The “Front Line Worker” Mom
Carolina P. Calzadilla is the mom to two children; Jakey 3 and Victoria 1.
Carolina is a wife, mom x 2 and a front line worker. Covid struck in Florida and she was there. Day 1, outside of the hospital, helping anyone and everyone with feeling better. She has spent months doing nothing but working and keeping her two kids sane at home and it ain’t easy guys–not one bit. I was lucky enough to talk to her about her experiences, her perspective and her sanity (she has two children, remember?) She’s keeping it together and reminding everyone to wear a mask.
Here is our Q + A:
Our conversation started, as most convos between moms do, talking about our kids and how insane they’re driving us. We had both made the difficult and calculated decision to send our kids back to school. I felt much better hearing from her that she felt they were safe (ya know, cause she works around Covid 24-7) and relieved that all the questions she asked her kids school about precautions were things our school was already doing!
A: I really needed them to be in school. But I’m freaking out because I’m supposed to keep my kid safe and then like what if I made a decision…what if they get sick? What if Santi is the one kid who gets it really bad?
C: My mom was for it, my dad was adamant against it.
A: Your dads a doctor?
C: My dad is a doctor. He thinks I’m insane. He won’t even come into my house unless he’s in his whole garb because he’s anti school and thinks they’re going to get it.
A: Not even because he’s at the hospital, but because your kids are at school.
C: Exactly! I mean, he’s older, our parents are older we just have to be more careful. But I needed them to go to school. I selfishly needed that. I have a son, a three year old, he needed it. His behavior–we were having a lot of breakdowns. If I can’t rile him, the teacher can control him. And my other one, Victoria, she’s a wild child–no one can control her.
A: Ok, so you sent them both to school…Santi has been in school since he turned 1. I worked at the school so the week he turned 1 he came with me. I found him climbing the walls of the playroom the other day. Literally climbing the walls–he was so bored. And that’s what made me send him. I was going to wait a month to see how…
C: That was my husbands plan. He wanted the other kids to be the guinea pig but it was a long process. I knew virtual school wasn’t the option for us. We did virtual in the beginning. My kid was the first kid to get pulled out.
A: Santi was too. I remember the President spoke…Santi had a bake sale in school and I was the class mom so I pilled him out early right after the bake sale. I remember saying “oh I’ll be back after spring break!” I was super pregnant and then the school closed. It happened from one day to the next.
C: I was the same thing. The teachers were asking “why are you pulling him out?” And I said, “I’m sorry, my husband is an intenseivist. I gotta follow my husband.”
Remember, Carolina was working in the Covid tent outside of Doctor’s Hospital. Her dad is a Pulmonologist. They know what they’re talking about, so when she pulled her kid out of school–they hunkered down for five months. Five whole months with absolutely nowhere to go and nothing to do. No trips to Costco, no eating out. NADA.
We talked about how her husband interviewed the kids school and how my husband could care less about it. We talked about how her pediatrician told her to maybe not send her youngest and how mine told me it was irrelevant to keep one at home because they’ll share germs regardless. All in all, these decisions were not easy to make and on both sides had a slew of opinions from grandparents to doctors.
C: There was a lot of back and forth with us and the school–wanting to know exactly what would happen if like a child came to school with a fever or whatever. We were very clear on what we needed. And look, I get it. For some people this is childcare and they need to be in school. My son is at the age where he doesn’t take off his mask. In Victoria’s class it’s a small class. It’s really all about trusting the families.
A: 100%! I got really lucky that all the kids in Santi’s class–they’ve been together since they were 1! And I’m the class mom, so I immediately started a group chat. There are 10 enrolled with only 6 going and of those six, Santi and his cousin are two. My brother in law and Santiago work together so it’s basically the same thing. My biggest fear is that parent’s would quarantine. Santi’s school is super international. Lots of families that aren’t from here or families aren’t from here–grandparents coming or traveling for work…people not being truthful about that–if that’s the case you have to quarantine. That was my biggest fear. Santi’s school everyone is basically in hazmat suits, everyone is taking temperatures, you sign a waiver every single day, so with that I felt safe.
