Family

How We’re Keeping Our Children Safe During COVID

When I look back at my three years of motherhood, it’s sort of shocking to think about the fact that I’ve spent a year-and-a-half of that time navigating a pandemic with an immunocompromised toddler and the last year, caring for a new baby. Today, I’m going to share what we are doing to keep our girls safe during this pandemic. I would normally lead with a disclaimer that says we all have to do what works for us, but the reality is that we should all be masked for those who are at risk and for those who can’t mask / cannot be vaccinated. Perfectly healthy kids are now getting sick. Vaccinated people are getting and spreading the delta variant. 

For those of you who asked what you can do to make families like ours feel safer, thank you for caring about people like us. We are not rare – there are so many people with issues that put them at risk. Since we don’t know who is and who isn’t vaccinated, please wear a mask indoors. I feel so much safer when everyone around me is masked. I become so tense and anxious when I see people unmasked indoors, so much that I don’t really go anywhere anymore. I hate feeling like I’m putting my girls (especially Margot) at risk. 

we should all be masked for those who are at risk and for those who can’t mask / cannot be vaccinated

Everything feels like a calculated risk right now. I am extremely risk-averse and always have been. Any risk could mean ending up in the ER and that is not a chance I’m willing to take. If we were not going through treatment, I still wouldn’t have taken my girls inside anywhere without masks on, and I would not be at any gatherings where someone might not be vaccinated. Indoor dining, flying, weddings, etc. all go far beyond my comfort level. For a while, I understood how some people felt safe doing those things but given how bad things are right now, it seems very dangerous. 

I felt a little more comfortable after getting vaccinated last spring and would do a few masked things inside, like pilates, errands, and eventually, a manicure, but when the mask mandate was lifted, that no longer felt safe.  Once people were out unmasked, I found myself feeling extremely anxious knowing not all of them were vaccinated. 

At this point, we will not see any adults who are unvaccinated and we do not have anyone who is not living the way we are inside of our home. I suppose would feel safe seeing people indoors and masked, but since the weather is nice, we keep everything outside. Conor is a realtor and has been working – all of his showings, inspections etc are indoors and masked, and he’s able to keep distance. It’s all pretty quick so with space, that feels as safe as running an errand with everyone masked. I do think we’ll start doing masked indoor visits this fall and winter. Outdoor visits feel safe, but  if someone is running errands or going anywhere indoors unmasked, I’m not comfortable seeing them unmasked without distance – that feels too risky with the delta variant. And as you all know, distancing is hard with kids, so it’s tough. Pre-delta, there were a select few people (just two friends) I would see indoors unmasked but we stopped doing that for now. There are still a few friends we will see outside, but because COVID can be transmitted outdoors, we’re being very careful and not doing much. My vaccinated hair dresser comes over every 4-6 weeks – we are both masked and in the sunroom with the windows open. So I suppose under those conditions I would be willing to visit with vaccinated friends, but that’s just not something we do. 

I do not go inside anywhere but my home without a mask on. When my in-laws are able to isolate and test, we’ll go to their house and have them over. I’ve seen a few friends (you know, the ones I have left after a year and-a-half of isolation) outside, but that does not happen often. 

It feels safer to keep kids in masks with delta, but prior to delta, we were starting to feel ok with some outdoor playdates. I’m fine with those with a select few friends who are extremely careful. Most of the friends I’m still close with either don’t live nearby or it’s hard to schedule something. We don’t really have anyone over, and if we did, they’d be masked. I am always asking our oncologist and oncology nurse where we are with COVID, and right now, everyone should be masked around Margot unless they are always fully masked around everyone else, the way we are. 

We were planning on sending Margot to preschool (just a few hours a day) this fall, but that no longer feels safe, so I’m going to do a preschool program and Big City Readers at home. Truthfully, I feel crushed because it would have been so great for her. I consulted with some other moms in treatment, doctors, and a child life specialist, and based on a few factors, we think it will be fine to keep her home this year. Preschool would have been great for her but she will be ok. She is extremely verbal, very outgoing and social, has us, our nanny, and her little sister. If she were in kindergarten or did not have a sibling, it would be a much more difficult decision. Cold and flu season is not safe for her and would likely land her in the hospital so we need to take every precaution. 

