This week I asked parents in the Remarkably Average Parents Facebook group and readers on the Mommy Shorts Facebook page to tell us about their experiences if they are considered “essential personnel.” I wanted to hear about the realities of their daily lives during this pandemic, so that the rest of us could have a better understanding of what people in different situations are going through. I asked them to tell us what was giving them hope, what has pissed them off and to share what changes their families have made during this time so that they could continue to work. Basically to share anything that they wish those of us who are staying home knew.
The feedback was overwhelming. So many people shared your stories from various front lines, broadening my perception of essential workers and who they represent. Below are just a few responses from all different professions. I think everyone should take the time to read them.
Thank you to everyone who is risking their own safety right now to make sure that the rest of us keep receiving the essential services that will get us through this time.
40 Essential Workers Share Their Stories of Hope and Hardship
1) “I’m a bank teller and I’m also 36 weeks pregnant. I’ve been a little down this week thinking of all the people we help every day who could do their transactions from home, or who could wait because it isn’t an emergency. Yesterday, we had a man who was a bit upset that he couldn’t come in to do his business (only the drive-thru is open), but asked about me by name. He asked how I was doing, if I was staying healthy and what the company was doing to protect me. I nearly cried (and I’m tearing up now) that someone was kind enough to think of me and my baby at this time. We have been beyond anxious for the arrival of our daughter and small thoughts like that go a long way!” – Katie
2) “I work in a grocery store. My son has asthma, and his pediatrician recommended that he go to a household where there was no exposure. He couldn’t go to his dad’s house because he is a truck driver, and his wife works at a bank. My daughter and her boyfriend (who are both 20-years old) work at a casino, so they have been off work. I sent my son to their house to lessen his risk. It turned out to be a good thing, because four days after I sent him, I got sick and tested positive for the virus. I am now on day 13 of quarantine. I haven’t seen my kids or my family in over 2 weeks. I do have my husband, but he works as an essential worker, so I stay in the bedroom and he stays in the living room. To say this has changed everything in my life has been an understatement.” – Trina
3) “My husband is an essential worker. He works for Walmart distribution. We feel lucky to still have income coming in since my work as a church secretary has been cut in half. At the same time its hard seeing him leave for work, not knowing what work will entail for him. They have made several changes at his job. No one is allowed within 6 feet of each other and they test for fevers before going into work. The first few weeks when stores were running out of food he worked a lot of over time. Walmart is really doing amazing things for their workers though. My husband has been sent home with care packages for the family (water, toilet paper, paper towels, etc,). They have started to supply PPE for their workers as well.” – Kacie
4) “I work in banking. The first two weeks of lockdown I was manning the front door, so I was in direct line of the customers, telling them if they could come in or not. I’ve done three days on the counter in two weeks. We handle money, and money is dirty. People say I’m lucky to be at work, but I’d much rather be at home with my family as I have three young children.” – Anne
5) “My husband and I are both essential employees. He is in food service and I work in healthcare. We have 5 kids at home. I’m scared of our risk, and of exposing our high-risk child at home, but I am grateful we are still able to work and have an income right now. Our schedules are also changing by the hour and the decontamination after we come home is insane, but it’s working and that’s all that matters right now!” – Brittany
6) “I’m a nurse in Boston. I usually work in the ER and a cardiac procedure recovery room. I have not worked in the ER in three weeks because I’m considered high risk due to my asthma. It’s killing me not to be in the ER right now working alongside my fellow warriors, but for my health and my kids I’ve stayed away. My recovery room is being turned into an ICU. People are still having other medical emergencies that need ICU but are not infectious. That’ll be us. We will roll all the non-COVID patients into one big area. It’s scary as hell because ICU care is so specific to the particular body system affected. But we will work together and rally. That’s what I love about being a nurse – we rally and get it done!” – Nicole
7) “I am a pediatric home health nurse. We work 1:1 with medically fragile children in their homes for shifts of 8-12 hours. We care for some who are low-acuity like, G button feeding, that may or may not attend school with a nurse. We also care for those who are high-acuity, homebound 24/7, regular seizure activity, some with trachs and those vent-dependent. We work very hard to keep these children safe and stable. Almost all are immunocompromised. I feel like we have been forgotten in this. Very few of our patient’s homes have masks in them. Many of us work multiple cases, so there is a risk of cross contamination if we are not very careful. I wish there were better options to keep our patients safe. Our patient’s parents need us.” – Erica