We then spoke for about 6 minutes straight about how I wasn’t sending Joaquin because yeah, I don’t want him to get sick, but also I can’t just leave him there. You see, Santi’s school usually provides transition–a week for children to slowly transition into school. It’s a week where I can accompany my child into their classroom for 1.5 hours daily and for obvious reasons, it’s not available this year. How could I leave him there? Her daughter cried for three days and now just puts on her book bag and goes into school. If I made Joaquin cry for 3 days straight, he’d probably never talk to me again.
Q: So let’s talk about where you work. You work at a small hospital, right?
C: I do. I work at Doctors. I work in the ER. So we had a tent before that was pretty much all Covid patients and I was there day in and day out starting around March 16th.
A: So March 12th I pulled Santi out of school and he only went to my brother in law’s house or my parents house until the day he started school again in August. Like that’s it–and he was crawling the walls it was awful. Joaquin’s in heaven. He doesn’t know what’s going on but I’m home all the time so he’s so happy.
C: My kids were crawling the walls. They would stay in their playroom and watch tv all day long. And my son never watched TV before.
C: Not that he could name all the characters but now he can name you the lineup of Nick Jr. Like, Peppa Pig is on at 7.
Q: You’ve always worked and then you had kids. So how was that transition because your field is tough–you’re working long hours and big schedules.
C: So my mom is my savior in this whole situation.
A: As most Cuban moms are…my mom too.
C: Yes–my mom and my nanny, they are lifesavers. I got pregnant with Jacob on my honeymoon–I came home with a honeymoon child and I had just graduated from school. I told my boss and I got 3 months off. I work 10am-10pm but we have a pretty solid code that if we’re really busy that day we stay, so sometimes I put in 14 hours.
A: OMG (like good for her and Thank God for people like her but ewwww)
C: My husband was matching for fellowship when I was pregnant. He was offered Harvard and John Hopkins and the day before the list was due I freaked out and he put Miami as his #1 choice. And when he got it, my mom found out in an auditorium and was like “he got it!!!!”
A: Of course! Because besides the help, she doesn’t want to loose her grandkids either.
C: No she would have had to move up with me. (haha) Jakey came, it was great. My mom helps a ton and we got Bessy and she’s phenomenal–she’s part of my family and she runs my house. And then my husband did fellowship, which was hard and then I went back to school. So I was working full time, going to school full time and then I got pregnant with Victoria during finals.
A: So you’re super fertile just like me–be super careful.
C: Exactly–they’re blessings but yeah.
A: Yeah, I have three little blessings but I didn’t tell people for weeks about my last blessing. For weeks because me and my husband were like “what are we going to tell people?”
C: I don’t know how you did that.
A: You know what? You just got to. Like I didn’t have a choice. And I got everything at the same time. The pandemic, all in the house–and my boys are boysssss. They scream, they fight, they’re punching. But I also have nannies that help because it not..
C: Hats off to them for real.
A: I used to be embarrassed to tell people I had a nanny but then I realized it made me a better mom because if I didn’t have help I’d be a horrible mother.
C: I completely agree. Everyone at work knows my mom and Bessy run my life. I got to work, my husband goes to work and then these people run my house.
Q: What’s your husband’s schedule like?
C: So he graduated in July from fellowship–in the middle of the pandemic. He was working at Jackson and he got hired by Baptist Health System and he’s a Pulmonologist Critical Care…
A: Oh wow just like your dad! (By the way, my grandmother was extremely sick a few weeks ago–like hospital sick and her dad was her pulmonologist AND HE’S THE BEST IN THE ENTIRE WORLD WE LOVE HIM!!!!)
C: So he was in the heart of Covid-19. So he was at Baptist doing his job and then he would go and help my dad. So he would literally work day and night. He would have a shift at 7am in his hospital, but he would go at 3am to Doctor’s to help my dad in the ICU. He would work from 3am-6am and then go running to his other job. His first day off was in August that I made him take it off because it was the kids first day at school.
