Parenting Work


December 22, 2021


Annabel thoughtfully filled out our whiteboard. Plans did not come to fruition. “Both off” also erroneous wishful thinking.

Well. My plan is not working out very well.

Annabel woke up yesterday with a sore throat + cough, and we have received four notifications of kids testing positive in her class over the past few days, including her closest friend at school (who is vaccinated). Apparently Friday’s class party may have been a bit of a superspreader event.

Yesterday morning, I did a home rapid test on her and thought perhaps I saw a faint second line, so I assumed she had COVID and took her for a rapid PCR (CUE). Negative.

I also tested her today (rapid). Negative.

We did not feel we could send them to camp however. I also do not think finding childcare is realistic given the circumstances.

SO Josh and I split the day and cancelled every non-urgent outpatient visit (which is fine for now, but ultimately bad because we will have to fit them all in at some point). Today he is doing 2 cases and then coming home so I can go to the hospital. That sounds so calm but there has been crying, stress, and I truly feel panicked and hopeless. I have no patience left for the kids. I have sick patients in the hospital and being half-available does not feel like enough.

All 3 kids have PCR test appointments today. If still negative, I guess I will assume A probably has something else (G did have mild URI symptoms previously, with multiple negative rapid COVID tests). And maybe just maybe if she fully recovers the kids could go to camp next week. This holiday weekend is still going to be a mess though.

Mark my words: I am never doing a week of call without nanny coverage OR Josh entirely OFF the whole time ever again, at least until the kids are old enough to be left alone.

(The reason he is not off entirely right now is that he is in a group of 3 and when one has a holiday week off, the other two have to cover. He forfeited his holiday week off this year because of our covid fiasco LAST year. So, yeah.)

The only comfort is the classic medical adage “They can’t stop the passage of time.” IE: this stressful week will end. 6 days is 6 days, even if it sucks.


  • Reply Emily December 22, 2021 at 8:33 am

    Agh Sarah I’m sorry! This is so tough. I’m glad at least it doesn’t sound like your kids are too sick. Fingers crossed the rest of the week is smoother.

    (also just fyi there is something up with this blog post at least for me – I couldn’t find a link to click into it except on the gray box as an image placeholder on the righthand side. Your blog is a necessary part of my day though so I made sure to find a way to the post!)

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger December 22, 2021 at 8:40 am

      yes true – at least they are okay!!! most important.

  • Reply Mrs. Candid December 22, 2021 at 8:39 am

    So sorry to know about the turn of events 😕 hope A recovers soon and the rest of the week turns out alright.
    I got the blog post notification through email, but yes, like Emily mentioned, it’s not visible from your homepage.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger December 22, 2021 at 8:40 am

      I think I fixed it – thank you for letting me know.

  • Reply Heather December 22, 2021 at 9:06 am

    Pre-COVID, I always prided myself on being able to handle the balance of my demanding job and being a mother (while recognizing that the privilege to afford quality childcare was part of that). Early spring 2020, when daycare and school were closed and I had to work full time from home while splitting childcare and home-teaching duties with my husband, was a complete nightmare. I am really triggered (for lack of a better word) by situations such as what you’re going through right now. It’s like the precarious balance that you’ve worked so hard to establish just goes tumbling down and you feel like you’re not good at *anything*. All this to say I sympathize and you’re going to make it through. One day at at time, one foot in front of the other.

  • Reply KGC December 22, 2021 at 9:30 am

    Ugh, I am so sorry. Solidarity. I love your outlook on time – it goes on, no matter what. This WILL end for you. I’m just impressed you’ve been able to get so many tests for your kids!!!

    We managed to make it 21 months but finally had a daycare exposure (Monday) and so both kids are in quarantine (my oldest is vaxxed but our area is changing rules and even vaxxed people are now recommended to quarantine). The lack of childcare is frustrating but I don’t have a patient-facing role so it’s doable (though 100% on me – my husband’s job is not as flexible). My big issue is there is NO test availability. Anywhere. Even if (when?) my kids develop symptoms, there will be no way to confirm whether they have COVID or not or test out of quarantine prior to 14 days. There are no at-home tests available anywhere (I spent several hours driving to locations yesterday to check and have scoured the internet) and none of the urgent cares or mass testing sites have availability within one week and most won’t schedule farther out than that. The walk-up lines for testing involve a 3-4 hour wait, which I’m unwilling to do in 30-degree weather with a 2yo and 5yo. I have been on hold with my employer’s covid line (I can likely get testing for myself through the hospital I work for) for a full 90 minutes and counting this morning and that’s just to talk to someone, let alone actually figure out if I can get tested. It is SO SO SO frustrating. Nearly two years in and how are we still here?!?!!?

