COVID19 life

Life these days

February 4, 2021

I really appreciated Erin‘s post yesterday.

I appreciated her honesty, I appreciated her willingness to speak up in a post about feedback she has received, and I appreciated the fact that she is finding this whole pandemic life hard, particularly in her role as a parent.

I haven’t written much related to COVID lately. This is because . . . well, it’s become so touchy and it just feels overly fraught and stressful to write about. I recognize that we have been very lucky (also, privileged) throughout this pandemic to retain child care. COVID has definitely made our jobs harder/more stressful, but it’s still doable and while I’ve been in contact with COVID+ patients (those identified as such and those untested — I have to presume just based on statistics), I am definitely not along the front lines.

We are in a state that has chosen to open schools this academic year (this includes both public + private), though parents can also choose to keep kids home for virtual learning. FL politics are not necessarily ones I generally align with, but I have felt comfortable sending the kids and have been very grateful to have the option. It seems really sad and backwards to me that in many areas you can go to a bar but still not send your first grader into a classroom to learn (not to mention to allow parents to do their jobs). It also seems very unfair that teachers have not been put on the vaccine priority list in many areas as they are highly essential front-line workers, pivotal to the function of society.

If anyone is curious if we’ve changed our behavior now that we are vaccinated (and had COVID), the answer is no. I still work from home on my non-clinical days, in part for safety and in part because I’ve come to prefer it – fewer interruptions and no commute! On my clinical days (2x/week + on call days), I go to the office + usually have a mix of telehealth and in-person visits because in many cases the patients just need to be evaluated in person (try having a diabetes visit over a spotty internet connection with a translator, and you’d see what I mean. Also, many visits center around growth and home measurements are basically useless). Josh has to work in person and wears an N95/face shield while doing so.

We were sending our children to school before, and we continue to do so. We are not doing any sort of social or family gatherings. We have playdates outdoors only. Cameron is still playing outdoor soccer (our family’s only kid-activity) but we are having him wear a mask. Even if this precaution is not taken by all of the players, at least the coaches are masked and the calculus seems worth it right now. I am trying to decide whether or not a trip to see my sister (just me) would be safe enough to do next month, and quite honestly I’m torn but I also can see that a visitor/helper for a weekend would be really welcome to her right now.

I miss family (as I know everyone else does) but I would not say I am profoundly unhappy or burned out. But I know that this is because of the above factors. I am pretty certain I would be both of those things without school and/or childcare. I’m also fairly certain that without school or childcare I’d have taken leave from my job by now. I mean — I just can’t see any other logical path. But thankfully that hasn’t been something we’ve had to consider.

I also am guessing that if I were an empty nester or pre-kid-SHU in this scenario, I’d be mostly content, as my parents seem to be chugging rather happily along doing their safe daily routines. Though it’s impossible to know for sure and I know some in those situations are feeling very down and impacted by loneliness.

flowers in Feb – taken on a work lunchtime walk


  • Reply Janelle February 4, 2021 at 9:07 am

    You’ve had COVID and the vaccine. Why wouldn’t you go see your sister? I’m honestly curious! Mental Health is so important and it seems like it would be really beneficial for your sister (and you) to see each other.

    • Reply Danielle February 4, 2021 at 9:39 am

      Same question!

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa’s Yarns February 4, 2021 at 9:13 am

    The writing in that post you shared is beautiful. It exhibits the pitfalls of social media. I am glad I don’t ‘have’ to be on social media but recognize it’s part of the income stream/PR for some. I kind of wish we could go back to a world without social media. I don’t think, in total, it’s made our world a better place. There is so much judgment and passive aggressive comments and worst of all, it’s become a way to spread disinformation that has severely damaged our nation. I’m going off social media for lent and am questioning whether to come back on. I will miss seeing pics of friends kids and pets, though.

    We’ve been fortunate to be able to send our son to daycare. We did keep him home for about 13 weeks last year and those weeks were extremely difficult. I’m hoping for fewer gaps in care this year! Our state is prioritizing teachers and daycare providers but of course there is a wait for vaccines as they are getting them alongside our 65+ population. But I am glad they are prioritized.

  • Reply Karen B February 4, 2021 at 9:21 am

    We are doing things pretty much exactly the same as you. In person daycare (thank goodness!), working from home, outdoor playdates and no other activities. Almost everything else has been banned here in western Canada for the past few months, but it is what we were doing the whole pandemic (excpt it a crazy four months without any daycare at the beginning) anyway.

