13 Things I wish I knew before Covid-19 entered our home
We had a Covid relay in our house with 4 of the 6 of us testing positive one after the other. From the onset of symptoms in the first child to the end of quarantine from last child, with us two parents in between, means that we will have spent 4 weeks in isolation. I have to admit that I didn’t put any thought into the worst case scenario – i.e. getting stuck at home in isolation for an extended period of time while not being allowed to go to any shops.
For any reason.
I don’t know whether it’s because I am a head-in-the-sand type of person or I just don’t like trying to imagine the worst, but it simply never crossed my mind! Having a large family with four children isn’t the norm for most people but even if you have two children, you may find yourself stuck at home for up to a month.
The problem is everything happens very quickly when you suspect you have Covid – once you call your doctor they advise you to restrict your movements immediately so there is no opportunity to run out at the last minute to buy essentials, in fact you should NOT do that anyway! It feels as though you are ticking along as normal and then the very next minute you are stuck at home for ever, without any warning!
And then managing kids while having Covid at the same time is another gigantic challenge in itself. There is a lot of information out there on the internet about the virus, but not a lot on how to look after children and isolate yourself from them. That simply isn’t possible if your children are young, in those cases the easiest it just to isolate as a family bubble. (Thankfully children don’t seem to suffer from the virus as heavily as adults do, so if your kids catch it from you, they shouldn’t be as poorly as you feel.)
In our case I am just so thankful that when my husband and I were at our worst, we are able to rest as our children are teenagers and well able to look after themselves. I honestly don’t know how parents of babies and toddlers would cope! (Today’s menu, kiddies, consists of back to back Disney+, Netflix or Amazon Prime*, take your pick!?)
One of the biggest struggles with Covid-19 is the sheer exhaustion that drags on and on for days and weeks. When you are exhausted, you want things to be as simple as possible. Here are some of the things I wish I had thought of before January and Covid arrived in our home:
- You might think it’s just a cold for the first few days, and then by the time you phone the doctor, get a test booking and then receive the positive results 5 days may have passed, by which time others in your household and at work could have caught the virus too. So if you do think you have a cold, don’t go out! Thankfully I fell ill on a Saturday so by Monday, when the doctor opened, I hadn’t been in contact with anyone apart from my family. You need to prepare yourself that you could be isolating in your bedroom at any moment unexpectedly, and the rest of the family will need another bathroom.
- Have a week’s worth of meals in the freezer for those days when you are too tired to cook.
- Check to see you have a spare reserve of basic bathroom essentials like toothpaste, shampoo, soap, toilet paper as well as kitchen store cupboard essentials like tins and packets of food in case of an emergency.
- Set up an arrangement with friends and neighbours in advance who are able to help out with delivering necessary items to the door. It makes sense to ask a few different people so that one person doesn’t have all the burden of caring for your needs as it could drag on a for a few weeks – they may regret being your friend!
- Practice an online shop if you don’t normally shop that way so that you are familiar with the process. This is important for several reasons, firstly it means you are on their system so the login process is simple the second time around, your previous order may be saved so that any future orders are easier to place – it’s simply a matter of reselecting the same items and making a few adjustments, you can prepare ahead for the delivery slots as often there is a couple of day’s delay, also you get used to reading online quantities. (I made a few judgement errors here and ordered just 2 bananas instead of 2 bunches of bananas, as well as 3 teeny-tiny dinky sized bottles of wine – it turns out the low price wasn’t due to special offers but lower quantities!).
- If you have pets, make sure to stock pile pet food, bedding etc to last you at least 3-4 weeks.
- The Paracetamol problem! Paracetamol really helped us fight off the aches and pains associated with Covid-19. However, as we have limits in Ireland as to how many packets of paracetamol we are allowed to buy per shop, we ran out of it pretty quickly. (One pack of 12 with 6 people in a household would last you one dose!) You may need to organise a prescription or stock up in advance – just make sure they are kept well out of reach of children.
- If you are expecting a family birthday then make sure to order or buy the gifts well in advance so that you have something ready for the big day. You might also want to make sure you have the ingredients for a cake (or a box mix), some candles, decorations and any treats to make a bit of a celebration at home. Fia turned 12 while we were in isolation and, although I had ordered her gifts online, none of them arrived in time! Thankfully I had a few small gifts that I had bought a couple of weeks before. Also, a few friends and neighbours dropped treats off at our gate which was a wonderful surprise so that we ended up having a small family party after all.
- Heating – do you have enough coal/wood/oil to warm your home to last for another month?
- Support groups – check your local area Facebook Groups, perhaps there are support facilities for those in need. When one of my colleagues got wind of the fact that we were sick, she arranged a delivery with a local community support group to our front gate, which was amazing – I was so touched by the fact that complete strangers had been prepared to drive all the way out in the countryside to where we live to help us out.
- School – because we are in lockdown and home-schooling at the moment, our kids have been able to keep up with school work which has been a relief. However, we had to ask friends and teachers to fetch the books and deliver them at our home.
- Recovery time – allow yourself a long time to get better! Everyone is different, but after 10 days when I was no longer infectious according to the HSE website, I still felt unable to cope with going back to work. I wasn’t allowed to return anyway as Rebecca was within her quarantine period but if I had been I would have to take unpaid leave. Lockdown certainly has its challenges but the slower pace of life means that resting is easier. I have found that recovery isn’t linear, you feel like you are getting better and then you have a day when you feel like progress has slipped backwards. Speak to your doctor if you need advice about returning to work or receiving sickness benefit and also check out what your return to work/sick leave policies are at your place of work.
- Other people – one thing I have learned being trapped with the family for this length of time, is how wonderful people can be – especially other people you don’t know very well who surprise you with emergency deliveries of bread, milk, chocolates and flowers! It has been amazing when friends arrive at our gate and stay for a masked 4 or 5 metre away chat – those brief moments of interaction have cheered up some very gloomy winter afternoons.
I am enormously grateful that at no stage was it necessary for any of our household to have to go to hospital, however, I know other families haven’t been spared this anguish. It would be wise to have an emergency number on speed dial, or written clearly in a place where all family members can see it, so that you know what number to call if it’s needed in the middle of the night.
This time has made me realise how important it is that we look out for one another. There are very few delivery services available nowadays, unlike the old days when milk delivery to the door was a normal way of life. And people living in rural areas or on their own are much more vulnerable. I hope you don’t find yourself stuck at home without any assistance, please reach out and make it known that you need help – you may be surprised by how many people there are who are willing to go that extra mile or two for you!