Quarantine Advice From a Mom Who's Already Been Through It

(originally published March 22, 2020)

Crazy Times They Are!
Hi friends.  These are crazy and unprecedented times (at least in our lifetime!).  I've heard from many in our community over the past week and the same feelings seem to resonate with most of us.  Anxiety is high. Taking care of little ones stuck inside seems an insurmountable task. At least one person has out-of-the-house work-from-home obligations... and no childcare/school. And there's no toilet paper! Help. To quote a close friend with two under 4, "I used to think working from home was a luxury!"
Over this past week I've caught myself feeling guilty that  #toddlerinchief is not able to play with others or at the playground. This seems absurd given that there's nothing I can do about it, but even so, there it is.  Three things have aided in calming me: 1) the innate knowledge that the ever-changing landscape of our world (by the day) takes seasoned adaptation skills that we mama bears have (sisters, aunts, grandmothers - I see you); 2) The realization that some of my best childhood memories were sitting in my favorite big chair at my grandma's house and eating and watching TV. I saw someone post that our little ones might end up loving this time together and I'm sticking with that narrative; and 3) Leaning on others around me - which brings me to today's newsletter. 
One of my first thoughts when this started to get serious in the U.S. (a whole errr 2 weeks ago?), was that we are not the first to experience this.  Across the world other moms have already been in it for more than a month, maybe even 2. I reached out to Anna, a mom in our community from New York City that is currently living in Hong Kong, where precautions, empty stores, and isolating with little ones has been ongoing for a couple of months.  Anna lives abroad with her husband and 1.5 year old son. Below she answers a few questions with some wisdom from the future, gives us some top activities to try, and shares some words of calm. 
Sending all the health and safety to your families.
- Severina
Q & A
What were the circumstances of your lockdown/self-isolation/social distancing?  How long did it last? Were you working from home or out of work?
I live in HK and in late January, right before the Chinese New Year (CNY) holiday, we started to hear reports of a new pneumonia-causing virus spreading in China. The news was reminiscent of the SARS outbreak in 2003 so people here were immediately very wary and nervous. We were instructed to stay home, wear masks, and wash and sanitize hands often. Our CNY holiday was spent sitting at home under, what felt like, house arrest for 4 days. The government then closed schools, at first for an additional two weeks, but it's now been 2 months and schools are still closed and will be until at least the end of April, if not later. Government offices were closed and most private companies instructed people to work from home or work flexible hours to avoid busy commuter times for at least 2 weeks. Even though offices are now open again, many are still allowing for flexible working arrangements. We didn’t call it social distancing and it wasn’t forced or mandated but many people here followed it because of the fear of another SARS. 
My husband and I both worked from home for two weeks and canceled all personal plans, only leaving the house for necessary outings (i.e. grocery shopping) or walking our dog / hiking in non-crowded areas. All of our son’s classes were canceled as well. It was very boring with basically no social life for the first month. There were a lot of unknowns. At that time we didn’t know much about the virus and everyone was holding their breath expecting the outbreak to really blow up considering our proximity to China. People began panic buying; first it was masks, hand-sanitizer and soap, then rice, then the toilet paper fiasco! Shockingly (and luckily) I had recently bought toilet paper, soap, and disinfecting wipes so I was good but I was starting to worry if a food shortage is something that could happen. However, the stores remained open and there was always something to buy. 
Its now been 2 months, and as mentioned, schools are still closed, my son only plays with kids in our apartment building complex, and life is still a bit boring. However, we do go out a bit more now but always making sure to do it carefully. Also, the panic buying has calmed down. Stores have been able to fully restock on everything including antibacterial products.  Although we are still nervous, it feels like HK is well prepared and the conscious effort of everyone is helping keep the situation at bay.
What advice would you give to other moms?
My main advice is to stay calm but careful. Statistically, there is a very low chance you will actually contract the virus but we should all stay careful and safe. This means limiting your exposure when possible and having good personal hygiene. Everyone’s efforts will actually help prevent the spread which is important not only for yourself and family but also the broader community, which includes high risk people. Avoid panic buying, buy what you need but be considerate of others. Don’t discriminate or use this as an excuse to hate or blame any other cultures.  
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds. This is the first thing we do when we come home. 
  • Disinfect cell phones, doorknobs, keys, light switches, and other things you touch often daily
  • Avoid large crowds 
  • Avoid buffets or sharing food, especially if food has been out for a while
  • If you are feeling sick stay home, wear a mask, and avoid contact with others to prevent spreading 
  • Cover mouth when sneezing or coughing with your elbow or tissue (and throw it out immediately)
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Sanitize your hands when you’re out and about
The struggle to fill the days with little ones at home is real! Since you've already been through it, can you share the top activities that were a hit? 

  1. Sensory Bins - Dry pasta was a hit. This is really easy to do and I didn’t even dye the pasta. I laid down a tablecloth and dumped the pasta in a large bowl/box and added various tools and toys to keep the play going. I was able to reuse this multiple times. Sensory bins are brilliant in general.Here's a quick tutorial.
  2. Homemade slime comes in many shapes and sizes -Check out this account and click on the Slime highlight. Also,this mama blogger has amazing slime suggestions
  3. Dance parties and sing-a-longs (to 80’s and 90’s jams - not just baby shark!).Here's an innovative and crazy fun way to get after it!
  4. Walking in the park and hiking
  5. Painting in the bathtub: put paper in bathtub and let them paint. This leads to easier clean up plus the novelty is exciting; they can paint on walls and it easily washes off (assuming you are using washable paints!)
  6. Fill container with water with a little food coloring and add toys they can “wash.”  They end up either washing the toys or just playing with water. Or make a fun bath with food coloring and lemon/orange slices
  7. For older kids, I recommendthe germ experiment - this can work with food coloring/chalk powder/or pepper; sprinkle it on a plate with water, stick your finger in when nothing happens, then put some soap on your finger and when you stick it in, the “germs” move away
  8. Give in with a little screen time!
  9. Get outside daily if you can. We had to walk our dog but it definitely helped us keep our sanity!

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