    For my two cents I think you should feel free to go visit your sister. I am expecting a baby in early June and I am totally counting on my vaccinated ICU nurse sister to come and visit if no one else can!

    Thank you for posting even if it is fraught. It is so helpful to read about others going through similar experiences.

  • Reply Alex February 4, 2021 at 10:11 am

    I think you should go see your sister! Isn’t that the point of the vaccines? To allow us to start to function a little more normally?

  • Reply Jordan February 4, 2021 at 10:31 am

    I’m curious if you have plans to see older family members once they’re vaccinated. My 70+ dad gets his second dose of the vaccine today, hooray! It’s hard because my mom is younger (68) but our state isn’t doing 65+ yet so we can’t really see him without precautions until she’s also vaccinated. We do plan to drive to visit my 91 year old grandmother once she is fully vaccinated, in the next month. We’ll continue to be cautious and will likely isolate/test ahead of time, just in case. However, my MIL has had her first dose and when my husband brought up going to visit her once she’s fully vaccinated (also in driving distance) with our two kids who she hasn’t seen for over a year, she said “well the vaccine isn’t 100% effective” which seems insane to me. Is she not going to go back to living her life in some capacity/seeing friends and family? We have been extremely cautious with Covid but at some point it seems like you have to realize that there is a risk to every day life and we’re probably more likely to get in a car accident on the drive there than she is to die of Covid once she’s vaccinated.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 4, 2021 at 10:57 am

      I would but only once the older family members feel comfortable.

  • Reply Irene February 4, 2021 at 11:08 am

    I was not familiar with the blog you linked to, so thanks for sharing.

    It is relentless being isolated at home with young children. I am also fortunate in many ways but the hardest part by far is the worry for my kids, especially the oldest. I was told she needed multiple interventions this year which have been impossible to obtain during the pandemic. And now we are told to be patient and just do our best after being drilled about the necessity of early intervention last year. We still don’t have a final diagnosis. I am trying SO hard but I’m terrified that when we attempt to reenter society it will be even more obvious how much she needed that help. We are in a state with bars (and gambling!!) but no school. I have always been a mama bear for sure but the pandemic as really brought home how much is ultimately up to me. It’s terrifying.

    • Reply Irene February 4, 2021 at 11:09 am

      PS I think you should see your sister if she’s willing!

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 4, 2021 at 11:16 am

        she very much wants me to come! I just seem to fixate on the small chance I’d make her (or baby M) sick even if I wasn’t sick myself from theoretical transmission.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 4, 2021 at 11:14 am

      That sounds so, so hard. And frustrating to not be able to get your daughter the services she needs! I guess you could head into the private sector (for evaluation and/or treatment if possible) but I know that can be prohibitively expensive for many. I’m so sorry you are going through this.

      • Reply Irene February 4, 2021 at 12:54 pm

        We are lucky enough that $ is not a major issue. The biggest issue is her age – we have attempted many things virtually and they just don’t work. Even with providers who she saw and seemed to benefit from pre-pandemic. The behavioral center we were referred to for final diagnosis and put on a waitlist in 2018 is still only doing virtual screening for all non-emergency cases. For various reasons we feel a virtual consultation is completely useless for her. The two experts we already talked to had extremely conflicting opinions so we feel like we need some one to do the full work up and she’s doing well enough while at home that it’s not an emergency. I am proud that we have kept her ok enough and done the best we can with what we have. It’s probably time to get on more waitlists but it’s exhausting and we keep thinking things will change.

        Same with school- for various reasons we think public school with the group of experts she is supposed to have access to via an IEP is the best choice for her ( our experience with private preschool was that they kick out the kids who are different/difficult) and we have been jerked around by our county non-stop – if they had told us flat out there would be no school we would have done something different. Our numbers were very good for significant stretches of time and we kept thinking we would at least go hybrid for kids with IEPs. But no. Nothing!

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 4, 2021 at 12:56 pm

          Oh WOW – that is so, so hard. #*(#$&(@#! I am so frustrated on your behalf just thinking about it!!!

          • Irene February 4, 2021 at 1:47 pm

            Thanks for your kind words. I clearly needed a venting session, that got a little longer than I meant!

