Warning: this is a long post

Today we’re sharing a very personal experience we went through earlier this month and are ready to share now that everyone is ok. It is a post me and Lazy FI Mum wrote together and as the saying goes- “Ladies first”. In some sections, there are no “versions”, that would just be my (Lazy FI Dad’s) version, you will probably notice the drop in quality for those sections.

Background

Lazy FI Mum’s version:

My birth was planned to the very last detail, my maternity leave should have been around friends, family and lots of cafes across London.

In reality, I gave birth at the peak of the pandemic, when it was still not clear what’s going on and there was a lot of fear and uncertainty around COVID 19. This is not to say that the situation is different now, but it is much clearer to me in the sense that this is a new normal and it will take a while until we can travel freely and drink our coffees inside the café instead of taking it to go.

Lazy FI Dad and I decided we would try and avoid meeting friends and family before the birth, hence since March 2020, we limited our social interactions with people to a minimum (wearing masks and social distancing if we did meet people). Up until January (a total of 10 months) we ensured we keep our family safe, as this is what we believed was best (I myself am at risk, and our daughter is not even a year old). You can imagine our surprise when, 3 weeks after she started Nursery in January, our daughter came back home sick, and after a quick test – received a positive result for COVID 19!

Why am I telling you all of this? Besides the awful feeling of seeing your baby daughter sick, helpless and in real danger without being able to help her as she is still very young and just needs to get through it – it was a glimpse to a life where Lazy FI Dad is a full-time stay at home dad.

I won’t go into the details of what happened. Long story short – we are all ok. However, it’s important to know I got some symptoms (although tested negative) and was completely out of it for 2 full days, then needed a week and a half to recover.

Lazy FI Dad’s version:

Lazy FI Mum wasn’t feeling well on a Saturday and couldn’t get out of bed the following day (Sunday). Monday morning we booked a family COVID test (does that count as a frugal family activity?), a few hours later we were already in the COVID test centre getting tested.

I was very impressed by how efficient the whole process was. We were able to book a test near our home only a few hours in advance. When we got there, everything was very organised and someone explained to us exactly how to take the test (you do it yourself). Results came the next day, again- very efficient and organised.

The next day (Tuesday), I got an email at around 6 am telling me I was negative (for COVID, this was not a personality diagnosis), Lazy FI Mum got 2 emails- the first one telling her she was negative too, what a relief! However, nothing prepared me for the last email- our daughter tested positive, who knew that kids under 1 year old can even get it?! In addition, that meant we had to isolate for 10 days.

A bit of shock, worry, deep breath and then back to our senses- call the children’s centre (they closed her class for 10 days and told everyone to isolate immediately, well done), call our employers and get ready for an intense week and a half.

It is important to note that the fact Lazy FI Mum tested negative does not mean she was feeling well, she was still ill and the doctor said that based on her symptoms and being isolated with an infected person (our daughter), she probably got it too.

If you remember, I told you how much we appreciated all the benefits that the “new world” has to offer, especially time spent with family, in this post. Now we got to experience the main downside- the actual virus.

Our daughter’s health and visiting A&E

It’s not easy to see your child unwell, especially as it’s a new disease with a lot of unknowns. A sense of helplessness surrounded us for a few nights while our daughter was coughing in her sleep. We were in contact with 111 and when her temperature went over 39, they suggested we go to A&E.

We got to the hospital just after midnight, only one parent was allowed in so I stayed outside. They listened to her lungs and tested her oxygen and it was all fine. Once Lazy FI Mum and our daughter were the only ones in the waiting area, I was allowed in as well and we saw the doctor.

The doctor was very patient and told us that, luckily, COVID isn’t usually dangerous for babies. She also gave us a leaflet with “worrying” symptoms. I’ve added it below so you can deal with it better if, god forbid, your child gets COVID as well.

If this image is too small on your device, save it and zoom in

I’m happy to report that although our daughter was unwell for a few more days, she slowly got better from her state that night and is now back to the children’s centre (after we decided to extend our isolation to two weeks to make sure she had no symptoms).

