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Two Kids, a Broken Leg, and a Husband 'Doing Absolutely Everything'

Renee’s husband and baby, back when restaurants were a thing.
Renee’s husband and baby, back when restaurants were a thing.
Photo: Renee
Imbalancing ActImbalancing ActMothering during the covid-19 pandemic

Renee, 39, lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin with her husband and two kids. She broke her leg shortly before the state went into lockdown.

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I’ve been at home since the beginning of March when I broke my leg. I slipped on ice. We had a really beautiful day, everything melted, and then overnight it was just cold enough to freeze over. Monday morning, I went out to my car to go to work and was holding the 2-year-old on my hip and slipped on this tiny little patch of ice. I felt my leg break before I even hit the ground. It was horrible. It twisted at the ankle and my boot had enough traction on the dry pavement that my body kept going but my leg stopped. It was a spiral fracture. I will never forget the sound.

The 2-year-old was fine. He was super excited because a firetruck showed up at our house and then an ambulance. All of his favorite trucks were in front of our house and he was having the best day. I got right to the hospital, I was through the ER in an hour, there was plenty of medical personnel on hand. I feel lucky that, if it had to happen, that it happened when it did—before covid-19 really hit. Now I’m in crutches, I can’t put any weight on it. You can’t carry anything in your hands when you’re in crutches. Getting up the stairs to go to the bathroom is a 10-minute process.

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I couldn’t do this without my husband. He’s been almost the complete and sole provider of childcare since I broke my leg. Our 5-year-old’s school is closed, we decided to pull the 2-year-old out of daycare, and we’re both working full-time from home. The decision to pull the younger one out of daycare, I left up to him, since I can’t do much of anything and he was going to be working from home while trying to entertain the 2-year-old. We still felt it was the best thing to do.

My husband thinks that he probably got exposed to the virus, but they won’t test us. The only way to get tested now is if you’re sick enough to be in the emergency room. Since last Wednesday night, he had the fever, fatigue and was sleeping 10 hours a night and then hours during the day and couldn’t get a full breath in. Since I can’t take care of the kids on crutches, we had a few people in mind that we would call if it progressed to the point of him going to the hospital. He was pretty worried there for a couple of days.

Finally, he’s feeling better. That was a really rough stretch with me on crutches and him nearly incapacitated for five days. The kids, they both seemed like they had colds. The older one had some vomiting and then a dry cough and runny nose. The 2-year-old had stomach issues and what seemed like a cold and cough. We’ll never know, they won’t test us.

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These days, it’s so loud in our house, between my husband on work calls, I’m on meetings a lot during the day, and the kids are playing. You can tell them to quiet down for a minute and then they forget and the volume creeps back up again. All our toys are noisy. There’s never quiet. I can never focus on anything for longer than a few minutes. It’s a totally different vibe during the day. Being at work, you get to have all those sarcastic conversations with your coworkers. I miss having the ability to talk to other grownups. The kids are funny, and they’re cute and they’re entertaining. It’s different, but it’s not worse.

The kids get as much iPad time as they want. The 5-year-old has downloaded Messenger Kids, Facebook’s messenger app for kids, and he’s got 10 different friends on there, so that keeps him busy. It’s connected to the parent’s account and the parent has to approve any connection that the kid makes. It’s almost like Snapchat, there are a bunch of filters and they can play games together. He just calls his friends all day. The school sent us home with a bunch of worksheets and resources and materials but, because of his age, there’s no remote learning. Every once in awhile one of us will be like, “Get a worksheet,” and he will, but that will last for 10 minutes. It’s just impossible.

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The worst of it for us as a couple was those first weeks after I broke my leg, when my husband went from pulling his own weight to doing absolutely everything. It was so frustrating for me to look around the house at all the things I would be doing—cleaning, laundry, whatever—and not be able to do any of it and have to ask him for everything. There was some friction there, but now we’ve settled into the new routine and I’ve pretty much given up. The house is a mess and that’s just the way it’s going to be. At this point, we’re getting along fine.

I used to cook for the family because I was always the one who got home from work first. That way we could eat as soon as my husband got home. But it’s just so hard to get around the kitchen, so I haven’t cooked any dinners. Luckily, everyone was so nice and brought so much food over the first several weeks that I was injured. I’ve got some freezer meals saved up and we’ve occasionally ordered takeout. I haven’t cooked at all which is actually kind of nice. I don’t miss cooking dinner.

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This hasn’t gotten to me as much as I initially thought that it would. I thought it would just be horrible and mind-numbing but it hasn’t been so bad yet. I don’t know if that’s because my leg is broken and something so traumatic already happened to me, so in comparison, this isn’t as traumatic as that was? We’re fine, we’ll get through it. I keep focusing on later this summer, hopefully, everything will go back to normal and we’ll go outside and play with other kids. I don’t think too much about how hard it’s going to be in the next month or two.

Everything that made sense before and everything that felt so important to keep on top of, right now, it just doesn’t seem that important. There are no standards at this point. We’re just going to make it through and get by and that’s really all that matters.

Senior Staff Writer, Jezebel

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DISCUSSION

Koala de Vil RN

I thought we were going pretty well too, until about a month ago. I had a baby in late January, a kid starting grade 2 and a husband taking a year off work. Then about 4 weeks ago my anxiety started coming back, then the schools closed, then home schooling started (neither of us are teachers are anything close to that), then I broke a wrist, became more anxious and the depression sneakily came back and brought along a new friend, post-partum OCD. So I ended up in a psychiatric facility a few days ago, which isn’t my ideal place to be, especially not having my baby, but it’s the right place for me for now. Except I found out 2 days ago there were 2 patients on the ward that tested positive to COVID19, and having developed a sore throat I was put in isolation here yesterday. So today every patient on the ward has been tested and we’re all in lockdown. So either they’re going to be sending everyone home (which, like, how? How does that make it better?) or we’re stuck here to ride it out with no new patients. Luckily I’m in a private hospital, with really great rooms and meals. And that my husband is on paid leave for the year so can look after the baby and kid. So I can be grateful about that. But also, argh!!