life Planners


January 6, 2021


Michelle Obama’s Becoming. I find this a lovely way to start the day (except today because I slept in). It feels like I am reading the journal of a friend. A brilliant and inspirational friend.


Last addition to my 2021 planner stack!

My 5-Year Journal arrived from Finland!!! The tiny shop I ordered from is called Paperimuru. Maybe someday I can see it in person . . .

Unfortunately these appear to be sold out everywhere right now but sometimes they do pop back on Etsy, or maybe Hobonichi will do a reprint.


Childcare. Not going to get into details but it may become somewhat dire. Like as in having to use FMLA dire. Hopefully not. Trying TRYING to take one day at a time and also trying to maintain perspective – having to take leave (even unpaid) would not be the worst thing in the world. We would all survive. And my job would be protected for 12 weeks, I believe. So at the end of the day — perspective. We would survive. I am glad we have ramped up our savings and emergency fund.


Running outside!!! My diagnosis was 12/30 so counting down those quarantine days. As a safe alternative, I did start using our treadmill (in our garage) and having the AirPods with then sound cancelling (and not having to balance my phone on the ledge with headphones!) make the entire experience SOOO much more pleasant than it used to be.


Wide vaccine distribution. Things are bad. They really are. This seems like the only answer. I hope things can be ramped up ASAP. (I found out that I’m likely not going to be able to get my dose #2 on time due to having COVID but will restart in 90 days as soon as I am allowed!).


My kids’ teachers. They have amazing teachers, especially this year. I have been peaking in on Annabel and her (online) class seems to be engaged and having fun almost nonstop, and C’s teacher is firm but very very patient (which is . . . what he needs). I am so impressed with the level of patience and calm I see both of them bring to their classes each morning.


  • Reply Michelle January 6, 2021 at 7:55 am

    Wait so you can qualify for FMLA this year? I thought the CARES act was only until last December? If it was extended, that is great news!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 6, 2021 at 8:07 am

      If I have kids persistently testing positive preventing them from other childcare avenues was thinking that would qualify? Fmla as in job protection only, not payment of any kind.

      • Reply Ali January 6, 2021 at 8:29 am

        So, so sorry about your childcare stress. I have been there, and it is miserable. Good luck! Hoping that things resolve quickly and you find a solution that works for all.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 6, 2021 at 8:13 am

      You are right though. This is a gray area as they are positive but not truly sick …

      It would be really sad to lose my job. I hope that doesn’t happen.

      • Reply Alyce January 6, 2021 at 8:26 am

        If they continue to test positive it may be considered a health issue and regular FMLA – not the CARES Act version – may still apply here. Though that may be a stretch.

      • Reply KGC January 6, 2021 at 8:41 am

        Sarah, has your employer given additional “covid time” off? Mine (large academic university) has and is actively working with people I situations like yours where they either need to be home or quarantine related to themselves or their children. This is additional PTO only available under certain circumstances. I wonder if that’s an option and could buy you a few weeks since I agree that you are likely in a grey area with FMLA and whether to qualify might be at your employer’s discretion.

      • Reply Jackie January 6, 2021 at 9:01 am

        Your schools insistence on a negative test is rather absurd and against all given advice from the cdc and other organizations.

        I’m as Covid careful as they come- I go to work at a hospital daily, but we pulled our 3 year old out of day care and my son is full virtual 3rd grade. My husband can work from home and we’ve essentially been doing opposite shifts.

        I would push them back hard on that. Print out all the cdc guidelines, etc and send them a firm email about how your children should be allowed back in school.

        Or look for another school. This borders on discrimination for a medical issue. Your children have passed the cdc required 10
        Days since a positive test and are allowed back into the world. That applies to school also.

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 6, 2021 at 9:04 am

          It’s actually both the private and the public Broward (though the latter said sometimes they are “flexible” in some cases I assume if positives lasting months)

        • Reply Gillian January 6, 2021 at 10:52 am

          We are dealing with a similar issue with our nursery school. They want negative tests for kids AND family for a child to return after a covid diagnosis in the household. Could effectively mean a 2-5 year old could be out of school for the rest of the year. Unlike SHU’s situation, this is NOT the case at our public school where negative testing is not required.

