parent opinion

"There's this constant sense of unease." The never-ending cycle of COVID isolation for parents.

I have just emerged from a second isolation period with my family and while it's good to be free; I feel a sense of unease that it could happen again at anytime.

Our family of four have all had COVID. I was one of the 'early adopters' of the first round of Omicron, bringing it back from a long-awaited trip to the UK to see my family. 

I was lucky I didn't feel too unwell, but I was worried that I was going to pass it on to my husband and sons. But for whatever reason, whether it was their vaccine protection or my lack of spreading abilities, they did not succumb - which was a huge relief. 

Watch: The horoscopes coming out of isolation. Post continues below.


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We all had to stay home and this seven-day isolation took place during the summer school holidays, when my husband Jules and I were on annual leave. We missed a big family trip up the coast, but otherwise our stress levels were low.

We had kind friends drop off dinner, wine and coffee and while there were tough moments with our then four-year-old, the novelty factor, a schedule, and some house related cleaning jobs were just enough to keep us busy and entertained. 

But as school returned in early February, COVID cases began to rise again. 

Our boys' school seemed to be one of the worst hit, with multiple kids off almost immediately. We avoided contagion for a few weeks, so we joked (and hoped) that perhaps the boys had already had it without knowing. 

This was not the case, and after days when class numbers got to below 10 students, it was no surprise when the two of them tested positive, shortly followed by Jules. 

Our eldest son Toby was symptom free and initially pleased to get a week off school, but our youngest son Leo was feverish.

Leo recovered quickly with Jules not too far behind, and while I am of course grateful for their physical recovery, the pressure this second week at home put on our family was tough.

While isolation one felt strange, isolation two was mostly miserable. 

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Friends still delivered life-giving coffees and treats, but the collective mood was low and made much worse by the wet weather. The boys seemed to put their spare energy into fighting, as Jules and I drank a little too much wine.

There were a lot of 'fun' indoor activities I could have done with them, but after years of COVID anxiety and disruption followed by a recent period of isolation, I simply didn't have the motivation.

Instead Jules and I focussed on just getting the household basics done - like cooking and washing while taking it in turns to be one-on-one with the kids for school work. There was also A LOT of screen time, tea breaks, and escaping out to the shed. 

I worked in the evenings to keep the days free for the kids and we kept up some form of daily exercise, mostly for mental health reasons. But the boredom and frustration at feeling caged up was a lot - for all of us. 

Listen: The Quicky discuss what it's like facing Covid as a parent. Post continues below.

 

When we came out the other side of isolation two last Sunday, it didn’t feel celebratory; it felt flat. 

Aside from the fact that Jules was still in isolation and I had a long list of chores to do with the kids in tow, I felt a sense of unease that this was far from over. 

I also just felt exhausted.

Our lives have been disrupted for years now and my youngest son Leo, who was just three when the pandemic began, cannot remember a time without tests and the threat of COVID hanging over everything.

While two separate seven-day periods of isolation felt like quite enough, many families have had weeks of ongoing isolation or multiple episodes of isolation sprinkled though the last few months, as family members take it in turns to become infected. 

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Karly*, a mum-of-four from NSW, has had three periods of isolation, one lasting 10 days in 2021 where her child was a close contact of a schoolmate who had COVID. Her family have still not all tested positive to COVID. 

"I feel completely broken," she says.

"Isolation is so disruptive to everyone. It splits up families, and it means having to take days off work every time. The kids have missed so much school, because nothing stops, even though half the class was away sometimes."

Karly says that during their first bout of isolation, her husband spent time away from the family in order to keep working.

"It’s so incredibly lonely, especially if it’s just you and the kids. There's too much screen time, too much booze and crappy food, and not enough movement. 

"The kids' mental health suffers, because they are stuck with their family 24/7, and that’s okay for us because we all get along." 

Going back out into the world is not without its issues either.

"Then there’s the re-entry, which has always left everyone feeling fragile as you get used to being allowed out of the house again.

"A week’s isolation for the whole household seems totally out of step with the lack of public health measures."

Karly is trying to take some positives from her three periods of isolation but feels worried about the future.

"It has shown me the good in people. Those who checked in, dropped off coffee, groceries and meals, or took the dogs for walks. 

"But I’m hearing that lots of people are getting COVID for the second time already and as only two of my four kids have had it, I don’t think there’s any relaxing just yet."

For anyone with kids, relaxing and 'getting back to normal' after isolation while COVID continues to rip through schools feels like a joke.

I don’t have the answers, and while I understand that no one wants COVID patients infecting the elderly or vulnerable by leaving isolation and visiting places they shouldn’t, going for a mental health walk in the fresh air is unlikely to do anyone harm. 

Especially two years into a pandemic when public health measures are very limited and community case numbers are already sky high. 

While I continue to feel uneasy about catching COVID and having to go back into isolation, I hope for now our combined family immunity means we have a short reprieve. 

I'm really going to need to dig deep for isolation number three. 

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Feature Image: Supplied.