I remember thinking when the pandemic officially “hit” the United States in March 2020, I would do everything in my power to protect my family from the virus. We quarantined, I foraged to acquire enough wipes and hand sanitizers, hustled to find the most reliable (and cutest) masks for my children, and asked complete strangers to stay at least six feet away from us in public. My husband and I waited anxiously for the vaccine for both adults and kids. When he and I got fully vaccinated, I felt almost invincible and could not wait for my children to have the same protection.
Then, the Delta variant became prevalent. This happened to coincide with when we finally decided to have both our children go back to school. This decision was not taken lightly, and my husband and I oscillated as to what would be best for our kids for many weeks. I could no longer be working from home with both kids at home with us. It was destroying our mental health. With adult vaccinations readily accessible, I assumed it would be safest.
I was wrong. My youngest child—who was in preschool at the time—came down with a fever of 103 degrees late one evening. He proceeded to have this same high fever for three days nonstop. When it finally broke, my oldest child developed similar symptoms. My throat also felt irritated and my husband had painful body aches, so we all got tested just to be sure.
We were all positive for COVID-19.
I remember reading each test result with tears streaming down my face. It was an out-of-body experience because with every notification of us testing positive, I felt ashamed, shocked, terrified, and guilty. I know I am not alone in these sentiments, especially now that our country is in the middle of a surge with the Omicron variant. Below are the lessons I learned from my whole family getting coronavirus.
1. COVID Shame Is Real
When we were all diagnosed with COVID-19, infections were rising, but still many people overall had not tested positive for the virus, especially among young children. I felt deep shame that we tested positive for COVID-19. I didn’t want anyone to know who didn’t need to know. It felt like we had scarlett “C+” letters on our chests, which gave the impression that we tested positive because we were careless, irresponsible anti-vaxxers who deserved to get COVID. No one ever told me these things to my face, but it is what I felt in those first few days of being sick. Most people still do not know that we tested positive for COVID because I want to respect my family’s privacy.
It felt like we had scarlett ‘C+’ letters on our chests which gave the impression that we tested positive because we were careless, irresponsible anti-vaxxers who deserved to get COVID.
As I see the surge happening and people sharing how they managed to avoid COVID for almost two years but now have the virus, I feel some of that shame creep in again. We got sick last year even though we followed all the safety mitigation measures and my husband and I were fully vaccinated. But it felt embarrassing to admit we tested positive for COVID openly. In many ways, it still does feel embarrassing, and that’s OK. We are living in uncharted territory and our feelings are valid.
2. Our Whole Family Getting COVID Doesn’t Make Me a Bad Mom
Mom guilt is already pervasive. Add your entire family getting COVID and the guilt multiplies. I felt like I had let my family down. Turns out, I cannot control it all. I felt deep regret putting my youngest in a school that wasn’t masking preschool kids. I blamed myself for not insisting on the kids wearing masks, including my own. The guilt wasn’t rational, but nonetheless, it felt real. Everyone was saying young kids “aren’t getting or spreading the virus,” so masking them isn’t really necessary. Plus, he was 3 years old and always tore the darn thing off anyway!
When we got COVID, I felt so vulnerable for our kids because they weren’t vaccinated at the time and their bodies are still developing. Nobody really knows what long-term effects COVID can have years from now. I felt I had been reckless in allowing my kids to go back to school during a pandemic. Now, months have gone by, and I completely dismiss all my “could haves, would haves, and should haves” because COVID doesn’t discriminate.
I also forgave myself because I believe my children deserve to be in school, even though there are risks involved despite all school mitigation measures in place. There are inherent risks in our kids being in a public place during times of COVID and that is a harsh reality to accept.
3. Spreading Germs Is Part of Being a Kid
Once the initial shock of being infected with COVID-19 wore off, I also began to shed the shame and guilt of our entire family testing positive because young children are major germ spreaders. Add the pandemic context to a child’s typical behavior and it can make a perfect setting for the virus to spread. Even though we know ways to curb the spread of COVID-19, our children will still lick surfaces, remove their masks, suck their thumbs, and hug each other. Schools can have all the mitigation measures in place, but children will still be children, and that is not a bad thing.