          It is actually not recommended to retest for any reason for 90 days and given the shortage of tests in some areas I could see it being difficulty to get someone to test your kid to get them back into school too.

          We are also pretty careful, but parents at our school are working to push back so the nursery school is following the local public school guidelines. Ugh!

  • Reply Anna Marks January 6, 2021 at 8:44 am

    Thank you for sharing, Sarah. I love that you keep things real. By the way, what episode of Mom Hour are you on? I would love to listen.

    • Reply Amanda January 6, 2021 at 9:32 am It’s a great episode! The two Sarahs have such an engaging and energetic conversation.

      • Reply Anna January 7, 2021 at 8:09 am

        Thanks, Amanda!

  • Reply gwinne January 6, 2021 at 8:46 am

    I’m so sorry to hear about the childcare crisis. My own primary care doc sends her elementary school kids to a city-based “daycare” (they usually provide before and after care); that wouldn’t help, though, if her kids actually got COVID. This is such a national level crisis of childcare. I have much more to say but don’t want to write a novel here, just express solidarity and frustration that it’s come to this.

    It took me a long time to get into Becoming (I needed to start with the audio) but once I did I highly enjoyed. Conversely, I’m reading Pres. Obama’s memoir The Promised Land and dove right in….and half way through I’ve stopped. I think it will improve once he’s out of narrating a major summit. LOL.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 6, 2021 at 8:50 am

      Yeah the issue isn’t lack of options … it’s the positive tests. Even though cdc says they are very very unlikely to be carrying any transmissable virus at this point.

      • Reply Heather January 6, 2021 at 9:00 am

        Can you discuss this with your school? Obviously they are doing their best to keep everyone safe but their guidance is incorrect. Your children are recovered and actually are probably safer to be around because they’ll carry immunity for a while. Put on your best “patient educator” hat and see where you can get?

  • Reply Sam January 6, 2021 at 9:01 am

    This sounds so challenging, but it seems like you’re focusing on what you can control. Thinking good thoughts, and hoping things resolve themselves soon. FMLA and leaves are confusing, so hopefully there’s someone at work who can sit down with you to help.

  • Reply Rachel January 6, 2021 at 9:04 am

    Is your nanny coming as well or are you waiting longer to have her back? Hugs. Sounds so stressful and you’re a Rockstar for trying to stay so positive.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 6, 2021 at 9:16 am

      she’s not able to come back yet. hopefully soon but we don’t know.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa’s Yarns January 6, 2021 at 9:13 am

    Fingers crossed your tests are negative. That is such a tough situation. Thinking of you guys!! Totally get why you are panicking a bit. It would be horrible to lose your job so hopefully it doesn’t come to that and your work place would work with you on this.

  • Reply Katie January 6, 2021 at 9:16 am

    I would think this would qualify for FMLA. I took the full 12 weeks of FMLA leave (intermittant) in 2013 and 2014 to take care of a sick child (have also done baby having FMLA in 2012 and 2015). The child’s doctor fills out the form and I submitted it with no problems or questions asked (my company used a third party administrator). I suggest only answering the questions asked and not providing info that could lead to a seemingly unfair denial.

    I realize my experience was different but my employer was most concerned that firms were filled out properly rather than the nature if the illness.

    Good luck!

    • Reply Katie January 6, 2021 at 10:29 am

      Also, if FMLA doesn’t work, do you have access to Bright Horizons thru work? Or could you find temporary help to watch the kids, even if it means taking a hodgepodge of days off? Just to stretch out your PTO? I realize that adds in another person to your pod, but if you disclose the situation, I would think you could find someone… fingers crossed and sending good vibes!

  • Reply Alex January 6, 2021 at 9:33 am

    I think this would qualify for unpaid FMLA. However, is a temporary nanny possible? Once you are all well past your isolation days. I would think one benefit of the whole family having covid is that you can be reasonably sure that you have some level of antibodies, and can be a little bit less careful about additional exposure with a temporary nanny?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 6, 2021 at 9:41 am

      If I can get someone to agree to come when the schools are treating the kids as potentially contagious!

