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8 things I learned while under quarantine with my kids.

9 May

Whooping cough put my family and I under house arrest for five, incredible days.

Me and the kids

For the past five days my children and I have been under self-imposed quarantine at home, due to whooping cough. My eldest son Philip tested positive to the disease. He contracted it from a friend at school who probably contracted it from another friend, and they from someone else. The alarmingly low rate of vaccination in what is an affluent Sydney suburb means illnesses like whooping cough are more common than ever.

Our doctor assured us that we would be okay. We are fully vaccinated, it was a mild case, however because there had been “confirmed exposure” the proper course of action was for all of use to take antibiotic for five days and avoid mixing with others. I took the responsibility serious, and I’ve had the time of my life.

Here’s 18 things I loved about being under quarantine with my kids.

1. We were freed from the unforgiving school schedule.

Being a school parent is incredibly hard. Unlike the relative freedom of preschool, we have to arrive at a set time and it ends at a set time, making it incredibly hard for both parents to focus on their careers. Not to mention all the stuff that is involved. School uniforms, lunch boxes, drink bottles, sports shoes, homework, reading lists, stalls, open days which parents are expected to attend. It is relentless. I haven’t missed any of it.

2. Our mornings are like a dream sequence.

Most mornings I wake up to a series of alarms designed to get me out of bed at 6am at the latest so we make it to school in time or to our Saturday morning soccer games. The kids wake up to my calls to “get up or we’ll be late”. Not having to do that has been bliss. I’ve learned that my natural wake up time is between 8 and 8.30. The kids naturally wake up around an hour earlier. We’ve been getting up, eating a leisurely breakfast in our pyjamas and eventually getting dressed. It’s been heaven.

3. No guilt.

Normally when I don’t leave the house for a day or two I feel incredibly guilty. I should be doing things, helping others, offering to baby sit nieces, nephews and friends. I should be doing more, doing better. However being under quarantine means the onus isn’t on me. It’s not my laziness or desire for a simpler life that is to blame for our staying at home. It’s because of whooping cough. Guilt-free relaxation. I’ve loved every second of it.

4. Career sacrifices.

I love my work as much as the next person but I’m always astounded by how conflicted I feel when torn between work and my children. There’s always a sacrifice and I always feel really hard done by. Where is the choice? If we choose to work in a traditional job, great. If we don’t want to work long hours, why can’t we not? I think it’s a combination of financial stress, obligation and also our own ambition. I have what many feel is an ideal working arrangement as I am able to work mostly from home. I miss the office though. See? Torn. But not this week. This week I haven’t had a choice between work and uni and my children. They are sick. They win.

Dressups

5. Time with my children.

Having three school-aged children is intense. They are always talking at the same time, needing things at the same time. In the morning time is limited so we all try and talk and cuddle and bond in a mad rush before school drop off. After school we are eager to catch up, all at once. It doesn’t work. There are hurt feeling from them and feelings of inadequacy from me. For the past five days my children and I have talked and talked and talked. We’ve snuggled and watched TV. We’ve wandered around our backyard. We’ve pondered life’s bigger questions. We’ve discussed life and love and food preferences. I’ve learned more about them over the past five days than I have in the past year.

6. Everything is set up for mums to fail.

Society is set up in a way that makes it extremely difficult for mums to have the lives they want. We are constantly having to choose between work and kids and relaxing and housework. And it’s 2015 for crying out loud. I work full time hours due to my work and uni, however the responsibility of the laundry and the housework still falls on me. It’s not my husband’s fault. Yes he could help more, but he works incredibly long hours driving a petrol tanker. He alternates between day and night shift. It is incredibly unforgiving. He’d love to be home more to help me. He just doesn’t have anything left over for us. So I’m left to deal with it. I do the juggle. I get through it, but there is a cost. Always a cost.

7. I am a homebody.

More than ever I realise I am a homebody and I hope my children enjoy our relaxing time together at home. When I was little we were always home and hardly went out. I didn’t always enjoy it because our childhood was a little fraught, so I am taking the parts of my childhood I enjoyed and improving on the rest. We have plenty to keep us happy here. We haven’t touched the kid’s homework or sight words or trombone. We have done whatever we’ve wanted.

8. I want things to change.

Our five days are almost up and I’m frantically trying to figure out my new-found knowledge into our real lives. Is it possible to be this happy and relaxed and rested and still live the lives were were living before whooping cough struck? Can I reorganise our days so we can have this time together, free from stress, and still do the things we enjoy? I’m not so sure, but I won’t stop trying.

Do you sometimes wish your life and you children’s lives were different?

So, my 10-year-old has started drinking coffee.

9 Apr

I can think of worse things to give him.

Philip drinking coffee

My children have always been curious about coffee. To them, it is a magical drink that makes me instantly happy. They’ve grown accustomed to me gasping, “I need coffee”, like a hung-over-twenty-something. Except I’m not hung over. I’m tired and overwhelmed. Coffee has always been about comfort and community to me.

They’ve all tried it and it was pretty funny watching them spit it out and dramatically gag, as though they’d just had a mouthful of vinegar. I’ve been the only regular coffee drinker in my home for as long as I can remember (my husband only drinks it occasionally) and I’ve been pretty happy with that state of affairs.

Philip is ten and he has been a tea drinker for years. After I put the little ones to bed each night, Philip and I have a cup of tea (a weak one for him) and chat or play Scrabble for half an hour before he too goes to bed. He took me by surprise this week when he asked for coffee instead of tea.

“It smells nice to me now. I think I’ll like it.”

So we had the ‘coffee chat’, about how it keeps you awake and a couple a day is enough, preferably before lunchtime.

“Can I have coffee tomorrow morning then?”

“Okay, but just a weak one,” I said. He is turning 11 in a week. #growing too fast.

Coffee fixes everything

The next morning we were running late for Tennis Camp so we didn’t get a chance to even have breakfast let alone make coffee but after Tennis Camp I suggested we go to a cafe for a snack.

“And can I have coffee,” he asked.

“Sure.” I mean, why not? To me, coffee for kids is much better than, say, Fanta or Coke In fact coffee has been proven to have health benefits – as long as it isn’t covered in whipped cream and caramel sauce – and I’ve been drinking it all my life. Coming from an Italian background I was always free to have a sip of wine or a bit of milky coffee.

I ordered him a weak cappuccino and a skim one for myself. He really really enjoyed it.

Now, my 10-almost-11-year-old is a coffee drinker and I’m okay with that. I never really had a problem with him having a bit of coffee here and there. I think my momentary struggle with it had more to do with how fast he is growing up, how mature he is and how I can now say to him, “Want to grab a coffee?” like I do with my grown up friends.

I’m preparing myself for some startled looks when I order him a coffee from our local cafe. They are used to kids requesting hot chocolates, which in my view are way more unhealthy than coffee.

Do your kids drink coffee? Would you let them if they asked?

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