Even though we know ways to curb the spread of COVID-19, our children will still lick surfaces, remove their masks, suck their thumbs, and hug each other… children will still be children, and that is not a bad thing.
What I want people to know is that not only can young children get COVID-19, but they can also spread it. This is how our family all became sick; it was my preschool-age child (patient zero) going to a school without wearing a mask who later brought home coronavirus to all of us. The media hasn’t really portrayed (up until recently) the spread of the virus among kids. It is very much possible. Our family is proof and Omicron is bringing that point home with many more kids currently testing positive.
4. Your True Village Will Show Their True Colors
When your entire family gets sick with coronavirus, you really can’t do much and you are limited to quarantining at home. If you have children, everything is more complicated. And in times of COVID, your village shrinks. We had close family and friends show their generosity and support not just through get-well texts but also through their actions. We had friends deliver food to us, others had Amazon deliver games for my kids to entertain themselves, and a group of friends and family would check in regularly to ask how we were doing. All these actions were very much appreciated.
At the same time, there were family members who were silent. They did not offer any assistance (even remotely) and frankly didn’t show much sympathy. It’s hard not to remember who those people are because I assumed our entire family testing positive for COVID-19 would inspire an army of friends and family to help us. I was wrong about this assumption. However, we are forever grateful to those individuals who stepped up when we were down.
5. It’s All About Survival, So No Rules Apply
It’s never easy when our kids are sick, but when you are also sick, it’s a terrible situation for all parties involved. My kids are still young and very dependent on us for everything. They were very needy and I felt like I had been hit by a truck, but no one could come and help us. So we did all the “survival” things to make our lives easier and I am so glad we lowered our expectations.
When we tested positive, we were told to quarantine for 10 days. That’s a long time when you’re feeling sick and your little ones are too. Cabin fever creeps in on day two of being inside and feeling sluggish.
Our goal every day was to survive and get better. This meant having the TV on all day, eating junk food or food delivery, and letting the house become a mess. I did not have the energy to do anything but sleep on the couch. Any bits of energy I did have I invested in caring for my children.
My advice for any parents going through the same thing: Don’t feel guilty if your world looks like it was turned upside down. It actually was, so accept the chaos.
6. Kids React Differently to COVID than Adults
Before I proceed, I am not a medical professional nor an infectious disease expert. Every kid is different and, therefore, will be affected by the virus in a variety of ways. I am just a mom whose kids tested positive for coronavirus at the same time my husband and I did. While both our kids had a fever for three days, they hardly looked listless and seemed to bounce right back to normal after three days. Some kids, we know, are more seriously affected, and COVID should always be taken seriously.
My husband and I had a very different reaction to COVID than our kids. We believe we were infected with the Delta variant and it hit me and my husband very hard. COVID is not just a “bad cold.” We were exhausted and full of many symptoms for five days—we then had another week of extreme exhaustion and months of not having our sense of taste and smell. However, as we dealt with all these symptoms, we had to also take care of our kids at the same time.
It was brutal because they did not act sick at all after day three and, in fact, were bouncing off the walls. Meanwhile, my husband and I could barely drag ourselves out of bed. I recall feeling a sense of relief at their resiliency, but it made it extremely challenging to then care for them while we struggled with our symptoms.
The current Omicron surge reminds me of how lucky we are that we survived that period when we all got COVID. We are blessed because of the vaccine, the grace from God, our doctors, and pure luck. I cannot wait for all of this to be a distant memory, but for now, my advice is to be safe, get vaccinated, and take the virus seriously. Having our whole family test positive for COVID has shown me how important compassion, empathy, and kindness truly are. If someone you know has tested positive for coronavirus, whether it’s the adults or the children, get on the phone and reach out right away. They would welcome hearing from you. Oh, and delivering some food would be a nice gesture, too!