Bronwen, 41 & Archie 8, Sydney

“It’s made me realize how important it is to maintain friendships and really put in that effort because they’re the things that give your life meaning when you’re stuck in a box”.

Award winning journalist, Kate Mellis caught up with Bronwen for an over the phone interview.

I’m a single mum and until recently, my son, Archie and I had been living with my parents and my younger brother, all of us in the house together. About a week before Covid hit it big in Sydney, we moved into a little two bedroom apartment above a shop. It’s quite fortuitous because I’m a nurse, and very early on, I had flu-like symptoms and got sent home from work and had to isolate, which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was living with my mum, dad, brother and son. I was self-isolating in my little apartment and my parents looked after my son for a couple of days. Luckily my test came back negative. There was one day, after three days of isolation, when a good friend just rang for no particular reason and we must have chatted for about an hour, which is unusual for me. I remember getting off the phone, and just feeling so grateful for the friendship and that they thought to call.

I work full-time with cancer patients. They have decided that anyone who’s not specifically frontline should work from home. In the event of exposure at work, those people that work from home can come in and cover nurses who have been exposed or can’t come into work because they’re unwell. It’s not really the type of job you can do from home because so much of what we do is hands-on and you need your eyes to assess the patients. I have a different job at the moment, it’s coordinating patient treatment, so I’ve been working from home for the last two or three weeks, which has been a really unusual situation. I’m probably doing about 75 percent of my job realistically, and you end up relying on the registered nurses who are there on the floor, to sort of pick up the pieces of the things I can’t do. It’s frustrating, because as a nurse so much of what we do, is face-to-face with patients, and particularly older patients, wouldn’t be used to everything being online and over the phone.

I still drop Archie to mum and dad’s house every day because obviously when school was on he was doing the school work and now it’s the holidays, he just goes and hangs out with them and I pick him up at the end of the day. He is, for the first time ever, missing school. And I thought I’d never hear him say that. He has days where he is much more frustrated than he normally would be. It’s a lot more unlimited screen time, which in some ways, he’s enjoying. He’s quite an active child and soccer season was just about to start, so he’s really missing the interaction of the sport. We are lucky, I guess, that we live in a time where kids can connect using Zoom and FaceTime and all those sorts of things, so Archie’s quite happy that he’s allowed to get online and speak to his friends for a lot longer. He’s actually very tactile. He’s always the one hugging all his buddies, so I guess he’s finding it pretty weird not to have that contact.

Using chalk to draw rainbows seems to be one of those things a lot of people are doing, trying to brighten things up outside their homes as much as possible. People in our area are also putting bears in the window so that young children can walk around doing bear hunts.

This pandemic is a great leveller in some ways, when you see that one thing can hit so many people around the world and it doesn’t distinguish between the types of people. It makes you realize the importance of connection with friends and family over everything. You wonder how we come out of it. What do things look like when everyone decides to go out? What’s left for individuals who have lost their jobs or small businesses? It’s hard to imagine, when I have a job, what it must be like to suddenly lose a job. That’s the devastation I don’t know how, as a community, we come back from.

When this is all over, I’m looking forward to things like going to watch my son play a game of soccer. Things like that seem like a real treat now. And just not everybody being frightened all the time. Hopefully life goes back to normal and we can just value any lessons that we’ve managed to learn from it. The best case scenario would be that the majority of us come out of this ok and we value friendship and humanity a little bit more, and not so much the material things.”