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SocietyMarch 12, 2022

Diary of a solo parent self-isolating with three kids and Covid


A two-week Covid diary from award-winning writer Karlo Mila while she isolated at home with her three children.

February 25


​​And so Karlos (17) has Covid. I had a sad reaction and cried silent hot tears. Maka (5) had an angry reaction and yelled, “It’s not fair!”. Nik (16) laughed and immediately mocked his brother. Interesting reactions. His dad reacted by saying he will drop off groceries or medicine when we need them. 

Ten days self-isolating with three kids. I tested negative btw. And was supposed to be on a flight to see my beloved tonight. It’s likely we will all get it. I feel like we are all in good health and it will be a relatively manageable experience. I feel like this is not as bad as a seemingly endless lockdown. I’m glad I got my booster this week.

Blue sky over an empty carpark, lots of road cones.
The Balmoral testing station (Photo: Supplied)

February 26


Karlos describes it as a 6/10 – 0 being full health and 10 the worst he can imagine. He has all the symptoms – especially the headaches – and he’s “not great” and “it’s not cool”. Yesterday he was gaming, singing to loud music, rearranging the entire layout of his room. I am starting a massive spring clean of the house. 

February 27


So Karlos is feeling worse today and puts himself at a 7/8 out of 10. His senses are feeling weird – smell, taste, hearing. Ka aroha … he has everything he needs. We have everything we need. Last night I was really tired and my throat felt a bit sore but today I woke and it was nothing. 

I found out that some of our very vulnerable extended fam members have Covid and it feels so much worse than Karlos having it.

Photo of young boy carefully replacing one glass of water with another, on what looks like a side table. Backdrop of bright turquoise fabric.
Karlo’s son Maka, tending to māmā (Photo: Supplied)

March 3


One very proud kid bringing his māmā a glass of water. “If you get coronavirus, I will look after you. I will get water for you.” This morning as he snuggled into me, I said, “Bubba, it is fairly obvious I have coronavirus.” It is too late to social distance from Maka but he said, “I don’t care Mummy, I still love you” and snuggled in with a more protective cuddle. Last night I got hit with the very active sore throat (like lots of particles kind of vibrating in there in a very *alive* way), the blocked and watery runny nose, coughing, the temperature and the headache. 

Sick while sole parenting is a *thing* … Drinking my glass of water. It feels like all the love. 


Maka vomited in the RATS queue. We came home to dog diarrhoea on the carpet and a chair – that I sat on. 

A positive RAT test
(Photo: Supplied)

I tested positive. 

The good things… Michael got all our groceries and Dave’s girlfriend is cooking us dinner. I get to rest. I have been so deeply, deeply tired in a way that has not completely left me – and I have been since the end of last year. On some level – to have 10+ days completely hard boundaried – and free from everything – feels like a weird kind of sick bliss. 


Nik, who hasn’t yet tested positive, has agreed to take Maka out to the park now that it’s cooler for a bike ride and to walk the dog. Small acts of love that make all the difference.

March 4


This is what love looks and tastes like in times of Covid. Banana cake made by the kids’ dad’s partner for our sick household. It arrived hot with a healthy cooked dinner last night. They’ve decided to not go away for the weekend so that they can support us in our self-isolation… it may not be what society sanctions, but this is what the evolution of love can be.

Two slices of banana cake on a pretty plate.
(Photo: Supplied)

Little Maka has been needing Pamol for his “hot brain” and I had a challenging night of not very much sleep last night. Tears in my coffee zoom with my partner this morning.  All the feels … It’s very quiet today – I’d say silent in our house. Everyone is horizontal. The sun streams through the windows. The breeze breathes in and out. The cicadas chirp. The ruru that never seems to sleep calls at all hours. We are all resting. 


My lovely friend Leilani dropped off her second lasagne just as Maka tested positive. I was able to give him Play-Doh that Michael bought for him while he was doing a shop for us as a treat. Maka’s quite feverish and we only managed to get him one vaccination because of his age and it’s noticeably harder / hotter for him. He just wants huggles …

Our house will be an ark of some kind … 17 days in total of absolutely self-isolating – proud that we’ve contained it and only given it to each other. I’m accepting that we’re here and experiencing this will bring a strange kind of closure to how we’ve rolled with this epidemic.