8) “I’m an Occupational Therapist. I am thankful I still have a job because I know so many have lost theirs. But I’m scared every day of bringing home the virus to my 4-year-old and 1-year-old. I strip down out of my scrubs in the garage and shower before giving them any of sort of greeting when I get home. I want parents who are staying home to know that you are doing a good job. I wish I could stay at home and help with the kids and spend the extra time with them. So I am feeling the mom guilt when I go to work. But I also know plenty who are trying to work from home and feeling the parent guilt as well, because they feel like they aren’t giving their kids enough attention. So I guess what I want to say is that no matter what boat you’re in, this whole thing sucks.” – Amanda
9) “I’m a healthcare worker for a hospital in Orange County, CA. I work full-time graveyard shifts. Things change daily and we’re doing our best to provide the best patient care, while keeping ourselves and our patients safe. Supplies are short and we’re only taking in patients in need of immediate care, so some of our hours are getting cut. It is stressful when entering COVID-19 rooms. I’m thankful that I can help those in need and the other healthcare workers in all of our various positions. It takes a team. I have a good job and my family is healthy.” Alison
10) “My husband and I both work for a hospital. He’s in IT and I’m in patient care. He can work from home but has to “hide” from his manager that the kids are home with him all day (as if a great deal of the country isn’t doing this?). Even though I work for a hospital I’m not one of the beloved nurses or doctors receiving all the love. My management doesn’t appear to have a clear plan. Volumes are down but we’re required to report to work and sit together in a small room for a few hours until given the ok to leave (we’re in the ‘calm before the storm’ stage). We weren’t allowed PPE until last week, despite our prolonged face-to-face time with patients. We’ve pretty much all come in contact with someone who was suspected of COVID, but not until after we’ve been inches from them for 15-20 minutes or more. We’ve had stories of patients who lied about symptoms in order to get their exams.” -Emily
11) “I work in home childcare. I feel we are being overlooked as ‘essential’. We are putting ourselves and our families at risk in order to allow the other ‘essential workers’ to continue working. Many childcare workers have lost a large part of their income and question their decision to be open every day.” – Melanie
12) “My company has been recognized as essential. We are a small family-owned business in the Water and Wastewater industry. I am happy to still be open and able to pay my employees, however, compared to the nurses, doctors, EMTs, paramedics, etc, I feel guilty at times that we are still open and working. We aren’t saving anyone’s lives, but then again we are providing something that allow us to continue to have food and clean water, which is extremely important.” – Paige
13) “I’m an RN and work for a big pharmaceutical company that is in the midst of the stock piling. Those of us in consumer service and data quality are considered essential, because some of our products are FDA regulated. So, phones have to stay open with RNs on staff. Hearing the panic in people’s voices because our products are flying off shelves and people can’t get them easily is hard sometimes. They are so scared of not having the meds if they contract the virus. Many are holding onto expired products just in case they need it because they can’t find new stuff. Talking to older people who live alone and are isolating puts the situation into a different perspective. And hearing from New York or California residents first hand has me buckling down here in WI for what we might end up experiencing.” – Abigail
14) “I’m an ICU nurse in San Francisco, and the inability of families to physically visit their loved ones is one of the saddest parts of this whole thing. So when I went into my patient’s room (COVID +) at the beginning of my shift and saw the sign that a nurse made with paper flowers and hearts that said ‘Stay strong! We are here for you! Love, Your ICU Nurses’ I was overcome with emotion and immense gratitude to be surrounded by such good people.” – Jayne
15) “I’m a public elementary school secretary. It’s been weird. Every single inequity rises to the surface during a time like this – access to internet and technology, abusive homes, absent parents, sibling supervision, second language, special needs, drug use – they all become hurdles for these poor students. Teachers are crying every day because this work is HARD and they are losing connection.” – Mary
16) “I’m an essential worker in childcare. As a small license-exempt home provider, my littles are my family. Throughout all of this chaos, I’m overflowing with gratitude that our tribe gets to come together as we normally do. This comfort and consistency for toddlers is so important and I am so thankful I’m able to be part of their ‘constant’ while their parents work on the front lines or in essential industries.” – Erica
17) “I am a nurse practitioner who works in a hospital clinic. I worry about my risk, what am I exposing my family to?
