Only Half My Family Is Vaccinated, And I'm Exhausted From COVID-Worry

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Scary Mommy and Ivan Pantic/Getty

If you’re freaked out over the Delta variant, you aren’t alone. Out of my family of six, half of us are vaccinated, while half of us aren’t. Three of my kids are under age ten. Many of my family members and friends are in the same boat. Which leaves us begging the question, what are we supposed to be doing right now, especially now that it’s back-to-school time?

Anyone else feel that the rules we’re supposed to follow change almost every day? Some reliable sources contradict one another. I cannot count the number of times I’ve read that we each have to approach the virus differently, using our best judgement when it comes to deciding when and how to interact with other people. Honestly, what does our best judgement even mean at this point? I am so exhausted from constant Covid information bombardment and confusion. Like everyone else, I’d really like for this pandemic hot mess to be over but the numbers are teaching us that our children are more at-risk than ever before.

We’re feeling extra pressure to always make the right choices because I’m currently in breast cancer treatment. Though I am no longer considered immunosuppressed, having finished chemotherapy a month ago, my treatment plan only stays on course if my family stays healthy. If anyone gets the virus, I cannot attend my daily radiation therapy. Gulp. I desperately want to complete my treatment plan, and doing so totally depends on the health of my entire family.

Over the past year and half (and counting), our family has tried our best to follow the rules—even as they continue to rapidly change. We’ve religiously worn masks, waited our turn to get vaccinated, socially distanced, and limited going out. We stopped running non-essential errands, and we’ve been into a restaurant once (yes, once) since the pandemic started, and this was only to get food to-go. We stay as informed as we can. However, we are still stuck in a “but what about” place when it comes to many situations.

Take, for example, getting together with our extended families. We haven’t attended a wedding, funeral, birthday party, or any other event this entire time. We decided not to get together for Christmas last year—which, honestly, broke my heart. It’s my absolute favorite holiday. However, three of us who would attend were considered high risk, and I’d written (and read) enough about living room spread to know that getting together wasn’t a good idea.

Despite making the best choices we can, I sure don’t feel really good. In fact, I am tired. I’m tired of carrying (what feels like) the weight of this pandemic on our family. We see on social media all the fun others are having and feel resentful, jealous, angry, and disappointed. We also wonder and worry, how much longer must we endure this “new normal” in which we have to be cautious based on what ifs and maybes.

Will we, as a society, ever get ahead? It seems there are two camps: those who take the virus seriously and follow the precautions and those who have thrown caution to the wind and are living their best lives. Will this ongoing torture ever be over?

We haven’t traveled since the pandemic began. I would love to take my kids to the beach and enjoy the surf and sand, but going around crowds seems irresponsible. We’ve limited any get togethers with just one family of relatives to be outdoors. I’m mourning the days I haven’t hugged my nephews or gone to the store with my sister. It feels like time is marching on, leaving us in the dust.

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There are days I would love to say “screw it” and host my extended family. I want my teen to have a thirteenth birthday party. I miss my coffee dates with my friends. Yet I know that each decision we make could negatively impact our unvaccinated children, my cancer treatment schedule, and any fellow patients that I come into contact with.

I am not, as many assume, living in fear. Rather, I’m choosing to “love thy neighbor.” But I’ll be honest and tell you that it’s disheartening to first, feel quite alone in doing this, and second, not being certain of exactly how I’m supposed to best protect myself and others at this point.

To top it all off, my kids have only been back to school for a week, and I’ve received e-mails from both schools about students testing positive. How long will we have to everyone is back to remote learning, we’re cooped up inside all fall and winter long, and this vicious cycle continues? If only some of us follow the rules, in the world will we ever see the other side?

Ultimately, I am worried about kids who don’t have the layered protection of the vaccine. Masks and distancing aren’t full proof, nor are they always possible. After all, sometimes they wear their masks incorrectly or take needed breaks to eat. I certainly want the studies to be done and for children to only be able to get vaccinated if it’s considered generally safe and effective. Waiting, however, is torturous at this point.

I’m disheartened and am facing extreme virus decision fatigue, all because it feels as though half of my family will be OK while the other half, my youngest children, will possibly not. What is good enough, and is it possible we’re doing too much? I want to be on the other side of this situation, desperately, but how and when? What will it take?

It seems like no one really knows.