Photo of a young boy with his head resting on a table, looking knackered but contented, a line-up of PlayDo tubs on the table.
(Photo: Supplied)

March 5


Maka and I were up a lot of last night with his hot fever that didn’t really cool – even with Pamol. Today we woke late – for us – and his forehead is cool. 

My experience of the worst of it was a day before but also around 3am. My head felt as if it had become one of those skulls made out of sugar crystals or dry sand … I drank and drank and could not slake my thirst … the very dry, almost desiccated feeling was accompanied by a dry hotness that burned on my skin and a headache that throbbed in alignment. This kept me awake – a beach in my mouth and all the water I was pouring in didn’t seem to touch the spot. Keep hydrated! That morning I was dizzy on my feet. It was yesterday. 

Our experiences with this virus vary so wildly but for me the cough hasn’t been terrible, the sore throat I didn’t bother taking lozenges for… the Panadol I have taken four lots of two and then haven’t needed it. The main thing is honouring my tiredness because my energy has been really low. If I resisted this (I often do) I would be more miserable. 

Looking at what is happening in Hong Kong I am grateful this morning for the lockdown of Auckland ‘21 (and the other lockdowns – but most significantly that painful brave awful one) that got us protected from the more deadly variants, double vaccinated and boosted in time for omicron and able to experience it in ways that are not as devastating as it could be. 

These have been hard conditions in which to make good decisions. Basically, it’s been hard or hard. Choose your hard. We chose our hard – or we had our hard chosen for us. From the luxury of my small family recovering from Covid – right now – experiencing it and on our way to recovery – I choose this hard.

Photo of a young boy with a runny nose. Big beautiful brown eyes and a very solemn look.
(Photo: Supplied)


Ahhh… this is the face of Covid-19 in our house… we’ve all got light temps, clear runny noses, been hit a bit by the ugly stick, we are mostly horizontal and it’s quite clear that we are obviously not really well. We are also OK. Not in extreme pain, breathing OK, in a warm, dry house with more than enough food, vitamins, medicine, power, zero violence, books, screens, unlimited internet, a friend who is doing all our shopping for us, and deliveries of hot food and gifts from people who are showing us much love. It’s quite rare to have full permission to rest when you’re sick in Aotearoa tbh. We are so hard on ourselves and each other and have such a strong culture of “get sick and carry on”. A genuine luxury to make a full recovery and how sad – and simultaneously wonderful – is that. 

March 6


All this good kai being dropped off to the house… grateful for so much love… and this is *such* a covid question… “Can I actually taste this?” Hmmmmmm. “Can I smell it?” Hmmmmmm. “Should I wait until I can taste again before I eat this?” Hmmmmmm. (Thanks to David who made his famous chicken pie for us.)

Actually, tbh, none of us can taste a thing or smell anything. We are all really, really, really, really tired. Like so tired you feel “out of it”… like so tired, Nik got up to brush his teeth just now … before he went (back) to bed … (First time I’d seen him all day).  Karlos hasn’t woken at all yet … it’s only Bubba who is keeping me awake … otherwise with light temperatures we are on what feels like a slow mend.

Photo taken from a balcony where a young boy is delightedly pulling up a bag of treats. Two adults watch from below, beaming.
Friends delivering treats via a contactless pulley system (Photo: Supplied)

March 7


“Don’t touch me! You have coronavirus!!!” Maka to his brother. Peals of laughter. Yesterday, basically no one moved from their bed – definitely I didn’t. Parenting low for sure. Today … Laughter is good, as is people moving around in the house. I put laundry on with the actual intention of hanging it out. That’s a sign! 

We are really lucky that the fatigue is probably the most debilitating issue. Maka was up coughing and complaining of a sore throat last night so it’s moving through him a little differently. 

