“When life in lockdown began on 27 March, we were prepared,” says Lauren Fischer, a Johannesburg stay-at-home mom of twin boys, aged 6 and a daughter, aged, 3. “Our fridge was stocked, our cupboards full of the basic necessities. I even had a special cupboard prepped for the kids.”
But as lockdown rules relaxed, so did they, she admits… “I didn’t keep the cupboards stocked because it was easy to just pop to the shops when we needed.”
And then the unconceivable happened – despite following all the COVID-19 safety protocols like hand washing, sanitising and social distancing, Lauren, her husband and their three young kids all tested positive for the virus.
“It all happened so quickly,” says Lauren. “One Saturday evening we all went to bed feeling just fine, and then, in the early hours of Sunday morning, my one son started with a temperature. And that was it…Next they were all running high temperatures – “except for me,” she says. “I just felt like I had a head cold at the beginning.”
She says the kids were ill for roughly 24 hours each and “then seemed to be their usual busy chatty selves. My one son had mild diarrhoea, my daughter complained of a sore throat and my other son complained of pressure in his ears. All so similar and yet so different!”
On Tuesday (21 July), it will be two weeks since the family tested positive for COVID-19 and had to go into self-isolation
“My hubby has been battling with intense migraines the past four days, but today is the first time I’ve woken up and felt ok! I still have swollen lymph nodes in my neck and my sense of smell is still gone, but every now and then I’m able to smell something very faintly, so I do believe I’m on the mend,” she says. “But the experience has been emotionally and physically draining.”
How to survive isolation with toddlers
There was no “let’s quickly run to the shops to get this or that” before the family had to go into self- isolation. Lauren has the following advice for moms based on their personal experience:
Learn to shop online
My favourite is Zulzi but I know people love the Checkers and Pick n Pay apps, too. You pay a little extra in terms of a service and delivery fee, but it’s a small price to pay for a little bit of independence during isolation! Just message or call your driver and let him know your family is COVID-19 positive and ask him to place your groceries outside your house and then you can go collect.
Also, try do one big shop so that you save on delivery fees.
Keep a secret activity box for your kids – and keep it stocked!
If you can afford to, buy art and craft supplies, even toys on sale, and store them in a “secret place” – you never know when they’ll come in handy. Besides if you don’t end up having to isolate, they can always be wrapped and given as birthday gifts in the future.
Plan meals in advance
Take 10 minutes to sit and write out a two-week meal plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Keep it simple – chances are if you get sick you won’t have much of an appetite and you might even lose your sense of taste and smell. Trust me, it takes so much pressure off knowing you don’t have to think about what you’ll have to cook when you’re nursing your family and feeling rotten, too. Plus, it’ll make doing your online shop easier because you’ll have a list of items you need to get by.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
So many people will reach out and offer their help to you during this time. Thank everyone who does but don’t ask them to get you things which you can easily order online. Don’t be shy to ask, after all they did offer, but be reasonable with your requests.
Hire a jumping castle for the kids
We disclosed our status to the hire company and they were fine. They adhere to strict sanitising procedures so we discussed the hire and how they would deliver and collect safely. We also asked how they would sanitise the castle after our usage. It’s a great way to keep the kids busy and active if they’re feeling OK.
Take one day at a time
With this virus, you never know who’s going to feel unwell and just how bad they will be on a day. All you can do is breathe and take it easy. Slow down and enjoy the moments together. Yes, it can be frustrating but it’s going to be a lot less so once you accept the way things are and just go with the flow! Sit and colour in with your kids, have a bath in the middle of the day if that’s what your 3-year-old toddler wants to do…
Be flexible with your routine
There’s much to be said for kids and their routine, and we know how important that is. However, now’s not the time to fight it. Perhaps you usually have a strict 7pm bedtime. But, while you’re all fighting the virus, you might find your little one needs to nap more during the day to help his body heal. This may push the set-bedtime out. Be mindful and flexible with your schedule.
Sort through your child’s toys – if you’re feeling up to it
This is a great time to tidy and sort their things plus, they’ll be pretty excited when they come across toys they’d forgotten they even had! Throw away any broken toys, create a pile to donate (once you’re virus free!) and then let your child play with all their new-old toys.
Be kind – to yourself and your family
It’s easy to get annoyed and irritable when you’re already not feeling well. Some days you’ll stay in PJs all day and other days you’ll feel like a superwoman! Whatever day it is, embrace it and breathe!
Chat to your doctor about vitamins and medicines you need to have on hand
We’ve all been taking a strong dose of vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc to boost our immune systems. The kids have had Panado\Calpol, and the adults, paracetamol to deal with fever.
Delegate household duties
If you have a live-in domestic, chances are she might get sick as well. This means she’ll need to be excused from work at the first sign of anyone’s symptoms. So, in terms of housework, have an open and honest chat with your partner and decide how you will tackle the household chores. A little bit every day will make a huge difference, but don’t over-do it! You’ll be fatigued and unwell, so even if you just do the laundry one day and the bathrooms the other, you’ll be OK. This is also a great time to get the kids involved, whether it’s picking up their toys, or putting their dishes in the sink or dishwasher.
Content editor and writer on Living & Loving, Sonya has over 25 years experience in the media industry. She edited Living & Loving magazine for six-and-a-half years and is the former editor of Longevity magazine. She’s won numerous media industry awards and is passionate about the health and wellbeing of moms and children.
Outside of work, she enjoys trying out recipes, reading crime mysteries and thrillers, practicing yoga, and exploring new destinations.
Learn more about Sonya Naudé.