  • Reply Caryn Hart February 4, 2021 at 11:27 am

    I am Sarah’s mom and I hope she and her sister can weigh out the risks and decide that it is most likely low risk that she visit her sister, in spite of this article:

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 4, 2021 at 11:29 am

      thanks mom 🙂

  • Reply KGC February 4, 2021 at 11:55 am

    I had a whole conversation with someone about the idea of viewing these risks as a Bayesian problem. Bear with my nerdiness here.

    You start with a prior risk for having COVID and not knowing it, probably based on the population prevalence in your area (obviously you wouldn’t travel to see your sister if you KNEW you were sick, so the prior here is having it and being asymptomatic). You can’t ever make that risk go to zero, but you can reduce it with conditionals: having had COVID reduces your risk by some degree, having had the vaccine reduces your risk by some degree, and testing before you go (if you want) reduces your risk if you get a negative result. None of these things are foolproof, but they all provide some risk reduction. You could probably even find numbers to assign to each of them, if you want. Then you do the Bayesian calculation and you eventually get the posterior probability of having an asymptomatic case that you could pass to your sister and/or niece.

    Even if you don’t assign numbers, you can probably see that once you add in all the conditionals, your risk for being an asymptomatic carrier is likely significantly lower than where you started. So then you and your sister just decide if that reduction is enough to make both of you feel comfortable =) There’s no right answer to that last part (the decision) but at least this might help you frame your thinking about it? Just a suggestion!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 4, 2021 at 12:10 pm

      always enjoy nerdiness 🙂 thank you!

  • Reply Marjorie February 4, 2021 at 12:16 pm

    I am child-free and work from home, and as I work for a fully distributed company (vs. a “remote” company), I’ve worked from home for years. Even those of us who have always worked from home, and who do not have children (I have three dogs) are affected by all of this, albeit to a much, much lesser degree than parents struggling to homeschool + work full-time at home without childcare (or without a partner!). The isolation weighs on you, and worsens the longer the pandemic slogs on. You can’t see family. You can’t see friends. My husband — a frontline healthcare worker — has thankfully received both vaccine doses but remains vigilant because of his constant exposure and continues to wear a mask and socially distant. Since there remains a risk that he’s a carrier — even a small one, and who really knows? The virus is mutating and evolving before the studies can catch up — he continues to change his clothes before he leaves the hospital, pops both his scrubs and street clothes into the washer before he enters the main part of the house, and heads straight to the shower before he even greets me. Even a small risk is too much, considering all that’s unknown about the virus.

    I’m an introvert, as are many of my colleagues, but even the most introverted among us need some kind of regular human interaction to fulfill that basic human need for connection. I miss lingering at coffee shops, eating at restaurants, or just going to the library and browsing. I miss my extended family. My mother-in-law will turn 80 this year, and although she’s going to be fully vaccinated by then, not everyone in the family will be, and we’re not sure we’ll be able to go home to visit them. (They live in a different state.)

    I love that you’re making the best decisions from careful research and the cost-benefit analysis, and I’m so glad that your kids are able to participate in in-person school as safely as possible. You’re making and will continue to make the best decisions for your family, and I salute you for that!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 4, 2021 at 12:28 pm

      Thank you for sharing your perspective – it’s absolutely true that while there are gradations, this pandemic is hard for nearly everyone (if not everyone!) in some facet. I hope you and your husband are able to stay healthy and that you are not too far from a vaccine dose!

  • Reply Susan February 4, 2021 at 1:15 pm

    Sarah, as always, I really value this post and you sharing your thoughts and feelings. For what it’s worth (and it’s not worth a whole lot, as I am not a medical professional/healthcare worker or in any scientific field), I would vote in favor of visiting your sister, with the mental health/joy benefits (for you but also for your sister!) outweighing what (the medical podcasts I’ve been listening to and articles I’ve been reading) seems to be a fairly low risk of transmission. I have an 8-month-old baby boy and would love to have my (vaccinated) relatives come visit for a bit! My sweet son is an absolute joy, and even with that brightness during this otherwise hard time, I am really finding the pandemic fatigue and weariness has crept in and settled in sort of a cloud around me and my husband. Maybe it’s partly a February thing? Or maybe a February-in-the-mid-Atlantic (we’re in Maryland) thing? I also think the lack of a solid support network because of the pandemic certainly exacerbates the issue at present. We have a wonderful nanny, but no family nearby at this time (my in-laws spend the winter in Florida, and my parents are in Toronto), so we are “on” full-time on the weekends and evenings. There’s no real opportunity to just take some time for ourselves, as I would suggest to a friend in the same boat! I am (perhaps unwisely/too optimistically) putting a lot of hope in us being able to get the vaccine at some point before our baby’s first birthday at the end of May. Don’t know why I’ve picked that date as my hopeful goal–maybe just so I can have a tangible timeframe that is somewhat realistic (and also because I’m holding out hope that I will be able to breastfeed long enough to give my son the antibodies from getting the vaccine) 🙂