A: Which is perfect because then he could see for himself how things are running and stuff.
C: Exactly. I didn’t want it to be later “oh it’s Caro’s fault they all got Covid” haha. But we made it–Covid is a lot better in the hospitals now and he’s only doing 14 shifts. So he works 7 days and 7 nights, so it’s not bad.
A: Really? That sounds awful.
C: It’s great! Compared to what we were doing before–it’s great. It’s nie–he’s home, he helps, he did swimming, he did pick up twice.
Q: Do your kids sleep the night?
C: Yes–I’m so strict. I let them scream and cry it out but they sleep now.
A: Santi used to sleep the night and then when we moved into my parents house (you know, for my casual 85 month renovation), we didn’t let Santi cry it out because my mom would have been like “eres uno abusadora” so he didn’t sleep until I moved.
C: So when I’m working until 10 my kids stay at my moms. And my mom is deathly afraid of Victoria she won’t let her cry either.
A: My mom won’t let any of them cry! She’s like I don’t care what you do on your watch but on mine no one is crying. And I lived at my mom’s forever so they’re justttttt starting to realize who the authority here is. But whatever I would die without my mom.
C: OMG same!
A: And Santiago helps. He will feed the kids, bathe them, put diapers on–whatever I need, but I need my mom.
So, as most of you know I used to work as the Admissions Director of KLA Schools and KLA Elementary. We talked about how schools everywhere are suffering, how obviously parents are suffering because school is online but tuition is still due. I get it–it sucks all around. Schools still need to pay their teachers, they still have to pay rent or property taxes (or both). This pandemic affected everyone and I was stressing how important it is to financially support the institutions that educate your children. By the way–Caro agrees!
C: I think everyone was stressed out because of the pandemic–it wasn’t just healthcare workers. Property managers who have tenants who can’t pay their rent so that trickles down because they’re not getting paid. Everything.
A: So you know the Hungry Post, right? So Andrea was telling me about how like, a restaurant closes down and it’s sad because also all the people who worked there loose their job. But then wherever that restaurant purchased their food–they’re no longer getting food purchased from them, and then all the people who aren’t getting food purchased from them are no longer getting food from like, migrant workers! Before you know it–no one has money.
C: Yeah, it’s really really bad. I actually read THP and I hadn’t realized it until they said it. I went a couple of times during the pandemic to Homestead to buy like watermelon or whatever to support their small business because I didn’t want them to loose their farms.
A: This pandemic got me in my last month of my pregnancy and I supported small businesses every single day. This pandemic was so expensive for my family.
Q: You guys both work in the medical field. You’re both exposed all the time. What do you do when you get home?
C: We just wear our gear at work. I really have faith in the gear. I wear a hat to cover my hair, the black mask that looks like Darth Vader and a shield. We get home from work, take off our clothes in the garage like completely strip and then we take a very hot shower. We don’t let the shoes go into the house. Our clothes gets washed in a separate bin–washed with boiling hot water. Once I’m done then I can interact with the kids. And I do the same with the kids when they come home from school. At work they give us separate scrubs. I was tested for antibodies and I don’t have it. I was in the tent day in and day out for months. So, if I didn’t get it…
I have this fear that i’ll be that small percentage of healthy young people that gets the virus really, really bad. Because at the end of the day–we really don’t know. What if I’m that %? I have kids–I can’t be sick.
C: That was a dark time. Us in the hospital we were feeling helpless. We had no information. We were getting text messages from a hospital in Louisiana and there is no text book, no evidence base–there was no concrete evidence. And personally, I really hate Covid. I had a breakdown about this recently. I really hate Covid. But I felt really, really helpless a few months ago when Miami ran out of the antiviral we give. We found that it somewhat works and we had patients coming in and we couldn’t do anything. We were helping them and doing everything we could but it was so frustrating. I was in a dark place.
My talk with Caro was both therapeutic and interesting. Covid-19 has been a game changer for us and for this entire world. Please wear your mask. Help the vulnerable, the people risking their lives for the sick and your neighbors. It costs $0 to be kind and you can literally be saving a life.