14 Days In A Hotel Room With A Toddler: A Working Mum’s Quarantine Story
Yiping said being quarantined with a toddler in a hotel room was an experience like no other.
Staying at home with a young child—and not being allowed to go out at all—can be such a test of many things. But for working mum, Goh Yiping, a partner at a venture fund, juggling work and parenting when you’re stuck in a hotel room for 14 days brought about even more demanding challenges especially when you have a toddler with you. Read: quarantined with a toddler.
In an interview with theAsianparent, Yiping shared her experiences throughout the mandatory stay-at-home notice (SHN) she served with her husband and their 2-year-old child at a designated hotel upon returning home to Singapore from Spain.
Quarantined With a Toddler
Though her family has already experienced being forced into lockdown together for months during the circuit breaker period earlier this year, Yiping said being quarantined with a toddler in a hotel room was an experience like no other.
Despite the Government’s advice to defer all travels abroad, Yiping and her family had to travel out of Singapore for compassionate reasons. They have been away for over a month before returning here in early August.
Unfortunately, when they returned, her 2-year-old son Andres was suffering from diarrhoea and had a fever. Yiping and her husband then requested to serve the mandatory SHN period of 14-days at their home. While the Government allows travellers from select low-risk countries to serve their SHN at home, the rest are required to have theirs at a designated SHN facility.
“I had to explain to them that it’s gonna be so tough for a toddler to get better and recover in a hotel room. There is no ‘real’ comfort to provide a sick child.”
However, even though they travelled as a family, Yiping said their request to serve their SHN period at their residence was denied. “Unfortunately, we had to live with the rejection eventually. The only saving grace was because we knew we were going to serve SHN, we came, I would say, overly prepared. (sic)”
Yiping said that it helped a lot that they were assigned two adjoining rooms which allowed them to have separate spaces for different activities such as eating, working, and playing.
“I wish the Government allowed at-home quarantine if it involves the whole family to make it more comfortable. Staying at the dedicated facility felt like we were the innocent lot who had to pay for the small handful who broke SHN rules.”
Since April 8, the Government has mandated those who leave Singapore after the announcement of the travel advisory to bear the cost of their swab tests and their stay at SHN facilities.
Yiping also noted that serving SHN at the hotel was not cheap. theAsianparent understands that SHN at dedicated facilities costs start from S$2,000 per person. This fee does not cover the cost of the tests, as well as other costs for their other personal needs.
According to Yiping, the hotel provided three meals every day for 14 days. “The meals are quite delicious. It has a good balance of proteins, greens, carbs and vitamins,” she said. She noted, however, that the meals were standard and there were no options for a kids’ meal.
“So luckily, our son is not picky.” She also added that they were allowed to get food from outside. “That helps. I think the biggest concern was that if [Andres] doesn’t like the food, then we’re kind of busted. Luckily, he was flexible. But I can imagine how it would be like for many parents with feeding issues.”
“We are grateful that Hilton Hotel’s service is excellent and they were very patient [with us]. The only gripe is they don’t allow alcohol for quarantined folks! That prevented us from having our favourite choice of us-time (drinking wine). I still don’t get why that is!” she said jokingly.
While Yiping said the hotel’s services were generally pleasant, the real issue was not about the food. It was being stuck in the hotel room and not being able to go out or even open a window to breathe in fresh air.
“I think some of our main concerns were the relatively small space which at some point contributes to the anxiety and the feeling of some form claustrophobia because you’re stuck in a room. There was also no access to fresh air. We couldn’t go out, and our room windows can’t be opened. We were constantly stressed by the pile of stuff that just accumulates in time, for example, laundry.”
Yiping said the SHN fee covered laundry for the first few days. “Three clothing pieces were allowed per person for the laundry entitlement. That means we needed to learn how to pick the right clothes to send for washing. For us, it is mostly our child’s clothes.”
Not being able to send things out, and refusing to pay “something crazy” to get the laundry done by the hotel, Yiping and her husband resorted to doing their laundry in the hotel room’s bathroom, adding that otherwise, they would have run out of clothes to wear.
“It felt like we were constantly running out of clothes because there are no windows you can open, no natural ventilation. There was just the toilet hanger on which we can dry our clothes, but that meant it took days for our clothes to dry!”
Yiping also shared that there were no housekeeping services for two weeks except for being supplied with new linens every week. “At some point, the room starts to smell because you eat, sleep, do everything in that room.”
Her tips to ensure the situation doesn’t take a toll on them is to clean, tidy up at the end of every day, and make sure everything is reset for the next day. “You want to keep your room tidy. You don’t want the mess to irritate you and think ‘why is this place so dirty and stinky?’”
Juggling Work and Parenting When Quarantined with a Toddler
“I’d say that without a kid it’s gonna be way easier, we can easily take it as a couple’s staycation. With a kid and not [being able] to go out is tough. I feel like I’m just forever working around him, you know,” said Yiping.
