Hilde Pauwaert got Covid-19 through her school-aged children: ‘The virus entered...

Hilde Pauwaert got Covid-19 through her school-aged children: ‘The virus entered...
Hilde Pauwaert got Covid-19 through her school-aged children: ‘The virus entered...

Dear politicians,

May I put my anger and anxiety into words? I am a single mom with six growing children (6, 14, 17, 21, 21 and 23 years old) and I have a full-time job. Since the start of this pandemic, we as a family have been committed to protecting each other and others. That requires a great deal of effort.

During the first lockdown, the three kot students returned to the nest. My eldest daughter’s boyfriend has also moved in here to minimize the number of contacts. I saw them all struggling with online lessons, exams, hobbies that had come to a standstill… pent-up energy that found its way into long walks with the dogs, but also the occasional harsh word and a tense atmosphere.

Taking care of my dear gang, foraging safely every day, put a lot of pressure. I could work from home, but I also had to study and prepare for my exams for my job.

The youngest, who was then in their third toddler, stayed at home until mid-June. He was able to return to school at the beginning of June, but with everyone here in exams, I didn’t dare take that risk. However, I didn’t want to take away from him the end of his toddler years so he could enjoy a corona proof farewell from his class for the last two weeks. My oldest graduated from college and another son celebrated the end of high school with a drive-in party. Everyone succeeded and the summer brought some holiday feeling.

Cautious encounters outside with friends and girlfriends; i admire the flexibility of the youth. Most of them show great responsibility. Don’t put them all on the same ridge of recklessness.

As a mother, it remains difficult to find the balance between letting go and again pointing out the many rules. But talking and giving confidence also prove to be a perfect duo here to get through that limiting period.

In the meantime we have all started again here. The eldest started ambitiously in her first job. The twins commute to their dorm to pick up an old routine. My son strolls through his first year of higher studies full of questions. My daughter started with a scared heart again in September with live lessons in class (that was ago in March). The youngest skipped into first grade.

We were happy to include all the rules to ensure their safety and good health. The schools and teachers delivered a superhuman performance. Everything felt good for the first few weeks.

Then the numbers started to rise. I held my heart. How could I protect my family? That was the question I struggled with at night. It was getting dangerously closer. The oppressive pressure around my heart continued to increase in the same degree. I saw few problems with the elders because they switched to a fully online package. The two youngest continued to attend school full-time, with all the consequences that entailed. The virus entered here like a thief in the night.

The youngest had a low risk contact with an intern, but was able to continue to school without any problem. If you have no symptoms, you will not be tested. But the monster was inside. I was the first to notice the ‘mild’ symptoms: fever, cough, muscle pain …

We did everything we could to avoid this. I am left with a bitter feeling: why not intervene earlier? Schools are there to absorb new subject matter, to meet friends, a mini-society in which you learn important rules for your further life. Schools should not be places where you get sick. Not the students, not the teachers and not the parents, brothers and sisters.

Meanwhile, as a family, we are struggling through this difficult period. Ongoing exams and online lessons are currently a major stressor as their bodies are crying out for rest. Me too. Who will motivate them if the first tests are not good?

I, as a parent, my children, the teachers all take our responsibility. Do you who leads this country want to take the same responsibility?


Hilde Pauwaert

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