    (and perhaps the more frustrating part is that I’m more worked up about all of the STUFF and disruption and guidelines and testing than I am about the illness itself – and I suspect the same goes for you based on what you’ve written before and your personal experience with COVID. The likelihood of a bad outcome is low, statistically, but the feeling of paralysis and not being able to figure out even how to move forward is nearly unbearable)

    Hugs to all. This sucks.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger December 22, 2021 at 9:37 am

      Yes to all. It sucks. Testing here is hard but not impossible. I have a test coming to our house (service called beeperMD) that I booked 5 days ago after her exposure. Our area also has a special site for school kids only – that’s where I took A yesterday and the wait was not bad. That could change though. I am rationing the few home tests I have left – gah!

      • Reply KGC December 22, 2021 at 9:58 am

        Ooh, that sounds like an awesome service. I haven’t heard of anything like that around here (I’m in MD). My neighbor and I were joking that we should have bought home tests in bulk last week and sold them as a side hustle. We’d be the most popular people! (kidding, of course. I’d give them away if I could). I did manage to score two appointments for next week so at least there’s that.

        Our area has so far managed to ride things out fairly well over the past many months and so the current surge has caught everyone off-guard. I know others have already gone through what is hitting us now. It’s all new to me and it’s terrible. Best of luck that everyone on your end stays healthy!!!

        (oh, and I’m still on hold with employee covid line. Two hours and counting!)

        • Reply Catherine December 22, 2021 at 11:34 pm

          Not sure where in MD you are, but rumor has it that Adventist Healthcare Urgent Cares allow for no appointment Covid testing. They are on Montgomery County I’m taking my high school age son an hour before they open tomorrow.

    • Reply Irene December 22, 2021 at 9:57 am

      Sorry if this is weird but I remember from one of your previous comments that we are in the same general area. We went through this a couple days ago when things were not quite so bad but already pretty bad…

      You have probably tried your pediatrician right? Ours has antigen tests but as of yesterday ran out of PCR testing kits. We were able to get in with PM pediatrics but I just looked and saw that they are now requiring a virtual visit first, but maybe you can find one? Try out in the suburbs- that’s where we had luck.

      Agree it is completely nuts here. We are hoarding out last at home test kits and can’t find any more anywhere before a visit to high risk family 🙁

      • Reply KGC December 22, 2021 at 10:00 am

        Yes, I think we might be in the same area! I actually haven’t tried our pediatrician – in the past, they have usually referred us to other testing sites so I didn’t think to try them. Once I get off hold with my employer covid line, I’ll give them a call (though I’m sure they are also inundated!). Most of where I’m looking has been in the suburbs (where we live) with no luck. A quick search on facebook and other groups tells me that everyone is in the same boat so I think there’s just nothing available anywhere =( PM Pediatrics had nothing when I checked yesterday but will keep trying!

    • Reply Tara B December 22, 2021 at 4:23 pm

      Although not immediate, Labcorp makes a mail in test that they ship to you called the Pixel. Usually if you order it it’ll ship next day and you can get it picked up same day of swap if you plan accordingly. Results come back within 2 days

  • Reply Taryn December 22, 2021 at 9:37 am

    Really sorry to hear about this, Sarah. It sounds so stressful, but you’ll get through it!

  • Reply Connie C December 22, 2021 at 9:47 am


    My boys are 25, 22 and 22 but I so remember the pure panic I felt when all the plans went awry.

  • Reply Irene December 22, 2021 at 10:00 am

    Was reflecting this morning how my telework agreement pre-pandemic specified I would have childcare for all time I worked remotely. Sure we occasionally called in to vital meetings but generally it was kids home, we are off. It still boggles my mind how that is pretty much gone. People really seem to think you can put a 3 year old in front of the tv and work all day.

    Anyway I am so so sorry. I can not imagine the stress.

    • Reply Amy December 22, 2021 at 12:05 pm

      That’s nuts to me too — it’s (usually) not possible to do both effectively and leaving kids in front of the TV all day is not a solution.

  • Reply Megan Ray December 22, 2021 at 10:05 am

    There is no one more uniquely qualified to put this all into perspective for yourself when you look back on it, Sarah. You are excellent at figuring out how to manage the sticky points and I take a great deal of encouragement from how you hack through these XXXXty circumstances. YOU’VE GOT THIS, WOMAN.

  • Reply Omdg December 22, 2021 at 11:31 am

    Sometimes “balance” means not going to work even though the hospital needs/wants you to. That’s just how it is sometimes. Try not to feel guilty. I know it’s hard.

    • Reply Amy December 22, 2021 at 12:06 pm


      Hang in there! You have a great outlook on everything, try to stay relaxed. It will be okay.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger December 22, 2021 at 12:08 pm

      You are right, no one will be harmed by my late arrival to round today. But I still hate it!

    • Reply Jenn N December 22, 2021 at 1:14 pm

      @OMDG This is so random but I used to occasionally check your blog and now it says I need permission! Are you still blogging?

      • Reply Omdg December 22, 2021 at 1:51 pm

        Not blogging at the moment. Maybe will again in 8m or so?

