Two of our Scary Mommy staff writers, Nikkya and Eliza, have navigated the pandemic very differently. They discuss the choices they made and why they worked best for them.
Nikkya, New England Mom of Three
We have five-year-old twin daughters who entered kindergarten this year and a fourteen-year-old son who began 9th grade — both pivotal moments in their respective academic lives. My job, as a full-time program director at a small NYC-based nonprofit, went entirely remote. My wife, Dinushka, a hospital chaplain, went back to work and sometimes in the rooms of COVID-19 patients. By the time summer came (and went), I felt an unfamiliar kind of mental exhaustion. We were tired of policing our kids’ internet use on their loaned Chromebooks, remembering to hand in their assignments for art and gym as well as their kindergarten curriculum, coordinating virtual PPT meetings for our son’s 504, and adjusting his 9th-grade bell schedule. It was all too much. Throughout the pandemic, we went to Target and the grocery store and took that risk just to break up the monotony of it all. We went on hikes and were outside every day. We figured out how to live with the pandemic.
Eliza, Southern Mom of Three
I have three boys, ages seven, eight, and eleven, who have always been homeschooled. My husband works as a public school teacher. His job went remote almost immediately, and stayed that way until November. We knew the pandemic would be a long haul, so in April, we bought an above-ground pool and a trampoline. We live in a state with one of the highest rates of COVID-19 in America. Unmasked people abound – and even our local homeschooling community disregarded CDC guidelines as early as April.
Because of our percent positive rate, our lack of mask laws (and subsequent unmasked people), we have been unable to take our children almost anywhere. I have taken my children to Target twice. Only my oldest set foot in a grocery store, and we spent most of our time yelling at people that six feet meant six feet. My three sons, in effect, have not played with other children for a year.
Nikkya: Pandemic Sanitizing
I’ve always carried hand sanitizer with me even before it was the thing we all had to do. I was the parent who sanitized for the smallest of reasons. We have a huge bottle of sanitizer in both cars. When I pick the kids up from school, the moment they get into the car, I give them hand sanitizer. At home, their clothes go directly into the wash and their bodies directly into the shower. I wash their hair every other day with shampoo and conditioner and rinse daily with water. They have a clean, new fabric mask every single day. When my wife arrives home from the hospital, straight to the shower she goes and her clothes in the wash too. Even when we go out as a family, to the grocery store, or on a hike, we walk into our house and put our clothes into the wash and bodies into the shower — no pit stops between the front door and the laundry room. To date, no one in our home has gotten the virus.
Eliza: Pandemic Sanitizing
I was always that mom enforcing the five-second rule and telling my kids that everyone ate a peck of dirt before they died. But when the pandemic started, I sanitized everything. We went so far as to sanitize our mail. We’ve relaxed that now, letting sunlight and fresh air take car of any viral load.
When we do travel somewhere inside (for example, a state park visitor’s center), we only stay for a few minutes, and we let sunlight and fresh air take care of our masks, though we do wash them regularly. My kids don’t change clothes. My husband, who teaches face-to-face now, strips and walks straight to our shower after work.
Nikkya: Grocery Shopping
I’ve learned how to use my Amazon Prime app and replaced my weekly grocery trip with a kind of one-click shopping, something I’d never done before during the pandemic. I just started shopping this way in February 2021 because of grocery store line fatigue. I could no longer wait on the hour-long lines outside in the New England cold weather to get inside of Trader Joe’s. My social justice-conscious mind reconciled my inability to physically pick out our family’s food with the reality that my using apps like Instacart meant that I was helping a person put food on the table for their families.
Eliza: Grocery Shopping
Because about half of people in our state don’t wear masks or wear them improperly, we’re confined to quick grocery store runs at off-hours for little things. Big orders come delivered, and have throughout the pandemic. We hate the markup, but we’re always sure to tip very well — these people put their lives on the line so I can have milk for my kids.
Nikkya: School During the Pandemic
My wife, a Sri Lankan American, and I, a Black woman, know the life-changing power of what having an education means for our mixed-race family. My wife’s job as a hospital chaplain provided us with an additional sense of reassurance in sending our kids back to school, because the patients she has seen over the past year have been adults; no kids at all. We know that our education is something that no one can ever take away from us — remote or in person. Our school district communicates with us daily about infection rates district-wide. Our mayor sends COVID-19 related emails a few times a week. At school, they get a mask break and are given masks if they lose or forget theirs. The teachers are protected by plastic barriers at their desks. They don’t let the kids drink out of the water fountains; every kid brings their reusable water bottle. The COVID-19 rules are followed across the district and enforced by school staff. As for visitors and parents, no one is allowed in the school building and must be greeted at the door, messages sent through school administrators, support staff, or over the phone.
Eliza: School During the Pandemic
My kids have always been homeschooled, and we’ve been grateful that the pandemic didn’t mean a huge change from that. However, with a husband working as a public school teacher, school safety has been a huge source of stress in our household. With high percent positive rates, uncertainty over which classes were returning when, and muddy issues about following CDC guidelines, there have been days when we can’t even discuss the pandemic.
My sanity has been saved, on numerous occasions, by my husband’s classroom windows and his homemade ventilation system, which turns over his air every few minutes. We’ve had COVID-19 scares when he was exposed, but luckily, he’s recently been able to obtain the vaccine.
In the end, we knew we made the right decision for our family and especially for our kids. They need support and a community of people outside of their household to help educate them, nurture them, and teach them. Their school community is just as important and necessary as their home community for them. With summer just around the corner, we have summer schedules to plan and vacations to figure out. We will be masked. We will stay vigilant and continue to do what is best for our family of five to live safely alongside COVID-19.
We’re certain we’ve made the best decisions for our family. Our kids have been extremely isolated; however, since both my husband and I have pre-existing conditions, we couldn’t risk exposure. They’ve done very well and I’m proud of them: they’ve learned that their sacrifice to stay home has made an important difference, and that people’s lives matter more than Target trips. They were always tight, but they’ve become best friends. I’m so proud of them.
We’ve made an effort to reach out to family regularly through Zoom, and my oldest socializes regularly on Facebook Messenger Kids. Yes, it’s been very hard at times. But we truly believe the sacrifice has been worth it. However, we’re very privileged that I’m able to stay home; that our kids have had no change in schooling; and that we can afford things like trampolines and above-ground pools to make life easier. Our privilege affords the choices we’ve been able to make, just as living in such a COVID-heavy state forces them.