I work with wound care patients and their wounds will not stop being wounds during quarantine. These are ill patients, diabetic, elderly, autoimmune, cardiac, etc. How do we balance keeping them safe from exposure and also maintain their wounds? In the lounge, I overheard how Palm Sunday was celebrated in quarantine, Pope Francis still performed mass to an empty basilica and said a special prayer for health care workers. I cried as I watched the drive-in masses being held in South Korea, and Lebanese priests going through the streets in cars with Holy Water. It was a humbling moment. These hard times will end.” – Natalie
18) “My husband is active-duty military. His command is running on minimum staff to reduce exposure, but they run 24/7 and cannot shut down. Our daughter is a cancer survivor at high risk for complications with COVID-19, so we have started using the same precautions we used when she was getting chemo and her immune system was non-existent. Shoes are removed outside and don’t enter the house, my husband goes straight to the shower, and his uniform goes straight into the wash in hot water. Keys, phone, ID card, and watch are disinfected and sanitized. Unfortunately, social isolation and avoiding illness is something our family is very familiar with.” – Erin
19) “For those of us working in long-term care, this is devastating and traumatic. We have such a bond and such love for our residents, that losing just one breaks our hearts. To be losing them back to back, over and over again, my heart is shattered. I get in my car and just cry and cry and cry.” – Kay
20) “My husband is considered essential. His store supplies other essential workers, but is open to the public as well. His company won’t let him close the store to the public. A customer came into the store twice, even though his wife tested positive for COVID-19! My husband had to throw him out. I was furious. Angry at this customer and angry at his company. How dare they put my family at risk every day.” – Dianna
21) “I’m an oncology nurse in an outpatient setting. We are trying our best to maintain normalcy even though everyone’s in a mask and no visitors are allowed. Most ‘visits’ are over video or phone calls with only those receiving chemotherapy coming inside. Our patients need their treatment, need their scans or biopsies, yet they are so afraid to leave their houses. Surgeries are cancelled. It’s a very scary time to have cancer right now.” – Audra
22) “My husband and I are both essential workers. He works for a large beverage manufacturer and I’m a pharmacy technician at a retail chain. We are both grateful that we still have jobs, but every day I worry that we’re bringing something home to our 11-year-old. Thankfully my sister has stepped up and is watching our son while we’re working. She has even taken on some of the home schooling. The first few weeks were pure hell at work for me. I was yelled at more times than I can count because we were out of toilet paper, thermometers, masks, etc. Everyone was frantically trying to refill every script they’ve ever taken. It has calmed down now, and some of our regulars have brought us food and goodies. I hope myself, my husband, our coworkers, and all of our families and our customers make it through this safely, as well as all the other essential workers out there. Please, if you can stay home, do it, for your family and mine.” -Crystal
23) “I’m a Title 1 Special Education teacher. I wish people knew that teachers aren’t just on vacation. I worry about my students eating. I worry that the connections we spent all year making have been lost. I worry about the ones we can’t get in touch with. I worry about the ones who need speech therapy and occupational therapy who cannot get it right now. Our children with disabilities are falling through the cracks of this virtual school system and there isn’t anything we can do about it.” – Amy
24) “I’m a funeral director/embalmer and my husband is a direct care provider for individuals with developmental disabilities. We live in the funeral home where I work, and we know that my risk of exposure is high. When we saw risk mounting we sent our 2-year-old to stay with his great-grandparents. Then a week and a half ago I brought a COVID positive body into the funeral home. The babysitter that had been watching my 8.5 month old decided she was no longer comfortable with the risk of being in my home, so we sent our baby to stay with our dear friend. This is HARD. I’m missing my babies something fierce, but I’m at peace knowing we did the best thing for their health and safety. This is an insanely difficult time but we will come out stronger on the other side.” – Anabel
