'It's been a long 4 months of trying to survive': A laboratory worker shares her story
"We need our babies at ECDs. So we can focus fully on work and have one less thing to stress about. Even if just for essential services."
"We don't need people clapping for healthcare workers and essential services" (Getty Images)
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An anonymous essential worker shares her experiences and thoughts about working and parenting under each level of the Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa. 


I work in healthcare, a laboratory to be specific in a large public hospital. I'm not on the frontline but I am certainly one of the many thousands of laboratory workers in this country providing an essential service.

I have been working through all lockdown levels, and while we all have our lockdown experiences; I do think our outlook is largely affected by our situation.

So I thought I'd share mine: I am married with young kids. I am lucky to have a husband who has been a huge help through all this.

'Level 5 was tough'

Schools had also closed the week before already. When one spouse works in essential services outside the home and the other stays behind to juggle their work, watching kids, cleaning and home-schooling solo, it becomes a huge struggle.

My husband's industry doesn't allow for "wait until the kids are in bed to work" so he has to get his work done without delay. He was often frazzled by the time I got home but still greeted me with a smile.

'Then Level 4 came with the regulations relating to domestic help'

Well great, but I don't have a nanny or a live-in domestic worker anyway, so we were still running solo. I debated hiring some help for my kids, but my biggest need wasn't a minder for them, it was education.

See more: Parents weigh in on the idea that the 2020 school year be cancelled

How do you do online schooling when you are not even home? My children need a tutor as they are very young to work independently. And a tutor costs more money. I eagerly waited for the government to give some indication on when schools/ECD were allowed to open. But nothing.

We tried to carry on as best we could, but it was difficult. My work was extremely busy. It was a lot to juggle. I was working late there and again at night at home once the kids were asleep. I was going to bed at 12:00 and my husband even later. We were reaching our limits.

For my family, there was no crafts or baking or learning new hobbies or finishing DIY projects, I saw other people posting about. Who had time for that?

Also read: 'The reality for everyone is different': ECD educators respond to Covid-19 safety protocols

'Thank goodness for Level 3'

My mother-in-law came to help, and we were at breaking point. My wonderful mother-in-law is over 60 with comorbidities. She even offered to help as much even though she is in the higher risk category.

Watching the kids was one less thing to stress about for the first time in months. And then finally we had some clarity from the government after a court case gave them no choice.

Read more: Family in lockdown: Parent24 has you covered

'It's been a long 4 months of trying to survive'

My kids had been back at school for 3 weeks already, and I felt less stressed knowing they were getting an education. They were happier as well, even with all the changes, and adapted surprisingly well.

But now schools have closed again.

Mentally I just can't. I'll take long leave. Unpaid even. I'll look after my own family and self for once.

And if you need someone to test your sample, well, good luck. Lab staff are already short-staffed and tired and had enough. I'm sure a lot of essential services workers are too.

There's been a lot of criticism that South Africa's Covid-19 testing capacity has been too low.

Sure, but keep in mind the staff who have already tested the almost 2.5 million samples in four months alone, and that's only for Covid-19.

Also read: Local expert advises parents on the psychological impact of Covid-19 on children

'We don't need people clapping for healthcare workers and essential services'

We don't need a thank you. Or to skip queues in shopping centres.

We need schools to be open. We need to know our kids are getting an education because we can't help them and work.

We need our babies at ECD. So we can focus fully on work and have one less thing to stress about.

Even if just for essential services. 

People have lost a lot in this lockdown. One thing that I have seen is that some people are self-centred. They want life to carry on while they sit in their safe bubble at home, and other people must put themselves at risk.

Then when it's their turn to help society, they're not willing to.

But it's those guys who go out there, even at personal risk, whether for work or to help those in need, these are the ones who make a difference.

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