My Kids' Every Sniffle Sends Me Into An Anxiety Spiral Right Now

by Tanay Howard
Originally Published: 
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I typically haven’t been the mom to be over anxious about germs. My kids know the 5 second rule, we aren’t germaphobes, and I definitely haven’t kept them in a bubble. I would say that I was the mom that allowed them the basic freedoms of exploration and definitely didn’t panic about them doing gross things that I shrugged off as “building their immune systems”.

But this was all before the big C — COVID.

This never-ending pandemic has made me ever-careful about any and everything that my kids are doing. Please sneeze into your elbow. Don’t touch anything that isn’t yours, and for the love of God do not let other people breathe on you! Because now that my kids are in school, I cannot handle anyone having cold symptoms.

On Monday September 13th, 1 million kids headed back to school in NYC public schools. This includes my four-year-old who started preschool for the very first time. My second grader had already been in school for nearly a month. And while I was grateful to have them out of the house because my oldest absolutely hated remote learning, I entered into a whole new level of unknown anxiety. I was prepped for the back to school germs from my second grader. I was ready to deal with the first time school germs from my preschooler. What I wasn’t ready for? The overwhelming anxiety about every single sniffle.

Is this how things are going to be forever?

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I often thought about what our morning routine would look like once both of my older children were in school. I imagined my days filled with silence and doing whatever I wanted (baby #3 welcomingly killed that dream). Never did I imagine that I would be sitting on my couch after drop off in a legit panic because I could not remember if I gave them both vitamins. Our morning routine goes by in a blur everyday. Wake up, breakfast, VITAMINS, wash face, brush teeth, get dressed, hair, backpack, water bottles, mask, double check for masks, don’t forget your masks!

Because GOD FORBID anyone in this house comes home from school sniffling or sneezing or even feeling remotely warm.

I am constantly torn between keeping my kids home in this bubble for my own mental health and sending them to school for theirs. I cannot trust that my seven- and four-year-old will remember all day to do the “right thing”. They are kids. And they’re excited to be out of their house and around people again. And as kids under 12, they aren’t eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. NYC has mandated that all teachers receive the vaccine, but I am a realist. This does not mean that no one will get sick. People will get sick. Children will get sick.

Since children across the country have returned to school, the amount of pediatric COVID cases have risen. Not a shocker. I highly doubt that this comes as a surprise to anyone who understands the basics behind germs and how they spread. This also means that urgent care facilities, pediatricians’ offices and children’s hospitals have been in a constant loop of restocking Covid, RSV, and other kinds of rapid tests. It is almost impossible to find at home rapid tests in drugstores, and those are not enough for children to return to school anyway if they are experiencing any symptoms. Since children across the country have returned to school, the likelihood of me having a panic attack in my own house has risen.

I feel like I am losing out on the joy of enjoying the silence of my kids being at school because I now worry about their cold symptoms at a rate I never had to before.

Every single cough or sniffle puts me on edge. According to the CDC, fever and cough have remained the top two symptoms of COVID. If you’ve been a mom of children in school for any length of time, you know that fever and cough are not uncommon in school aged children … especially this time of year.

So, we are tasked with the constant worry of is it a cold, the flu, or the big C? The only sure way to distinguish between a cold and COVID is getting tested. But I also have zero desire to go anywhere germs frequent. So here I am at home, praying to the high heavens that my kids remember to keep their masks on. And please do not share germs. Be a kid, have fun, but please — for all of our sakes — stay healthy. Let me repeat, my anxiety cannot handle even the simplest of colds right now. Just wanted to say if this is also you … solidarity, sis!

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