25) “My husband is the essential employee. He’s a truck driver for a local food company out of New Orleans. He comes home every day hoping he hasn’t brought anything with him. For Hurricane Katrina, almost 15 years ago, I was the essential employee of a local hospital and he was right there at my side. We knew back then, if we could survive that, we would survive anything. So, we just take this one day at a time.” – Cinzia
26) “Both my husband and I are considered essential workers. I work in a hospital during the day while he works for UPS nights. Our three kids have shifted their schedules of sleep – they go to bed really late and sleep in so that my husband gets some rest in a quiet house. Then I can come home and de-stress by taking family walks, cooking and watching movies. I worry that my kids spend so much time on their phones, but I think that is what is keeping them sane and connected with friends and family who they miss. I am actually amazed how they are dealing with all of this.” – Katarzyna
27) “I’m the wife of a firefighter/paramedic. Three weeks ago he asked me to pack up myself and our 4-month-old and to drive to my parents’ house to stay with them until this is over. Our other children (7-year-old and 3-year-old boys) were already with my parents. We thought it would be two weeks and we would be able to go home. Now we have no idea when we will go home. He has taken a COVID positive patient on almost every shift, and although they are being outfitted in PPE there is still always a chance of exposure. I’m thankful we are still getting a pay check, but I miss my husband and the kids miss their daddy. I’m so worried that my daughter isn’t going to remember him when we finally get to go home.” – Amanda
28) “My husband is an essential employee as a grocery worker. He has worked in grocery all his life. He also happens to have a neuro-muscular disease which is slowly killing him, and deeply affects the heart and lungs. I have never been more scared for anyone than I am right now for him. People don’t realize that those grocery workers are quite literally risking their lives to keep people fed. The first thing people do when they get sick is head to the only store in town to get medicine. If he gets this virus, it will kill him. We have a 10-year-old, and I’m not ready to do this all alone.” – Jennifer
29) “I live in the Chattanooga area and work at a steel fabrication shop that provides materials for government and hospital contracts. We are deemed essential. My husband is a meat department manager and is getting run ragged. His days off were suspended and right about the time that was lifted, we had a shelter-in-place order and panic shopping began. He has had some of the nicest customers thanking him though, even making him a mask, bringing him lunch, etc. A little love from his customers has really gone a long way and he is truly grateful for everything.” – Lynn
30) “I’m a police dispatcher in Alabama and my husband is a cop. Both of us are essential with four kids at home trying to do distance learning. Our work schedules make it difficult for us to manage a consistent school schedule for the kids. Also, due to the panic buying, there are now restrictions on what you can buy and how much. This means our normal grocery shopping for a family of 6 has been severely cut back, and we’re forced to try and find food across multiple shopping trips on multiple days just to fill our pantry. I wish people would realize that panic buying solves nothing but only exacerbates an already difficult situation.” – Stacey
31) “I’m a customer accounts manager for a large trucking company, and I’ve been working from home for the past month. I’m also a single mom to a toddler, and the amount of nasty looks and comments I get when I tell people I send him to daycare is nuts. I’m an essential employee and the trucking business is out of control busy right now with the amount of supply and demand. I need to be on my computer from morning until late afternoon. I still have so much to do that I log on after my son is in bed every night. I can’t work all day and have him home with me – it’s not possible with my job expectations. And at the end of the day, we need food and rent. I just wish people would understand that people – even those of us with the luxury to work from home – still rely on childcare. It’s not as black and white as people think. We aren’t taking this any less seriously than anyone else. Some of us just don’t have a choice.” – April
32) “I deliver produce boxes for a local subscription company. I am so grateful to be working and members have gone above and beyond with tips, notes of encouragement, and gifts. I am so stressed out though. The orders are more complicated and minor snags just seem so much bigger because of the stress. And I’m so worried about being an asymptomatic threat to the people I serve and my family.” – Brighid
