Commentary – Veronica Shinzato

As a working single mom to a child with a disability, social distancing is a luxury I cannot afford. 

By Veronica Shinzato

One Thursday afternoon, I was called into the office by my supervisor. I had assumed it was part of our standard check-in. Only it wasn’t. I was told to quarantine for 14 days after one of my colleagues had tested positive for the coronavirus. “Oh,” I thought.

For a moment, I sat there both shocked and worried, wondering what this would mean for me, as a working single mom to a child with a disability, living in a multi-generational household with two elderly parents.

But, like many single parents with full-time jobs who juggle multiple responsibilities, I could not waste time grueling over the possibility that I could be a carrier of this deadly virus and could potentially infect my parents – both in their 60s – and my 10-year=old son who has a pre-existing condition. I had to do something. I had to keep it going.

So, that very afternoon, I came home and walked straight into the garage and went about my usual self-sanitation routine: I took off my shoes and sanitized them. Then, I walked straight into the shower and dumped my work clothes in a hamper separate from the rest.

As cumbersome as it can be, this has been the new normal for everyone – my children, my parents and myself – in our 1,400 sq. ft. Outer Richmond home for the last four months. Except this time, I had to wear a mask indoors and look absurd in front of my family.

“Mom, are you okay?” my 10-year old asked.

“Of course,” I said, although deep inside me, I wasn’t sure. “But you can’t come too closed to mommy because mommy’s not feeling well.” It killed me to say this. After a long day at work, like any parent, I wanted to hug my child, have him sit on my lap and ask him about his day.

My heart broke when my son said: “I don’t care. I want a hug. I’ll get sick, too.”

The following morning, I woke up feeling warm and lethargic. “Is this how it’s supposed to feel?” I asked myself. I couldn’t stomach the idea of not doing anything for the next two weeks.

I work full-time for a state tax agency and manage a small team. I am also a small family-restaurant owner with unpaid invoices piling up that I need to tend to. Its future remain uncertain because of shelter in place. Then there are the chores I have to do, the bills I have to pay, the laundry I need to wash, the doctor’s appointment I need to schedule. Social distancing is simply not a luxury I can afford.

But I know I am not alone. Being a single parent and the primary caregiver to a child with a disability is demanding enough. Add this pandemic to that, it becomes truly overwhelming and, at times, sobering.

The fact is, we cannot underestimate the impact of this pandemic. It takes one person who may not even be symptomatic to cause such a spread. In my case, it took a colleague, who like myself has responsibilities beyond themselves and cannot afford to get sick.

“Why does it have to be me?” I asked myself. I’ve been diligent about keeping everything clean and safe. Heck, I even spray my groceries with alcohol.

The following Monday, I went in for COVID testing. I am now in self-quarantine as I wait for the results. I sat there thinking any moment now I could be among the more than 2.7 million Americans who have tested positive thus far. But I needed to stay optimistic, especially for my children.

The unknown is a difficult place to be, compounded by the fact that I can’t even talk to my family about it because I don’t want to frighten them. After all, we share one bathroom in a dense home. And if for a fact I test positive, would it only be a matter of time until my children get it?  This is the unfortunate reality working parents are dealing with everyday.

Veronica Shinzato is a state tax agency employee and small business owner.


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