How To Quarantine With Kids

mummy's swear spot

Day 9 of self-isolation. I don’t know what day of the week it is, I can’t remember if I’ve had a shower and my Fitbit thinks I’m unconscious. Welcome to lockdown.

We’re over halfway through quarantine and I’ve picked up a couple of things about this new coronavirus way of living:

The milk of human kindness overfloweth. We had isolation thrust upon us on March 17th, so were one of the first to shut our doors here. Our oldest son coughed through class at 11am, I’d picked up all three boys by 11.30am and by noon everyone  was offering help and supplies. I was – and am – overwhelmed by this and all the other lovely acts by and towards friends and strangers I’ve been seeing on social media.

Was that a cough? It’s an atmosphere of heightened awareness – and suspicion. The cough that got Child 1 sent home mysteriously disappeared once he was safely in front of the Xbox. It resurfaced sporadically for the next five days with no temperature and no unwellness and the rest of us were and are fine, happily. On one hand, I was taking his temperature regularly and actually keeping a written coughometer; on the other hand I was deeply sceptical. Was it Covid-19? We have no way of knowing. But this is not the time to take chances and since we’re all in lockdown now, the fact we’ve done it for a few extra days is neither here nor there.

Isolators can’t be choosers. When you’re relying on kind friends or neighbours to bring you supplies, it’s fine to ask for milk and bread, but you’d feel like a dick asking for star anise. Even if this goes on for two years, we will be OK if we run out of pomegranate molasses. The kids keep throwing open the food cupboard then slamming it shut again in disappointment, but I’m too embarrassed to ask for the amount of chocolate and biscuits we normally eat. We’re down to one Freddo! Those Lindt bunnies I bought for my sisters for Easter back in January (because the white ones always seem to sell out, even in normal times) are in serious danger…

“Is star anise classed as essential?”

Bunnies 2

Your days are numbered, rabbits!

You need a timetable – but be flexible! I had great intentions on Day One. I ended up crying into the fridge with no one an ounce more educated. If your children are school age, and especially if you have more than one, it really helps to write down, preferably on a large bit of paper that everyone can see, what each one needs to do that day. We all benefit from structure, but build in breaks so you can get your WhatsApping done. Competitive home-schooling is a thing already – but you know you’re doing your best and anyway, who’s going to find out if you spent “literacy hour” today trying to get your little one to put some pants on? And in the scale of things, does it really matter if the wheels fell off your home school bus today?

Day 1 of Quarantine

Day 1 of Quarantine

The oven timer is now a school clock. Time flies when you’re self-isolating. I’m setting the timer to keep on top of the day and to make sure we take regular breaks – and, now, for PE with Joe Wicks, even if it was just me doing it this morning.

Walk in zig zags! This is my brilliant plan to up your steps – it takes longer and you look daft, but where have you got to go and who’s going to see you? It’s easy for the day to slip by when you’re out of routine, but trying to fit some exercise in every day, even pacing round your kitchen a few times, really helps with physical and mental health.

It’s like Groundhog Sunday Afternoon. I don’t know about you but before these times, we used to spend Sunday afternoons chasing round the house, hounding the children to complete their various homework tasks, not being able to go out because it was raining and all our friends were doing the same thing. This is like that – every day! But (sometimes) without the hangover.

You need a swear spot. Being with the children all the time is a wonderful chance to enjoy them to the full – and bloody annoying. Add in trying to make all the tech work (ramming HouseParty and all the educational apps I’m being recommended every five seconds onto my already full phone and fixing the printer to run off more Twinkl sheets) and mummy has been caught uttering the odd expletive. I have taken to going outside the back door to get the swears out now and then to keep it clean.

mummy's swear spot

Yes I know they can still hear me…

It doesn’t matter what you wear…or if you run out of deodorant. Usually, I take pride in my appearance, but I’ve already had a couple of days when I can’t remember if it was today I had a shower or yesterday. I’m running low on deodorant, and I consider it a victory that I’ve changed out of PJs every day. Saying that though, for a sense of normality and pride, I’ve decided to sometimes wear my nicest clothes, because I may as well – I’ve got plenty of time to wash them and who knows when I’ll wear them out again.

You’ll live in a ‘quarant-igan’. Whatever you wear, you’ll end up putting the same old cardigan or fleece over the top because it’s blimmin’ cold when you’re inside and not moving around, and you don’t want to put the heating on. I’m worried about our energy use rocketing – I don’t think the toaster is ever cold at the moment.

Quarantigan 2

You’ll run out of something unexpected. However prepared you may have been – and I wasn’t prepared at all – you’ll probably run out of something random. In our case it was sellotape. My youngest developed a sudden mania for sticking as soon as we were locked down and my supplies were inadequate to his needs. It’s not exactly essential so I wouldn’t want someone to make a special trip for it, especially with the new rules, but vexing all the same and hard to predict. Printer paper and ink is the next thing to go, I fear, with all these Twinkl sheets.


Who knew three rolls wouldn’t be enough?

Don’t feed the children at Boris briefing time*. I’m not making a political point here about them being put off their food, but I’ve had enough  “spooning beans absently into a child’s lap while transfixed by the TV” moments to realise it’s better to just admit I have to watch it properly and they can wait (or have it earlier) – with the news firmly off. Also, I nearly always cry at the briefings. It’s all so bloody real and terrifying, even though I’ve been updating the news all day. *I don’t know if the 5pm updates are going to continue – hopefully not as it really messes up teatime!

Try not to show your fear to the kids. Ordinarily, I believe that your children should know when you’re upset to see you are human too, but last night my 7-year-old asked if his friend was going to die, “because he has asthma”. I don’t want to make his fears worse so I’m trying to keep my own inside the fridge door. I watch Newsround with them and answer questions honestly, but I think they need a bit of shielding if possible.

My youngest is convinced I’m going to be affected – as far as he’s concerned, over 40 is the same as being over 70…

You have time for pampering…but what’s the point? Now would be a great time to poke through my ‘special’ basket in the bathroom and use some of the ends of deep conditioners and face crap I’ve bought over the years (some for my wedding. That was in 2006.). I’ve got a cute little bag full of nail varnishes. But I just can’t be arsed. And it feels so irrelevant in this current time.

Drink ain’t doing what it should*. The first night of isolation, I was in shock, so naturally I drank. The second night I drank to de-stress after my first full day in lockdown. The third night to calm my nerves…But if you’re over forty like me, the booze notches up the anxiety – already at fever pitch. If you’re also a “give her a glass and she’ll take the bottle” kind of drinker, like me, drinking every night is not going to help. Especially when 14 days has now turned into indefinitely. *Name that quote and show your age!

The kids weren’t the problem. I’ve realised that, in our family anyway, it’s getting the kids places that causes 90% of the grief, because you’re always interrupting them from doing something they’d much rather do. Getting them to sit down and work has now replaced ‘getting them out of the house’ angst, but at least it doesn’t matter if they forget their book bag – or their trousers. Don’t get me wrong, I would bite your hand off for the world to be back to normal and we could go back to me yelling at them to get out the door to school. But a bit less to-ing and fro-ing makes everything a bit calmer. And that is a good thing for everyone.

I hope you are healthy, coping with lockdown, and have enough loo roll.



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