      I’m not worried about exposure to our fam at this point- we should be at a peak of immunity at least temporarily!

      • Reply Alex January 6, 2021 at 10:16 am

        Good luck! If I were the temporary nanny in question, I would view your family as one of the least risky options given your relative immunity to covid for now. I think it is pretty common knowledge at this point that covid is not contagious for weeks and weeks.

  • Reply Elisabeth January 6, 2021 at 10:13 am

    I work for a large health system as well and they offer up to 6 months/180 days of unpaid personal leave. Does your employer not have something like this? I unfortunately have used my 12 weeks of FMLA and all 6 months of my personal leave this year due to multiple surgeries for a torn Achilles tendon (and am looking at my next surgery. Ahhhhhh). My employer has been fantastic and actually have extended the 180 days to basically whatever I need (case by case basis). I’m so grateful for a good job in healthcare right now, even while working with COVID specimens during a pandemic. I hope that maybe your system has a similar option you could investigate.

    I sure hope that the kids have negative tests very soon and you don’t have to go there, but also hope you can find a good option if not!

  • Reply Ana January 6, 2021 at 10:15 am

    Our kids were home for an extended quarantine because my husband and I both had covid. We were able to hire a sitter who had already had covid (through to cover their quarantine period. Perhaps that could work for you?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 6, 2021 at 10:18 am

      This gives me hope!

  • Reply CBS January 6, 2021 at 10:34 am

    Yikes, what a mess! Hopefully FMLA / your institution will work with you. Surely losing a doctor, particularly one in a leadership role, at a time when hiring must be incredibly difficult, would be incredibly short-sighted. I’m trying to negotiate a part-time furlough at the moment, as nursery is closed for the foreseeable, and it’s awful. Just feels like the system is set up for 1950s families who have a mom at home. They are saying it’s all or nothing, which career-wise would not be great.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 6, 2021 at 10:42 am

      Agh, that is so hard! It honestly does feel like another era. I really hope you can figure something out. This has to be impacting so many people in the UK!

    • Reply Perfectly Cromulent Name January 6, 2021 at 10:46 am

      Right? Even pre-Covid, it feels like everything in US society is set up around the idea that there is someone at home to take care of things, and that is not the reality anymore for so many people!

      I’m sure that this would be FMLA-able, but it might also be worth looking into all of your hiring paperwork/HR stuff to see if there is anything else you could exhaust first. Or even have an informal “what if” chat with someone in HR. If you are in a big system, I bet that this is a conversation they have had a lot this year!

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 6, 2021 at 10:48 am

        yeah, I just asked our practice manager to help me connect with the right people. Need someone to talk me down off the panic ledge i am currently on . . .

        • Reply Mommy Attorney January 6, 2021 at 12:34 pm

          I think the chance that they would terminate a highly trained and valuable MD in the middle of a pandemic for not having childcare are extremely small. Even if legally they can, I seriously doubt they would. No panic. It’s going to be fine. One day at a time. Do what you can and don’t worry about the rest.

  • Reply kate11 January 6, 2021 at 12:32 pm

    Your childcare situation sounds very difficult. I hope you are able to find a solution that works for your family.
    Just for an additional perspective from another part of the country. In your old home of Chapel Hill school has never opened up since it closed last March. 100% virtual 100% of the time for 100% of the children. The childcare struggle is very real (even without a COVID diagnosis) and feels like it has been largely ignored by many even as some of us are starting to approach an entire year without having had any in-person school.

    • Reply gwinne January 6, 2021 at 3:58 pm

      Here too. March 13, 2020 was the kids last day in person.

      I’m a single parent. I have no idea what I would do if I weren’t able to work from home (which thankfully, I can). It’s insanely difficult but at least plausible.