        • Reply rose December 22, 2021 at 10:02 pm

          Hope you will blog again. I too miss your voice and blog but in no way want to pressure you. Hope you and family are all ok and that you world is, and remains, a bubble of good health. (Hope this is true for all who write & read here.)
          Wishing all here a healthy peaceful year end and a healthier more joyous new year. We all need this so much.

  • Reply Diane C. December 22, 2021 at 12:28 pm

    Oh this sounds like such a hard and stressful balance!
    Your post made me realize that I’m lucky (?) that my job is not one where people rely on me for their health and well being, so I can take time off when I need to and the dominos won’t keep falling.
    It must be so hard as a physician to balance patient needs with your personal/family needs. Out of curiosity, as a thought exercise, what do you think would be an ideal system for healthcare providers to be able to feel like they can balance professional and personal crises in a way so that doesn’t feel like they’re “half available”? Do you think the solutions lie in better child care or in a different workplace structures? Or…? Or maybe it’s the nature of the work to feel constantly invested in many different directions? (Or maybe just the nature of being a working caregiver? Or just a working human?)

  • Reply Keren December 22, 2021 at 1:12 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear this. I hope the rest of your week will be less stressful .Wishing you and your family good health.

  • Reply Emily December 22, 2021 at 1:43 pm

    Sara, need your advice. Our longtime nanny is vaxxed, not yet boosted. Her vaxxed son lives in her home and just tested positive. Nanny had a negative rapid test and is wearing a mask. Can she test to stay at work, or send her home? If the latter, when can she return to work?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger December 22, 2021 at 2:39 pm

      Ooh – I’m going to defer to local guidelines (cannot dispense medical advice here!).

      I would not have our nanny work in that scenario personally, but I’m not sure what the “official” answer is.

    • Reply Ali December 22, 2021 at 4:21 pm

      Hey Emily, I personally had a situation come up similar to that a few weeks ago with myself (pre rise of omicron). I deferred to what was on the cdc site at the time and followed the guidance to mask if exposed post-vaccination. That was a few weeks ago though. I am not a doctor, just someone who wanted to do the right thing. It is hard to know the right thing to do in these situations! Good luck!!

  • Reply A. December 22, 2021 at 2:27 pm

    In my area, close contact with a positive = isolation for 10 days, even with a negative pcr test. Omicron is another ballgame, so restrictions have to be serious. Good luck for the days ahead.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns December 22, 2021 at 2:35 pm

    Ugh, I am so sorry things are not going well. You are doing the best you can and so much of life is out of control right now with covid and such. I am not feeling great so did a rapid at home test this morning and there was a faint pink line. So I went in for a saliva PCR. I feel like I have a sinus infection but I keep hearing about people with similar symptoms that test positive. I am just worn out, though. We do so so so little. Our biggest risk is having our kids in daycare which isn’t optional. The only other thing I’ve done in the last several months is go to a small gathering on Saturday where everyone was vaxxed/boosted. If I have it, it’s going to feel like NOTHING is safe! My kids are healthy and I gave the baby a rapid test on Monday when he had a fever (related to his amoxicillin reaction) and he was negative. I had a false positive PCR back in November so I am telling myself it might happen again, but if it does, those at home tests feel kind of useless. 🙁

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger December 22, 2021 at 2:42 pm

      Im so sorry Lisa – i hope if it is a real positive that you recover very quickly!

  • Reply Sophie December 22, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    Oh no! I can’t believe you’re facing this kind of covid disruption and stress two years in a row- why do these things always seem to happen over the holidays? Anyway thinking of you and the family. Sounds like you are doing your absolute best under the circumstances and that’s all anyone can ask. Hang in there.

  • Reply Ali December 22, 2021 at 4:24 pm

    I am so sorry. No advice here, just a voice of solidarity. The last two years and childcare issues as a result of Covid have brought such stress to my life…it is hard to understand if you aren’t facing something similar. I am sorry. (And preparing myself to be scrambling in January given our local Covid rates.) I really think parents in general have been hung out to dry during all this, and it is frustrating. (I am actually planning on taking a “break” from work in the late spring to just lower my overall stress level for a while. It has been so hard, and I just need a break from the constant juggling and plans changing.)

  • Reply Lauren December 22, 2021 at 5:27 pm

    This is all so hard; I’m so sorry! I feel your stress and wish there was a way to help! You are an amazing human being and this too shall pass – even if the “pass” is hellacious. Peace from a working mom of 3 struggling with you!

  • Reply Lori C December 23, 2021 at 11:11 am

    I’m so sorry. You are right, the time will pass and this will be over. I feel like EVERYONE has COVID or is exposed right now. I feel like the exposure part is almost worse because you are in limbo, can’t plan, and are kind of stuck at home until you feel comfortable that you are negative. Hang in there. Lazy genius whatever you can- order takeout, don’t clean the house, just let life be as easy as you can make it until you get through this!

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