COVID-19 SPECIAL: How three mothers cope

Managing the home while hubby battles Covid-19

How three mothers cope

The Xie family is grateful to be reunited again after Mr Xie Jiahao was cleared of Covid-19 last Wednesday. Ms Jayme Tan, who is 14 weeks pregnant, had to hold the fort at home, caring for Zoe and Coen.
The Xie family is grateful to be reunited again after Mr Xie Jiahao was cleared of Covid-19 last Wednesday. Ms Jayme Tan, who is 14 weeks pregnant, had to hold the fort at home, caring for Zoe and Coen.PHOTO: JAYME TAN

Ms Jayme Tan received the "best Mother's Day present" last Wednesday: her husband back home.

Mr Xie Jiahao was finally reunited with his wife and children after 51 days away battling Covid-19 - all because of a good deed.

On March 16, the 37-year-old decided to comfort his bereaved friend, who had just lost his wife, by staying over at his home for a week. His friend, who had just returned from Britain, tested positive for Covid-19 on March 22.

Mr Xie, an assistant vicepresident of digital marketing, was immediately quarantined and tested positive on March 30. He was moved to D'Resort NTUC in Pasir Ris on April 5 as his mild symptoms had subsided.

It took another month before he finally scored two consecutive negative swab tests and was discharged - fortuitously, on his mother's birthday and two days after his own.

After coping on her own with two preschoolers, Ms Tan, who is 14 weeks pregnant with her third child, says: "I'm overwhelmed by happiness. It's been such a long journey and even though I knew this day of reunion would surely come, it still feels surreal that today is the day."

The past two months have been a "crazy journey" for the 31-year-old. During the circuit breaker period, she juggled home-based learning for their children, while working from home as a business operations lead and managing the household with the help of their maid. She also suffered from nausea, fatigue and lower back pain during her first trimester.

It was a 180-degree shift for the mum, who used to be out the door before her kids awoke and relied on her in-laws living nearby to ferry the children to childcare and back.

While she treasures the daily breakfast time with Zoe, six, and Coen, four, she confesses: "I am often pulled in different directions in the day. It can be work calls, playing Lego with the kids, cooking dinner, planning activities for the kids to keep them occupied, breaking up fights, reading books to them and basically getting through the day."

Thankfully, her boss and colleagues were understanding, giving her the flexibility she needed to attend to her children.

Her in-laws, who live nearby, "remain our biggest support" as they delivered groceries and left them outside her door every week.

 
 
 

The close bond her husband had built with their kids meant that family celebrations without him were emotionally charged. They celebrated both kids' birthdays in April as well as Mr Xie's via Zoom.

Even though Zoe received deliveries from friends for her birthday, as well as cakes and balloons, "she sobbed in my arms because daddy wasn't around. That broke all our hearts", Ms Tan recounts.

Still, the couple found creative ways to co-parent, even roping in Mr Xie to play Monopoly with the kids via Zoom on days when Ms Tan had urgent work.

During her husband's absence, she tried to stay positive.

"My husband tells me I am a survivor, so probably that's what I learnt about myself," she says, recalling how she had to bake a cake at the last minute for Coen's birthday when dessert shops were suddenly told to close.

"As a full-time working mother, I look at this period as a gift and prayer answered, that I get to spend so much time with the kids; eating three meals a day together, seeing their faces all the time and being surrounded by their laughter."

 

How she will spend Mother's Day: Ms Tan says they will probably "order a good takeout, spend the entire day playing with the kids and catching up on lost time".

The family will make video calls to her mother and mother-in-law, and she has written cards for them.

"Both of them are so precious to me and I hope on this day they know how loved they are by us and the grandchildren."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 10, 2020, with the headline 'Managing the home while hubby battles Covid-19'. Subscribe