a few things you can do now that will make your life easier if you find yourself sick and stuck at home:
- Visit a dollar store (while healthy!) and snag some cheap small toys and supplies. Nothing fancy or expensive-- items like new crayons, a fresh tub of playdoh, a yoyo, or bubbles will work. Keep these items in a closet until you need them, either for quarantine or a rainy day! Nothing buys you a few minutes of rest like something new to play with. After 4 weeks at home with the same stale toys, I wish I would’ve had a basket of new trinkets on hand to keep things fresh and to keep morale up.
- Enlist virtual help. FaceTime or Zoom is a great tool for toddlers and preschoolers to connect with family and friends! Make a list of people in your life who could read a story to your kids, perform a puppet show, or instruct a craft project via Zoom. You’ll be thankful for the break, even if just for 10 minutes.
- Figure out if there is anyone in your family, or in your life, that has already had COVID-19 and who may be willing to help care for you or your children if you get sick. Studies are now showing that immunity may last longer than previously thought and some folks with COVID antibodies may be willing to step in to help if needed. NOTE: The decision to risk exposure, even as someone with confirmed COVID antibodies, should be made at the discretion of the family and any potential caregivers in consultation with appropriate medical professionals.
Given that no one else in my home tested positive until a week later, I was instructed to quarantine separately from the rest of my family. This meant taking over my son’s room (where our guest bed lives) while my husband and two children occupied the rest of the house. Figuring out where everyone should sleep, eat, and shower took some creativity. Thank goodness for our SlumberPod! My husband was able to put our son in a playard in the master bedroom closet for that first week, and SlumberPod ensured that he still got good sleep even while everything else in our home was in upheaval.
Before you find yourself in quarantine, consider the following questions about how you could structure your home life to make things easier during an illness:
- Do you have access to quick and easy meals, such as freezer meals or a meal delivery service?
- Is there somewhere you could hole up separately from the rest of your family?
- Do you have an adequate supply of fever-reducing medicines, nasal saline, vitamins and cough drops?
- Do you have a pulse oximeter that you could use to measure your blood oxygenation while at home?
- Do you have paper plates and plastic silverware so that a healthy family member doesn’t have to touch an infected member’s dishes after eating?
I’d also encourage you to think about how you could limit trips up and down the stairs. My husband and I were both bone-tired for weeks-- the sort of tired where you have to lay down after taking a shower because standing up for 20 minutes wears you out! We were so grateful to have our SlumberPod downstairs so that we didn’t have to lug our 25lb toddler up and down the stairs for nap and bedtime. A mini-fridge would also be a good option for limiting trips between levels if a quarantining family member is on another level of the home.
My Hope for You
As we enter a new year with this virus still raging, I ask you to please be safe, wear a mask, and keep your distance. The toll of getting sick is large, even if you’re blessed to recover fully (as we were).
While I hope you don’t find yourself in a situation like ours, I encourage you to start planning now in case you do. Your future self will thank you!
Mallory is a mom of 2, educator, advocate, and certified infant feeding tech. She's the face behind The Formula Mom, an online platform that helps new parents make informed, confident, and supported infant feeding decisions-- without guilt or shame! She can be found on Instagram @theformulamom or on her website, www.theformulamom.com
Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.