'Bedbound with suspected Covid-19, I had to adopt a new style of parenting'

Working mother Andrea Galligan shares her personal story of recovering from suspected Covid-19 while working from home and looking after two small children 


Like so many parents in Ireland falling victim to coronavirus, Andrea Galligan had the added complication of trying to negotiate work and childcare. Finding herself playing the conflicting dual role of both parent and convalescent, necessity very much became the mother of invention in her home.

Without the luxury of much relied upon childcare and social distancing from friends and family, adopting simple measures to engage the younger family members became the only way out of an exceptionally challenging conundrum.

Little did she know these simple low-energy practices would have high returns for her own healing journey.

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Here Andrea identifies some child-led activities that can boost health and well-being for any parent who finds themselves suddenly at home tending to small children, but especially those recovering from a bout of Covid-19 or any other illness that has laid a parent low while confined to the house.

Andrea's story

The last few weeks, for so many of us, have been a blur. Each day brings new news, data, stats; all pointing to one upsetting conclusion. This problem isn’t going to be solved quickly or without risk to family and friends. Our reserves of self-reliance and patience risk depletion.

Weeks, if not months, of uncharted territory, lie before us. Playing a collective waiting game, juggling hope and fear in equal measures, our new norm. Our social outlets, our distractions, our diversions, all placed on standby. Our loved ones in many instances off-limits. Our understanding of free time and self-identity radically reconstituting before our eyes.

If we can’t go anywhere, if we can’t be with anyone, if we can’t do anything; who and what are we exactly? These were the questions I bemoaned a few weeks ago, unable to process the tragedy unfolding before me. From the trivial (how will I secure my daily caffeine fix) to the profound (how do I deal with two small humans while fulfilling a busy work schedule?) preoccupied my mind.

Then without much warning, I became a statistic. Bedbound with suspected Covid-19 for several days, I was initially overwhelmed by the physical ailments of the virus. But admittedly it was the psychological aspect of the illness that was the most draining, with all the accompanied ‘what-ifs’. And we all know how unhelpful these can be.

But as I’ve slowly recovered, and with the responsibility of two little dependents vying for my attention, I’ve found myself channelling a renewed value for the ‘simple life’. In fact, grid-locked at home with work and familial duties blending together hasn’t brought me to the grinding halt I was expecting.

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And with the invitation to ‘slow down’, my only likely one for many months to come, perhaps it’s the perfect time for a reappraisal of what a busy life entails?

Action-packed trips to parks and all the colour provided by our urban surroundings might be sorely missed but perhaps renewed forms of relaxation can be developed around kitchen tables in our new shared spaces?

Here are some of the simple activities which have helped with my psychological recovery, soothing frayed nerves and reconnecting me with a more mindful, conscious style of parenting.

  • Nursery rhymes and pre-tween pop songs provide an instant distraction to tots. Singing releases endorphins, lowers blood pressure and boosts immunity and empathy. Form a circle, add a tambourine if you have one and start feeling the benefits of wellness. Spotify Kids have content handpicked to be family-friendly and fun for kids to explore.

  • Blowing bubbles is a guaranteed small child distractor of the highest order. The benefits of focused attention and repetitive breathing is soothing to the parasympathetic nervous system, naturally calming us. Even Oprah does it to manage stress.

  • Add tea tree to steaming water, close up all the doors and windows and double up on the time to bathe little ones by inhaling natural and soothing antiseptics. Light a candle and make it even more atmospheric as they splash away to their heart’s content.

  • Stimulate focus and mindfulness through adult colouring. Be ready to colour outside the line as little hands grab for your fancy pastels. Don’t aim for perfection, your children won’t and it doesn’t inhibit their enjoyment.

  • The act of movement is in itself healing (Kelly McGonigal’s new book ‘Movement’ illustrates this perfectly). Now put this into practice by making animal yoga shapes, this activity can't but encourage laughter and soothe the weary soul.

  • Balance the need-to-know media up-dates with positive content, Deepak Chopra is posting daily with free moral support. Soothing voices translate to all of us including little ones, even if unwittingly.

  • A life-long devotee of the cuddle, this simple act of affection increases feel-good hormone oxytocin, reduces stress and lowers the risk of heart disease. Steal them if needs be!

  • Massage can calm young and grown-ups alike. Keep it simple and use coconut oil, it smells good and no need to worry about little hands ingesting it by accident.

Andrea Galligan is a communication professional and lifestyle entrepreneur. She lives with her husband and two children in Dublin 3 and promotes the benefits of healthy outdoor play on her Instagram account @numu_dublin

If you suspect you are suffering from Covid-19 please seek medical advice here. 

Photo: Pexels

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