The working mum said juggling work calls while caregiving was a big challenge, especially because her child is “more clingy to [me] compared to [my] husband.”
“For example, in the middle of a call, my son would suddenly poop and tell me about it. As a mum, you can’t help but clean him up; otherwise, it will be a stinky problem,” she laughed.
According to Yiping, taking care of her child became much more manageable because they came “over-prepared.”
Upon their arrival to the SHN facility, she and her husband had their family send them Andres’ toys, his books, his favourite blanket and other items he would need to keep him comfortable, entertained and happy.
“The key is to keep him happy so that he behaves properly.”
But Yiping admitted that the whole parenting experience while serving SHN wasn’t perfect. She noted that there were instances where giving extra screen time to her child was inevitable, given the limited resources available to them while in quarantine. While she felt guilty about giving in to turning to screen time to keep Andres entertained, she said it couldn’t be avoided especially since both she and her husband were “working remotely and almost on full-time capacity with a very slight reduction in productivity.”
Staying Healthy During Quarantine, Physically and Mentally
Yiping also spoke about being constantly off-schedule, including sleeping.
“It was almost like we didn’t have a sleep schedule. We sleep very little, especially since our kid wakes up about three times at night. We start our day at about 7 a.m. and the full day is on. We don’t have proper schedules. Everything is off the schedule like we don’t even know what time to shower sometimes,” Yiping added.
She also said keeping fit was a bit of a struggle for her and her husband since the hotel’s facilities aren’t accessible, and they take shifts in taking care of their child.
To continue with their fitness routine, Yiping said they bought some weights online to be able to sneak in some workouts throughout the quarantine period.
But Yiping said, ultimately, keeping their mental wellness in-check was the most important.
“I think going into the quarantine with a positive mindset is super important; otherwise I really don’t know how we’d survive 14 days,” Yiping said.
She added that it is crucial to also destress from time to time. Yiping even took up a mental wellness challenge which has been circulating online. In a Facebook post, she shared about her participation in the said challenge, which involved doing some physical exercises.
Meanwhile, the SHN required COVID-19 health checks throughout the entire 14-day period.
Yiping said they would get ICA officers checking on them, knocking on their door every day or every two days. They also get two calls per day to verify that they have not left their location. “They would usually ask for one thing to show that we’re inside the room, usually in the room’s telephone with the room number.”
“Between days 8 and 10 of quarantine, you get an appointment to do a swab test. Ours was conveniently located at one of the floors of the hotel,” Yiping said.
However, she said that while the tests went smoothly, she hoped that they were allowed to bring Andres with them at the testing area. “They separated us from our son and asked our 2-year-old to wait somewhere while we get swabbed. He cried so badly and was so scared.”
According to Yiping, the results came out 1-2 days before their scheduled check out.
Relationships in Quarantine
Quarantine and isolation have put marriages under a new kind of stress, and around the world, family relationships are strained due to forced home isolation.
When asked if there ever was a point during the 14-day hotel quarantine where she and her husband clashed or had a disagreement that made the quarantine difficult, Yiping said putting their child as the priority has allowed them to avoid friction.
“We knew we had to set our attention to Andres and prioritise him. So throughout the quarantine, we tend to neglect a bit of each other even though we see each other all the time,” she joked.
“We have friends telling us that quarantine is the real test if a relationship between husbands and wives can withstand the stress. We are happy to say we worked well as a team; we went in with a positive mindset that while we hated the quarantine, we told each other to make full use of this and make it like a home. So we came out quite fine.”
Friends In Need Are Friends Indeed
“I think we will have some fond memories of our quarantine many years down the road,” Yiping said. “Especially because we had family and lots of friends who sent us comfort food, toys and treats which really helped make the whole experience more bearable.”
“I posted about my quarantine experience [while serving the SHN], and that got a lot of love from friends. They began sending us food and drinks and fruits. Every other day we have friends sending something to us which spiced up our stay. That kind of turned into a staycation rather than a quarantine.”
But Yiping said the food also made them long for spending time with those [people] outside even more. “It made me miss spending time with my other family members. My parents, my siblings.”
“We started really beginning to appreciate all the little gestures that family members and friends do for us this quarantine season. I think friendships have deepened.”
In the end, Yiping said the whole experience allowed them to understand better how to strike a balance between parenting and family time, and working full-time.
“The ideal scenario, really, is not to work and just take hotel SHN as a staycation. But we like making full use of our time,” Yiping said, adding that just working would have made the quarantine too taxing, but not working altogether would have made them run out of stuff to do with their son sooner, especially since they are not able to step out of their rooms.
After finishing the SHN, Yiping and her family went back to the outside world and to their real home. Yiping, her husband and their son came out negative for COVID-19, which, according to her, marked the true end to their quarantine experience.