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Week 1: A Johannesburg mom's lockdown diary

By Carolyn Boettger Time of article published Apr 7, 2020

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Along with every South African, Joburg resident Carolyn Boettger has been confined to her home for the past week. Here, she documents her joy spending time with her two children, her battle to exercise her dog, Ben – and her fears for the family’s uncertain future in a post Covid-19 world.

Day 1 

I woke up and had a small panic attack. I should have brought more mince, especially for Friday night burgers. I speak my panic to Lisa, my daughter, and she says we are allowed out for essentials but I don’t want to go out. She says we will manage without burgers, not sure if I will. 

Big brown dog Ben never had his walk this morning, so we had to run around the small unit we have to make him release his energy. We might have a running circle by the end of the 21 days and we will be fit. Lisa, who is 22, has come up with some exercises that include Ben. She does this while I do some meditation. 

It’s Friday, and yesterday my workstation was a busy day; it seemed everyone wanted something now; nature of the business to manage the costs during this time. I’m exhausted from yesterday, might leave work early, laugh out loud.

I’m sitting here typing this and Lisa is sweeping the tiles around me, telling me it’s “housekeeping”, and can I please move to make room for her to work? Feels like a Saturday and it’s so quiet, not even dogs barking, but the birds are in full swing, which is nice. 

Day 2 

Yesterday was a big challenge for me – the anxiety of not being able to go out. We took a vote and I came out tops that I would be the one to crack first. Makes sense because I’ve been on Earth longer than anyone else in the house. 

My boundaries are being tested. Last night, Lisa was in tears. Ben always has a walk after dinner in the complex. We put his lead on to take him around the house in our complex but he kept pulling us to the gate. 

I think he eventually understood because he lay down and had this very sad look on his face, which resulted in Lisa crying. Today is overcast and a bit chilly, so we have decided it’s a perfect day to stay at home and watch movies. 

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Day 3 

Yesterday we decided to play Scrabble. It got really loud and some tone was used. Dylan, who is 17, was the only one not using a dictionary and he’s the youngest. It’s a hard life for Ben being a guard dog. 

He sleeps a lot. He moves from one chair to the other all day. Today we are playing Monopoly, so I hope we will still be talking to each other afterwards. I woke up today with a small panic attack. 

I got paid for March. What happens if I don’t get paid at the end of April? If I don’t pay my rent, do I get kicked out? Will someone move my stuff if we are still under quarantine? How does a single mom feed her children? 

I’ve been working from home for a week, so no traffic stress and it’s been lovely. But maybe I need that stress to survive?

Day 4

Today I woke up feeling quite tired and starting work where more costings are needed to manage the Covid-19 situation. It will be an ongoing thing and I am sure a lot of businesses are having the same costings done.

Panic crosses over me and I wonder whether I should be cutting drastically on my personal budget, asking for payments to be stopped until I can pay (policies and school fees, car payment restructure).

How do I manage this being a single mom – paying a rental and feeding my kids? How do I not show how worried I am? Do I stress them out as well? They are adults and teenagers, and I know they will understand. 

But they will worry as much as I will. Do I share that worry or is it all my worry? After some consideration, I have decided to share it with them. It brings me to tears as I feel like I am failing them as a mom and provider but I also know that it needs to be done, so we can all do this together. 

I honestly feel sick to my stomach. On the bright side, Ben got a “walk” this morning. We sat at the gate to our unit and allowed him to roam outside onto common property with the extended lead. He felt the freedom. He sat on the other side of the road grass and looked content. 

Day 5 

We lost our tomato plants that were growing really well. We think our cat jumped on them, so we had to have a good talking to her about where she can jump from the wall.

However,our zucchinis and beans are sprouting and the carrots are showing some good signs as well. JJ, Lisa’s boyfriend, was reading a book. A young man reading paper. I didn’t say anything in case I stopped the process.

I had a headache and didn’t feel like working but I did. I took a break from work during the day as I just couldn’t concentrate. Stress? Kids are still in high spirits. I took the time to speak to one of our elderly long-time subscribers and we made a date to meet after this.

I do get very worried about what is going to happen and how I am going to retire in a few years. I need to release control and trust the process. I pray my friends, family and colleagues make it through this.

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Day 6

I was so tired today. Not sure if it was stress or just being out of routine. Lisa got me to do yoga. I didn’t want to today and it’s good she got me going and she keeps me in routine.

Ben also tries to help us. Lisa is my rock. I talk to my family over WhatsApp etc but it’s not the same as having someone close by. I am blessed to have two beautiful children who are my lifeline.

I feel for those that don’t have someone with them. Dylan keeps us laughing with his dry sense of humour on his walks to the fridge – they have become extremely close (he and the fridge). I did try and see if I could say “hello” to the waste-removal guys who come into the complex but they didn’t see me. It was nice to see someone else as everyone is behind a wall here. 

Day 7

It’s been a week of quarantine but it feels longer. I’ve been working from home for two weeks and the excitement has gone. 

I perform better at home but I miss the interaction with the people in the building. Another two weeks to go and I sit here wondering whether I will make it; emotionally, physically and financially. 

Financially is the biggest concern, but I will try to get this done with the strength I have to make sure my children eat and have a roof over their heads. Ben has a lot of energy and is driving Lisa crazy by wanting to play all the time.

I had to go out and get Dylan’s tablets. Lisa came with me. She would get some items from Pick n Pay while I get the tablets. Driving there was so weird – I felt nervous and yet the freedom to be out, made me feel guilty. 

Pick n Pay was well prepared but the energy was different. We were too scared to go close to people and touched only what was needed. It felt uneasy and warlike.

Day 8 

I woke up today stressed even though I had a good night’s rest. I’m trying hard to keep my spirits up, considering I have financial worries lingering. 

They say good energy attracts good things so I’m trying really hard to remain in that good energy state. Lisa, Dylan and I discussed the worst-case scenario of me losing my job.

Dylan would like at least a week’s notice of being homeless so he can make a YouTube video on it! How do you go homeless? Where do you go? Is there a set plan to follow?

Having faith right now is all we have.

The Saturday Star

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