What a beautiful day it is in Tāmaki today … sun streaming through the windows, cool breeze … It feels like perfect weather to be sick in … we are slowly and gently moving through it. Karlos is out the other end of his 10 days but still asleep and hasn’t got enough energy yet for school. We will just take it as it comes on this warm, blue-skied day… hoping long covid is not a thing for him. 

Ka aroha to the families being hit really, really hard. 

I’m feeling so half-way through and out the other side and it’s an amazing, freeing feeling. One I haven’t felt since the pandemic broke. We are not quite there yet, but I can feel this wellbeing and peace of mind already and it is very much welcomed in.

A photo of amazing primary school worksheets and activities, spread out like a cornucopia.
A learning pack sent home for Maka from Ōwairaka Primary (Photo: Supplied)


Today – no doubt – has been my hardest day and yes my only symptoms have been “tiredness”. I just checked in with Karlos about this and luckily he validated me and agreed instead of brushing it off. The weird thing is I have no sore throat, no cough and no temp or headache. But I am devastatingly tired. Hanging out my washing exhausted me. Karlos said to me it’s actually the worst thing. The headaches / fever etc you can manage with Panadol etc, but the tiredness is the most relentless and difficult thing. It is tired enough to feel dizzy when you move around. Tired enough to feel moody and tearful and irritable and the sort of tired that makes you feel vulnerable to negative thinking. 

As a bonus, our infecter Karlos is well enough to cook for us.

March 8


This is also what love looks like during Covid. 

Yesterday my ex-husband drove across town with fresh bread, fruit and treats for our whānau – including the peaches that he knows are my favourite. A beloved male friend arrived to walk our dog. My beloved of beloveds sent a gift package from another city – all the sweetness of the bittersweet long distance relationship. All of these represent positive and healthy Vā (“spaces between”, or relationships) with men I care about and am close to in my life. 

March 9


If you catch Covid, my tip is that if you are responsible for childcare while you’re sick, try and self-isolate with another adult to share the load. That is all. Especially if kids are small. 

Thinking of all the other sole parents who have done covid alone with their kids having covid also. You have my total respect. My reality and gratitude check is that two of mine are largely self-sufficient although totally wiped out. I’m also doing this with a full fridge and meal drop-offs from multiple amazing friends and a cooperative ex-partner across town and someone my family adores helping with all the logistics (of that full fridge etc). Thanks for the quiche last night, Sisilia Eteuati. 

A photo of two epic pieces of toast: one covered in avo and tomatoes, the other in bacon topped with a massive handful of grated cheese.
Toast made by Nik (Photo: Supplied)

Maka has improved and he’s bouncing off the walls now. The rest of us are still in full fatigue. Four more days of isolated recovery to go. Karlos is still not good to go to school even though for him it’s day 13. 

I’m so grateful it’s still beautiful golden weather full of clear blue sky. I’m reflecting on what it would be like if you were truly alone and isolated without support coming in different ways. I’m reflecting on what it would be like if you were under-resourced and in poverty in overcrowded housing. I can’t even imagine what it would be like if you were in a violent relationship or a deeply unhappy home dynamic. I’m reflecting on all things to be grateful for. And there are many. But also, it really sucks and it’s really hard when your energy levels are the lowest you’ve ever experienced – with the exception of severe depression – which is different but debilitating with a deeply lethargic “can’t do anything” kind of outcome. 

All of this can co-exist in its complexity as the sun shines. 


So yesterday was not the worst day. Today is the worst day. Here’s the positive thing, because I keep trying to be in the spirit of gratitude… I have raised two really incredibly empathetic children – who both could see that I was really, really struggling today. (Karlos is back at school – thanks Mike for dropping him even though petrol prices are through the roof.) Nik washed the dishes. He emptied the rubbish. He made me bacon sandwiches. All carbs are on during Covid. Maka too said to me, “When I feel sad māmā, I play with my toys or watch my programme. It happens sometimes, feeling sad.” 

My cup just ran completely empty today, but it will be these little things that slowly fill it. 

Keep going!