  • Reply Kelly January 6, 2021 at 12:58 pm

    I loved the book Becoming too and I love that new 5 year journal you got! So awesome 🙂
    I really hope the childcare situation is able to be solved in a way that works. I completely agree that our whole system is SO hard for working parents and it’s incredibly frustrating. I do have a few quick thoughts from a teacher/school perspective. The first is that I would not recommend pushing back on the schools desire to have a negative test from your kids. I know you didn’t say you were going to do that but people said in the comments so I wanted to offer a different perspective. Yes, CDC does not say this is not necessary (and I am a believer in science for sure)- but the problem with covid is that there is just SO MUCH we don’t know even scientificially. We think that people aren’t contagious after but do we really know that for an actual fact? So many people are getting covid and not knowing where they got it so to say someone is definitely contagious or not I think is a challenge. I’m sure it’s just my biased thoughts but I feel like the fact that the FIRST thing people want to do is blame the school is really frustrating (again I understand you weren’t doing that). I know a lot of people who have had covid and have made sure they had a negative test before they saw others even if their work didn’t require it. My first thought is different, my first thought is that you talk to your place of work and figure out what your options are on that end. Why are schools always the ones that have to be flexible but never workplaces? I understand you work an essential job, but they must have had someone covering your maternity leaves, right? Or perhaps they could have you do all of your leadership responsibilities from home and have someone cover patients. I don’t know enough about your job to give actual solutions just saying that I would hope they would work with you so that you would still have a job when this nightmare is over. Also, I love reading your thoughts on how your children are individually doing with online school. I have a little boy C’s age and I definitely understand your struggles. I just want to give you permission to let things go a little bit with him. You don’t need to sit by him all day long even if that’s what he needs to do his school stuff to a standard you think is good. Pick a couple of things each day you think it’s really important for him to do and focus on that. If he is actively online with his teacher then she is in charge even if she can’t see exactly what he is doing. You don’t need to be there. Trust me that at school they are not getting 1:1 support either and it’s okay- he will learn all of the first grade material eventually and we are in a pandemic 🙂
    I will be crossing my fingers for you that the kids have negative tests much quicker than expected! My good friend had a negative test less than 2 weeks after her diagnosis.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 6, 2021 at 1:12 pm

      Yes, I was not going to push back in part bc I love the school C and G go to and do not want to create conflict with the administration. And I understand their rationale even if it’s probably very very low risk.

  • Reply Ashley G. January 6, 2021 at 1:51 pm

    I work in HR (manufacturing, not medicine) and childcare has been a huge issue for my company. The bulk of the employees are people who can only do their job in person, but we have yet to terminate anyone because of this. If we are unwilling to terminate someone who we hired off the street with very little relevant skills, the thought of terminating a doctor in a leadership role because of this just seems completely insane/unlikely to me. I have a feeling you can work this out–even if it does involve unpaid leave, but I bet you’ll be able to cobble something else together.

    All this to say, I empathize. We went through 3 nannies last year and had basically zero childcare from March-July. Childcare gaps are unbelievably stressful regardless of the surrounding circumstances. Hang in there.

    • Reply Irene January 6, 2021 at 1:58 pm

      3 nannies! What a nightmare. Child care is SO hard

  • Reply Irene January 6, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    Add me to the list of people who think it is insanely unlikely you will lose your job over this. Ask and ask again for what you need- I am amazed what can be worked out some times. Childcare struggles after COVID is a real thing – it is extremely reasonable to ask for whatever works best for your family including time off if you need it. Good luck!

    I also think that you could very likely find a temp nanny but it seems time consuming. If you don’t have to, maybe you can avoid that.

  • Reply Jessica January 6, 2021 at 2:23 pm

    I think it’s likely that you could find a sitter who would either be comfortable with your current situation, or has had Covid themselves. I’m in California where the numbers are not good, and there are still plenty of sitters and nannies looking for work. Good luck!

  • Reply Coco January 6, 2021 at 3:52 pm

    sorry to hear the situation but you are absolutely right about perspective, it makes a huge difference! I will listen to becoming with this month’s audio credit, after hearing the promised land, I’m intrigued to hear Michelle’s perspective.