33) “I am a respiratory therapist and my husband is a nurse practitioner, so we are both still working. It’s been hard shuffling our already anxious toddler around from person to person since daycare closed. We are tired, stressed, and anxious about the unknown. But also very thankful for the paychecks we are still receiving.” – Sarah
34) “I work night shifts at a long-term care facility, in a state with a stay-at-home order. I am also a single parent to two kids, ages 9 and 13. Their dad is also considered essential as a correctional officer, and he also works nights. We still maintain our custody schedule and are as flexible as possible. Our kids are doing online learning for what’s supposed to be 3-4 hours a day but ends up being longer. I am struggling to say the least. Finding a balance between work, teaching, parenting and trying to keep the house afloat has me sleeping on average four hours a day. I am so thankful to have a job but man do I sometimes wish for a break. My house is a mess and the bags under my eyes are no joke. The kids are getting far too much screen time. Here in WI the weather isn’t exactly ideal for playing outside, so we are cooped up most days. The mom guilt is out of this world but here we are making it through another day.” – Jody
35) “I’m an operating room tech that’s been redeployed to the ICU. It’s heartbreaking. I’m overwhelmed. I’m dealing with a different side of healthcare than I am used to, doing things that are outside of my skill set, and learning on the fly. And then I’m worrying that I’m bringing something home to my children. The anxiety is exhausting.” – Rachel
36) “I’m a pharmacy technician in a hospital. I make sterile IV medications. I don’t have direct contact with patients but I do have to make my way through the hospital every day. I also have three teenagers at home. My husband works out of town and usually comes back on the weekends, but he hasn’t been allowed to visit for over a month because our area already had cases and theirs didn’t. So I leave my kids home alone every day, doing their schoolwork on their Chromebooks, hoping they’ll eat something other than cereal and stressing over how this all affects their mental health. I know they are anxious and it really makes me feel like shit having to leave them fending for themselves during this time. I’m thankful our income hasn’t been affected, but this impacts everyone in some capacity and it will take all of us a long time to recover.” – Outi
37) “I’m a child therapist and I’m doing Telehealth now. From talking with kids through murders of siblings, to arranging hospitalizations for suicidal ideation, to multiple CPS reports, I hold on to the little things to keep me going. I have kiddos telling me that they love me and that they’re happy to see me, and other kids scribbling over a picture of the Coronavirus on a drawing app and writing “I hate you” underneath it and then saying later that they’re feeling pretty good. It’s heavy and hard work, but these children deserve all of the support and love so that they can get through this traumatic experience.” – Bethany
38) “I’m a nurse and flew to NYC to help because of the nurses on the news every night begging for help. I left my 9-year-old and 20-month-old at home with my best friend. We had to get his sister to agree to quarantine with them so that she can watch the kids when he works nights. This means she won’t see her own husband for 5 weeks, all so she can care for my family.” – Jeannette
39) “I work full-time as a pharmacy technician Monday through Friday, and on the weekends I’m an online shopper at a grocery store. It’s been exhausting, but I have been so touched by my community’s appreciation of our efforts. The American Sewing Guild made and donated face masks for us at the pharmacy when we had none due to the shortages. And some patients are just randomly sending us pizzas for lunch or donuts for breakfast – it has been so touching. As I was pumping gas on my way to work someone drove up and said, “Thank you for your work. Stay safe!” I have seen some amazing acts of kindness that fills me with hope that we will get through this, and be better people for it.” – Christine
40) “My husband is an essential employee for FEMA. He is currently helping one of the states to manage the virus by developing temporary medical sites and trying to find supplies and staffing. He’s been working 12-hour days, 7 days a week and we miss him tons, but we’re also so proud of him and grateful for all he’s doing!” – Shana
If you are essential personnel, please consider leaving a comment below. I would love to hear about your experience.
You can follow the Mommy Shorts community over on @mommyshortssquad.