What It's Like To Isolate Away From Your Children
As we enter week seven of lockdown, we know that a lack of contact with friends and family is taking its toll on everyone. But for those isolating alone, or without family at life-changing moments, the lack of basic human interaction and touch can be particularly hard. Over on Instagram, we asked how many of the Tyla audience are locked down alone and found that over a third of you are. So we're starting a new editorial series, Locked Down Alone, bringing you first hand accounts from women sharing their stories, advice, practical tips on how they're coping and - we hope - making you feel a little less lonely. And remember whether you're in lockdown with friends, family or solo, we are all in this together.
When the Prime Minister announced lockdown in late March, many of us were confronted with impossible dilemmas. Should we isolate with our parents, or stay in our flat share? Is it too soon to move our new boyfriend into our apartment? Should we begin stockpiling like the rest, or make do with what's already in our cupboards?
But for Rachael Webb, it wasn't as simple of deciding which comfy home to set up shop in. It was the decision to isolate apart from her two daughters, something she has called one of the "hardest decisions" she's ever had to make.
At the time of writing, Rachael, 39, from Pontefract in West Yorkshire, has only see her two girls, Evie, 10, and Melody, six, once in seven weeks.
Rachael, a children's book author and illustrator, split up with her husband of 10 years and the father of her children in late 2019. Following their breakup, Rachael decided she would move out of the home she owned to live with her parents, in order to create a more settled environment for her girls.
When Boris Johnson called for lockdown on the evening of 23rd March, Rachael happened to be staying at her new boyfriend's home.
The mum-of-two suffers from a number of longterm heath conditions - M.E, fibromyalgia, Menieres and asthma - which put her firmly on the government's coronavirus 'vulnerable list', so when news of a lockdown emerged, she knew she had to stay put.
On top of that, Rachael had been experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, something she couldn't be sure were the virus or related to her existing conditions. Either way, her doctor advised her to self-isolate.
"We were already going through quite a stressful time when lockdown was implemented, the girls were trying to get used to the fact that mummy and daddy weren't together any more," Rachael tells Tyla.
"It was a difficult decision because obviously I want to be with my girls full time. Even sharing custody was difficult I wasn't able to be with them full time, but we were kind of getting used to that when this happened," she says.
Rachael's M.E was at its worst two years ago, where she found herself in a wheelchair. "In the long run, I knew that I'd rather be healthy and not catch the virus or make my conditions worse," she explains.
The mum-of-two has only seen her children once during lockdown, reuniting with them for a socially-distanced date in the park at the end of April after weeks apart, something she describes as "amazing".
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"It's the little things you miss," she adds. "Things like begging for food every five minutes, which would normally be frustrating. I'm missing normal life with them and I think it's what they're missing as well."
Evie, who has been avidly playing online game Roblox since lockdown, even told her mother she'd changed her username to 'Imissmymummy'.
"It's not something that you get used to," says Rachael. "For me [lockdown] is something that I know is important. I'm happy for it to go on longer if I know that it's going to be safer.
"Its about the long-term. I know I'm going to be back with my children and I know that I'm going to be back in that house eventually.
"Right now it feels like its about running a marathon rather than a sprint. I'd rather be healthy for my girls and if that means having to be away from them even for a little while, then that has to happen."
"It's heartbreaking," she says, as her voice cracks on the phone. "I can actually feel myself welling up a little bit at the thought of it going on for that much longer. But I'd rather be safe than sorry."
During lockdown, Rachael has written a children's book for her daughters, which she's making available for free online, encouraging donations to the NHS.
"Because I have Asperger's and I'm quite socially awkward, I feel like I've been practicing for this social distancing for quite a while now," she explains.
"That part isn't difficult because it's something I've always known, but it's the being away from my children and going through this breakup at the same time. It can be quite mentally exhausting."
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister announced he was hoping to begin to ease lockdown measures from Monday 11th May. While it's not clear what these alterations will entail, Rachael is looking forward to eventually go back into her home, where she has some exciting plans for her and her girls.
"I'm going to get lots of colourful bean bags for one of our rooms," she explains. "I want to make our house more of a home and spend as much time with the girls as I can with them. I'm going to be at Evie's tennis a lot more."
"This has really emphasised for me what is important," says Rachael. "It's not material things, or what you own. It's about that interaction with other people."
Featured Image Credit: Rachael Webb
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