  • Reply rose January 6, 2021 at 4:07 pm

    Lovely to read this as it is so normal and grounding when a violent coup attempt is carried on (not happening when you posted) at the federal capitol. It will be interesting to watch, later elected officials trying to disclaim responsibility for their speech and actions. Freedom of speech is not license to incite and still carries responsibility for consequences of speech …. the old adage about screaming fire in a crowded theater…. . But right now, ONCE AGAIN, your blog has provided respite and normal life and encouragement and planners and M. Obama’s wonderful book. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!
    PS: Can you get medical note from official source stating your children are certifiably not contagious and not medically approved for testing at this time due to CDC? And, I think there a WHOLE LOT of people looking for work in your area so you could find LOTS of applicants to be a nanny in your household. Very best wishes!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 6, 2021 at 7:27 pm

      Thank you and oh my god I know. Had no idea how this day was going to play out when I wrote this Am. What a start for the year … heartbreaking.

  • Reply Haley January 6, 2021 at 5:00 pm

    I’m curious about your exercise during Covid. There have been numerous reports about myocarditis, for example, in young/healthy people who have tested positive, both symptomatic and asymptomatic. As someone who runs daily, I’ve been a bit spooked about continuing to run if I get Covid (knock on wood that doesn’t happen!). I think its great that you’ve felt well enough to exercise while sick.

    • Reply Sarah January 6, 2021 at 5:19 pm

      I concur. I am a NP and printed out the recommendations about how to return to exercise after covid. I wanted it in hand just in case. I run 5 days a week but had planned to start back very cautiously if I do get covid due to the myocarditis…which I have diagnosed in 1 of my own patients unfortunately.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 6, 2021 at 6:03 pm

        Omg! I need to do more reading, I admit I just went by how I felt (did not push hard). Keep in mind I had a mild case (maybe thanks to some vaccine protection). But I will look at them now – if I can’t find them I may ask for a link!

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 6, 2021 at 6:59 pm

          Just read a bit about it – did not realize! I will take it even slower for a while then. Maybe just some walking and yoga. Thank you for bringing that to my attention!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 6, 2021 at 7:26 pm

      Thank you for bringing this up – I wasn’t aware how common that is. I will take it easier for next 10+ days.

  • Reply Amanda January 6, 2021 at 7:25 pm

    We are advising young healthy (military members since I’m an active duty doctor) people to avoid all strenuous physical activity for 14 days.
    Also, I vote for posting an ad on Care or wherever you find childcare help. I think people will be very understanding!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 6, 2021 at 7:40 pm

      Thank you!!! I didn’t realize. I’m going to go back to just walking and yoga and will mention it tomorrow as I definitely did not want to encourage anyone to do anything unsafe (and if I didn’t know I’m sure others don’t either!)

  • Reply Eva Lantsoght January 6, 2021 at 9:02 pm

    Oh that’s such a difficult situation!
    Just sending sympathy…. I don’t have much useful thoughts to add to the conversation… I just hope that by having so many families go through such challenging situations, it will become easier in the future to get temporary leaves for care duties.

    (I loved Becoming also, as a sidenote)

  • Reply Donelle January 6, 2021 at 10:58 pm

    We’ve pulled our son out of daycare during the surge in Texas. We’ve found urban sitter to be great for finding short term childcare. If you are open about your positive tests, I wouldn’t be surprised if you find someone whose tested positive too, and maybe even had a job that doesn’t want them back yet for the same reasons. Also, keep in mind that if both you and your husband apply for fmla that’s up to 24 weeks between you both. It doesn’t have to be used all at once and you could alternative childcare and work to extend your leave, while prioritizing work so it’s not all lost for 12 weeks straight. It’s worth reading a bit about what’s protected with fmla I’d you think you’d need to use it and have any really concerns about your job.

  • Reply MBC January 8, 2021 at 8:17 am

    I just wanted to empathize on childcare. We had the rug pulled out from under us at the start of Dec when we found out the daycare our 2 kids had been attending for 4 years would no longer have space for the toddler (due to teacher leaving and no staffing to replace) I *flipped* out. Tears, stress, etc. We just did a month with no childcare alternating who works what day. We have found a new spot and they start next week. It will be ok. you can do it!

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