My 5-year-old daughter was so excited to be able to go and print her photos at Officeworks. My middle child was happily running around the store selecting items he wanted for the beginning of school term. We had just come out of the first pandemic lockdown in Melbourne and they were thrilled to be free. Then my phone rang in the middle of all the chaos: a call I was expecting from the pain clinic. As I explained to the nurse on the other end of the phone how bad I felt—with very intense pain in my right eye—I broke down in tears. In public and right in front of my kids. They ran towards me with a pile of things they wanted to purchase and were shocked when they saw me crying so hard. I felt completely exposed, embarrassed and vulnerable. We quickly paid and ran out of there. I always put on a very brave and strong front, particularly around my children because I want them to think that I am like all other mums. I like them to think that I can do everything. That day it was a real effort to get to Officeworks, but I did it for my kids.
The horrific impact of COVID19 has been a point of discussion with family, friends, and colleagues. At a personal level, Corona has given me a feeling of equality for the first in my life. While restrictions are tight in Victoria, I feel secure knowing that we are doing the same thing.
Unfortunately, my medical issues have prevented me from participating in many school programs, functions or social arrangement over the years. I am an outgoing, energetic, and optimistic person, so I must be bowled over in pain if I am not there. I really hate the fact that this happens to me.
The fear of missing out originated when I was a little girl. I was around 8 years old when I found out that I had an auto-immune disease. My parents were so overwhelmed and upset because there was so little information about it. There was no internet in the early 80’s and I don’t even remember if my doctor had a computer in his surgery.
I never wanted to stand out from other kids at school, but my condition led to all sorts of complications for many years to come. I wore daggy glasses because there was not a wide selection of fashion frames like there is today. I remember hiding with my arms around my head in the classroom. Living with an overly complicated eye condition meant that I was at ophthalmologists frequently and I did miss out on school. I needed to be resilient and courageous.
I developed a positive attitude from the outset. I live my life with gratitude and optimism. I try to maintain a positive, glass half full attitude and this is what I try and teach to my children who are 12, 10.5 and 5 years old. The kids are aware that I have a few medical issues and know that I will always be there whenever I can. I am an involved mum during the week, and I handball over to my husband on the weekend for some of the rosters or the sporting activities. I enjoy being the designated driver for my 12-year-old daughter’s roster and hearing their banter. I eavesdrop on my other daughter who is particularly funny when she plays with her friends from school, impersonating an American accent. I love to hear the banging of the football repeatedly on the glass doors that are in our kitchen area.
I am fortunate that my husband is always involved and available to take our 2 older kids to their weekend basketball games and my youngest to her swimming lessons. But it makes me feel upset, inadequate, and frustrated that I cannot always be present. I have some of the same regret about the times I have had to cancel a Saturday night out with friends in the last moment or lose tickets to a performance at the Melbourne Theatre Company.
If I ever start to feel a little despondent, I tend to write down my emotions. I never like to burden anyone. It often happens in strange places where I am away from my family and I have the time, privacy, and space to let it all out. I use the notes section of an iPhone to record my feelings. It happened once when I was getting my hair coloured and another time when I was waiting to have a medical procedure.
The outbreak of COVID19 has also forced me to make decisions for myself and my family because of my compromised immune system. It is all connected to my eye problems and has been with me since childhood. The hardest decision I needed to make during the first lockdown was whether to send my daughter to kindergarten. I kept her at home for six weeks as I thought that was the best way of minimising the risk for myself and my family. At that stage, we knew little about the virus and there was a lot of anxiety and uncertainty in the air. My daughter actually loved spending time at home with me as I taught her some Hebrew, she zoomed her friends, we painted, had lunch together, we baked, she watched some of her favourite shows and we scooted the streets. According to her, life was great. For me, I loved every minute we were together, but it broke my heart when we Zoomed into her class that she was one of the few kids missing out on the amazing program.
The other issue was and still is that I need to explain to my older kids how important it is to practise social distancing when they exercise with a friend. Not only because of government regulations. I reiterate that if I were to get Corona, it would be profoundly serious. I hate the fact that because of my own health issues, my kids need to be extra careful. I never want my kids to miss out in life due to my own medical predicament. That just feels all wrong.
Everyone across the globe has been disadvantaged by COVID19 lockdown at some level, but the accommodations being made for working and living in isolation have given me access to the outside world like never before. We can use Zoom for meetings, school, webinars, to socialise with friends and to include family in our Shabbat dinners. I can listen to as many interesting lectures and attend meetings via Zoom. As a family, we can watch a movie or even do an exercise class, in the comfort of our home.
I have appreciated the experience of slowing down and knowing that everyone else is doing the same. With no social arrangements or sporting activities to worry about. As a family, we are spending quality time, eating meals together during the week and doing different activities on the weekends. If I feel like taking it easy on a Saturday night, it doesn’t matter because nothing else is going on. When we discuss Corona with our children, we explain that that we have never experienced anything like it in our lifetime.
Unfortunately, COVID 19 will be around for some time but when it does change, there will be ongoing personal challenges. I will look forward to catching up with friends and family and taking the kids to their games and play dates. Maybe I won’t be able to attend all of those events. It takes a lot of work to be brave and optimistic, especially when you know the road ahead is still rocky. Every day I wake up with appreciation. I take one day at a time. It will be ok.