What It's Like To Co-Parent Through COVID: One Family’s Experience Of Staying (Sorta) Healthy

by Amy B. Chesler
Ray Kachatorian/Getty

I grabbed the kiddos on Christmas Eve, which happens to be my birthday. We are Jewish, and it’s currently a worldwide pandemic, so the kids and I only had plans to visit my elderly aunt and uncle, both of whom are immunocompromised for different reasons.

The bagel brunch they put out for the five of us was lovely; the last few years have made every interaction valuable, no matter how small or large. Between lox and tapenades, fruits and veggies, they spared no expense.

After breakfast we headed home and had a low-key day of celebrations. We were saving our energy for the next day; our plans were to head to a friend’s house to celebrate a rather secular Christmas. We planned to binge both food and film, and enjoy each other’s company. It was going to be another very small, low-key day, as the host was just overcoming breast cancer and, consequently, immunocompromised. We had seen each other throughout the pandemic because I had helped her with her son, and we had continued to help each other with emotional support.

But at around 3PM, my ex-husband called me to let me know he had had a fever the night before. Thankfully, we hadn’t headed to our friends’ house yet.

I told my friends we would be staying home, despite our weeks of planning. It wasn’t worth the risk.

By the 27th, my ex-husband had confirmed he had COVID. I then had to notify my aunt and uncle about our exposure, and thus, theirs. I felt awful. They took it in stride, and we all began quarantining.

It was three and a half days of quarantining before we scheduled a drive-by PCR test. I had luckily purchased at-home tests on Amazon a couple weeks before, so I had slight confirmation of our health. But for extra clarity, I had a test done for my daughter, who was exhibiting no symptoms. My son had developed symptoms (a chesty cough and sniffles), so I chose to have the doctor give him a full panel; if he didn’t have COVID, I wanted to know exactly what it was and eliminate all doubt.

My daughter’s results came back negative by December 29th, and my son’s came back negative for COVID but positive for rhinovirus the same day. To say I was relieved is an understatement; a cold we could handle. We updated my aunt and uncle, who were still receiving negative COVID results themselves. We hunkered down until the CDC’s then-recommended ten days were over to make sure COVID didn’t develop. And as the eleventh day unfolded, we went out for BBQ at a local joint.

The next morning, at the beginning of Day 12 (since my ex-husband’s infection), my daughter started having a sore throat, as my son had a few days before. I was almost positive that she was developing the rhinovirus my son had tested positive for, considering our close proximity to each other.

I decided to go back to quarantining them for their remaining three days with me before sending them back to my ex-husband, anyway. It would keep the kiddos healthier, and keep others from catching what we had.

The day before returning my kiddos to my ex-husband, I brought them in to a school-sanctioned COVID testing site. They were going to be returning to school exactly a week later, and I thought I’d make it easier on my ex by not making him lug them there. He had finally returned to being COVID free a couple days prior, but he wasn’t at 100 percent.

On the 14th day since my kids had seen their father — and six days since my daughter had taken her first PCR test — we received notice from the school district that she was diagnosed with COVID. The kiddos were already heading back to my ex when we found out, and we decided to keep them there. He was the only one to have contracted COVID yet, anyway. If there was further exposure concerns, they were lessened if he had them. Plus, at my house, they refuse not to co-sleep. So, they had better chances of being kept separate and safe at his place.

That was two days ago. Since then, my son’s school-sanctioned COVID test came back positive, too. That means (between both at-home and PCR tests) our family remained void of positive results for over eleven days. Sure, that was my fault with ill-timed testing. But what I find to be true about COVID is that this is no ordinary virus, and it can “lay dormant” for quite a bit before smacking your family upside the head.

Thus, at this point, there is no final tally for my family yet. COVID has been in our house for at least 16 days (not counting incubation period). Three of us have had it; I’m the only one to escape it thus far. Thankfully, those who have gotten it are incredibly lucky to be experiencing only slight symptoms.

Of course, having two homes undoubtedly allowed for a little more space and healing from COVID. My ex-husband and I are lucky to be able to work from home and experience minimal interruptions professionally, too. Although that may change next week when the kiddos return to a week of virtual learning. So ask us again then.