I’ve done my best give her normal moments whenever we can. We have done the following:

Outdoor ballet
Farmer’s market
The beach
Picnics
Zoo
Playdates
Grandma’s house
Farm 
Parks – masked if crowded, unmasked if fairly empty
A few patio lunches, only when waiters were masked
Bakery 
Road trip to a lake house 

I updated our playroom again, signed Margot up for a few online classes, and we now have a big swing set in our yard. Margot’s ballet pod was outdoors, all adults were vaccinated, and everyone wore masks. We see other kids outside when we can but that’s pretty rare – most kids will be in school so we’ll be pretty isolated this fall and winter. When we do take Margot out, she’s usually in a mask unless we’re outdoors with some space. 

My one year-old has been inside our home, her grandma’s house, and to the pediatrician the entirety of her life. When we do go to the doctor, I call when I arrive and wait in the car with Kate until her room is ready since she can’t be masked. Our pediatrician offered to meet us outside the last time she needed to see Kate. The girls have been to 2 or 3 patios for lunch, the zoo, and a few other outdoor activities. Kate is too young to wear a mask but Margot is great in a mask, so we do put one on her if there are people nearby, but will let her play at the park unmasked if it’s not crowded. Since Kate can’t be unmasked, we don’t let her near anyone we don’t know.

Our nanny was fully isolated with a husband who was working at home, so she had been coming unmasked, but now that he’s back to work, even though he’s careful, she will be wearing a mask. I honestly hate that she has to come in a mask because we were past this, but delta is so scary and we talked through it – she loves the girls and wants to keep them safe. With cold and flu season coming up, it’s probably best for Margot, anyway. 

A random tip, but the parking garage elevators at the hospital are horrible and do not feel safe to me, so we take the stairs. Once we’re inside the hospital, if it’s crowded, I’ll nicely ask the security guard if he can make sure no one else gets in our elevator since people crowd in and are not always mindful of space. They are always so nice and helpful, and that feels a lot safer.

It also has to be said that I know it’s a privilege to be able to keep my girls safe at home. We have access to grocery delivery and childcare (again, also at home) so I don’t need to take them to crowded places. 

Just writing this makes me sad and anxious because we were so close. I was feeling like I could start taking Margot out masked just before the mandate was lifted. Honestly, there was never a point of going “back to normal” for us and I’m trying not to fixate on how much lonelier winter will be. 

Please keep in mind that you should talk to your doctor if you are at-risk or caring for someone who is at risk, stay up to date on the CDC’s protocol, and become as informed as you can. I am not here to tell anyone what is or is not safe, but will share what I, as a mom to a toddler in medical treatment with a compromised immune system to a baby who can’t be masked, am doing to keep my daughters safe. 

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  • Just so you know, you aren’t alone living like this! I am vaccinated and only live with my partner and neither of us are high-risk, but I stay masked everywhere (even outdoors unless there is no one around). I don’t do indoor dining. I’ve always been a homebody though so it doesn’t affect me like it does some people. I’m a teacher though, so I will have to go back to a classroom full of 30 kids soon which doesn’t feel safe at all.

  • I’m in grad school (so everyone is vaccinated because it’s mandated) and we wear masks at all times indoors – at first I thought it was just over-protection but honestly now I’m grateful. We probably won’t have to go remote because we’re all vaxxed and masked at all times.

    More importantly, though, I noticed that one of my classmates never takes his mask off, even if we’re outside walking to the bus or whatever (and we’re in the South so it’s HOT). In an unrelated conversation, he told me about how his father is severely ill right now and that if he gets covid it’s game over, so he wears an N-95 to protect himself from others so he can protect his father. Of course, I had no way of knowing that as we all just met but the point is you NEVER know what someone has going on at home or in their family. I’m sure that when you’re out, people aren’t thinking that Margot has cancer – she looks like every other 3 year old (also though, it’s like some people have forgotten that kids can’t get vaccinated). We should all be operating under the assumption that we are interacting with people who are immunocompromised – chances are someone is immunocompromised or has a pre-existing condition that would make covid worse for them!