    Allll of that said (whew! Guess I needed to verbalize my feelings more than I realized!), I also have a quick question for you: I know you’ve spoken of your love of Magnatiles in the past. Do you think they would be age-appropriate for a (fairly precocious, I think?) 8-month-old? I’d love to get a toy that will hold his attention a little longer (ha! I can dream, right?) and introduce something new and fun for our nanny, who I’m sure by now is getting tired of the toys we already have and have been rotating through! Thanks!

    • Reply Marina February 4, 2021 at 4:17 pm

      Not Sarah but I found that my kids didn’t really get into magnatiles until they were around 18 months, and really didn’t build with them until after age 2. An 8 month old will probably just put it in his mouth, which is why they recommend against it for babies, as they could potentially swallow the magnets.

      • Reply Susan February 4, 2021 at 4:26 pm

        Thank you! That’s very helpful.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 4, 2021 at 4:51 pm

      Agree with above! I actually bought a Magnatiles set for my niece and she is not quiiiitte ready (she just turned 1). If you want to buy a nice gift, I’d go with something aimed at a younger set by Hape toys – they make so many cute durable wooden things and you can search by age:

      • Reply Susan February 5, 2021 at 9:00 am

        Thank you so much!

  • Reply Marina February 4, 2021 at 4:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing that article, Sarah, and your thoughts. I have two small kids (almost 2.5 and 5), who have been back in daycare since July and it’s hard. They are sent home for every illness and there is always a worry of being sent home for a possible Covid exposure. The anxiety about uncertain childcare is hard. I hope things are better by this summer but I know this prolonged stress will have an effect on parents (and non-parents, but particularly doing the impossible task of juggling two jobs at the same time) for a while.

  • Reply Taryn February 4, 2021 at 4:35 pm

    Things are very difficult here, as we are basically “locked up.” My kids go to school 2 half-days per week and that’s it. They are both in elementary school and the virtual school thing is wearing on us all. I work outside the home and my husband works from home, so all of this falls on him. Our state has a democrat for a governor, which seems to be the main reason we are “locked up” so tight. My parents live in Florida, and they told us kids are going to school full-time down there. It’s just infuriating to me. I don’t understand how politics has become such a strong thing with the pandemic. It’s like the virus is only impacting certain states? To your point, if you can get on an airplane and sit next to strangers, why can’t we figure out how to get our kids back in school?!

  • Reply gwinne February 4, 2021 at 5:40 pm

    Interested to hear how you navigate your post-vaccine world as well!

    I do wonder how transmission will change moving forward…

  • Reply Shelly February 4, 2021 at 8:02 pm

    Yes calculating all the risks is tough! I appreciate your honestly and openness. Our young son (12) had mild symptoms after participating in a kids vaccine trial. So we sent him back to middle school in person in Jan. But our state has had very high cases and the number of kids on quarantine at his school is alarming. At one point half of some classes were on quarantine. I have started to question the decision to send him back because we don’t know for sure about transmission after vaccination. My husband was vaccinated but I am not. My oldest is in high school and is still remote learning with asthma and also not vaccinated. We have seen kids that are on quarantine from school showing up at outdoor club sports practice, which is frustrating along with the pace of vaccination. I was super grateful when my older son decided not to attend (on his own) a sports meet that required an overnight stay with the school team. The details how they were going to eat safely and travel via bus even with their own hotel rooms was stressing me out.

  • Reply Catherine February 5, 2021 at 6:47 pm

    My 13 year old son is under the care of a person endo in NYC and we’re in Maryland. It’s for growth (I think I’ve commented before. He has RSS). Your comment about the home measurements being useless made me laugh. The last 3 quarterly appointments have been virtual. I’m convinced each of the measurements are crap even with the endo supervising while we take it. I’m hoping she can see out of state patients by his June appointment.

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