    Why make someone else’s life harder and more dangerous when it’s so easy to wear a mask and to get vaccinated? I know that neither is a cure-all, but I also know that if everyone who could gets vaccinated and wears a mask, our hospitals won’t be so overwhelmed.

    So sorry for the novel I just feel so strongly about this!

  • But I’m so confused, because you’ve written about having your hair done inside your house as well as your eyebrows touched up – this feels a little dishonest to me, which is hard, given that I have a child in the same situation.

    1. This could have been said in a less accusatory way but I will add this to the post. My vaccinated hair dresser comes over and we’re both fully masked in our sunroom with all the windows open. Our oncologist said this is perfectly safe.

  • This is a lot of tough protocol to follow! It must feel heard especially seeing everyone else living life without a care and knowing you can’t have that too. What are some things your husband does to stay safe, especially in real estate where you’re seeing so many people you don’t know?

    1. It is! I debated sharing what he does but wasn’t sure if I should. He is always masked, clients and buyers are masked, and he keeps some distance. It’s all pretty quick (in and out), too. That helps. It’s basically the same as going to the hospital/doctor for us. Quick, masked and not too close. He is never in an office so that helps.

  • Hey! So I am fully vaccinated. I am also pregnant right now, with my 2nd child (first is 9 years old). I live in Nebraska, and literally nobody out here wears masks.

    I do not have an immunocompromised kid, like you do, so I don’t 100% know where you’re coming from. All I can say is, it’s been hard for all of us with families, and you’ve gotta do what feels right for you and your family. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Covid is going away – looks like it’s going to become endemic. I don’t understand why more people aren’t getting vaccinated either. I really hope the vaccine for kids comes soon.

    All that said though, please don’t assume that those of us who aren’t wearing masks indoors in places aren’t vaccinated. I don’t always wear a mask indoors, because I am vaccinated and I’m willing to take the risk, even though I am pregnant. I know what the risk is of me getting Delta and it doesn’t seem that high, in my opinion. I also do a lot of things differently now too – groceries online and all that. I have only been out to eat maybe 2-3 times since restrictions lifted. Not “living it up” by any means. Almost everybody I know and have seen in person has told me (without my asking) that they are vaccinated.

    You do you, you definitely have more things to worry about than I do. I know it sucks to hear a different viewpoint, but maybe it’ll give you some comfort to know, not all of us unmasked are unvaxxed!

    1. Hi. Like I said for the people who want to help families like mine feel safe (copied and pasted from the post) since we don’t know who is and who isn’t vaccinated, please wear a mask indoors. I feel so much safer when everyone around me is masked. This is not because I assume everyone isn’t, but I don’t know who is and who isn’t, and we know at least some are not. I don’t mind hearing a different viewpoint at all.

  • Thank you for sharing all of this. I don’t think people realize how isolating it can be trying to keep our kids safe. Friends without kids definitely do not understand and I’m shocked at how many risky activities friends with kids are ok participating in. From one isolated mom to another, you are doing a great job and one day your girls will be able to thank you for keeping them safe.

  • Everyone should wear a mask in public places like hair salons, grocery stores etc. I’m in my twenties, healthy, athletic, vaccinated and I still got the delta variant. The symptoms started mild because I am vaccinated, so people can have it and not know. Everyone should mask back up! Also- I go to work in person and get tested weekly by work and can do the test at home. It’s called Vault Health in case that’s helpful if you ever want your nanny or husband tested without going to an urgent care where people may be sick.

  • Hey Mama, just wanted to say you’re doing great! You are an actual champion. And I so admire you. Thank you for sharing x

  • Our family has a similar protocol as my 6 year old son has chronic kidney disease and is getting a kidney transplant. It’s so hard saying no to every birthday party invite, play date and social dinner and extremely isolating. Praying the vaccine is available for children soon.

    We do play dates outdoors where vaccinated grown ups can be unmasked as long as adequately spaced and have the kids mask up if they are playing with other kids. The windy beach has been our rescue lately.

    You are doing an amazing job keeping your kids safe.
    Hugs