Quality time

Lazy FI Mum’s version:

Lazy FI Dad stepped up (as he always does when needed) and declared a week off to take care of our daughter, myself and our home (10 days of quarantine means lots of cleaning!). Why is this interesting?

For me, as the person who actually does want to keep working, it was nice to see how a life (minus the COVID) with Lazy FI Dad retired could look like. I will share some insights on this point later on.

I will just say that, for me, the flexibility of working from home is really interesting as I feel I get the best of both worlds – working and maximizing the time I can spend with my daughter (during breaks, flexible hours and no commute).

Lazy FI Dad’s version:

So the opening paragraphs were a bit depressing, time for some positivity.

I got to spend almost 3-4 full days (until Lazy FI Mum was back on her feet) as a full-time stay-at-home dad with my daughter being home the whole time. I always thought that was my dream and what I wanted to do; so in a sense, I got a rare opportunity to have a trial run at my dream.

Let me tell you, I absolutely loved it! I had so much fun with her. We read books, ate, played with toys, listened to music, changed nappies, and even cooked together, which was basically me cooking and her smiling from her chair (best sous-chef ever!). What did we not do? Watch TV, we managed to spend the whole time together with “almost”* no screens.

The only part I didn’t enjoy? Joining work calls because I had to “juggle” my daughter and my job, more on that later.

With Lazy FI Mum in bed and me being with our daughter full time, you could have guessed our home was not exactly spotless. Dishes were piling up and were only done the next morning but I’m happy to report it’s now much better 😊

*I say “almost” because most of our family live in Israel and we do video calls, while they can see our daughter on both (front or back) cameras, we do let our daughter see the other person sometimes using the front (selfie) camera.

New skills

Lazy FI Mum’s version:

As both Lazy FI dad and I were with our daughter 24/7 it meant we could pay closer attention to the small development opportunities she showed us. She started communicating with her hands a lot, so we invested a lot of time showing her some basic gestures like saying bye, clapping her hands and raising her hands in the air. The time we had allowed us to focus on these small movements, repeatedly showing her how to do it right – and in the end, she got it and now mimics us or does it when we ask her to. These are special moments where you see your daughter learns new skills (of course, that suit her age level!) and one of the reasons I enjoy this flexibility of working from home nowadays. It also means I can be there for (almost) every ‘first’.

Another interesting thing that happened is her ability to move (walk) while supported. So we can’t wait for her first few steps in the near future.

Lazy FI Dad’s version:

Before this whole episode, our daughter never used to sleep in the children’s centre, probably because she was used to falling asleep in her pram during walks (my fault). Being isolated for 10 days was also a perfect opportunity to teach her to fall asleep by herself in her own bed without a walk or being picked up.

The first couple of days were tough, she cried for anything between 15 and 45 minutes each time. However, after a few days, it went down to 2-3 minutes, we’re very proud of her.

While she got the hang of falling asleep, I am disappointed to report that her Microsoft Excel skills are still very poor.

The importance of “F U Money”

Lazy FI Mum’s version:

We were in a position to offer Lazy FI Dad’s employer a week (initially) of unpaid leave if they can’t support him with sick leave (as he was not sick). This is not something we take for granted, this is exactly why we save – so we have the option to use the money when we really need it. Here, not knowing how long it will take for us both (me and our daughter) to recover, meant Lazy FI Dad had to take control and with a full-time job, it was not an option. I know it may seem like a small thing, but the fact that we didn’t even spend a second worrying about taking unpaid leave is a massive deal for me. It shows me that we reached a position where our mindset is not led by fear of ‘not saving enough’ or ‘can we afford it?’ but a more positive mindset and approach of: ‘this is why we save’ or ‘we are now in a great position because we did so well in previous years, so one small setback wouldn’t have a detrimental effect on our overall aim (for Lazy Fi Dad to reach FIRE) ‘

Just to clarify, his employer was amazing and gave him as much time off as he needed (paid).

Another clarification: my boss was extremely empathetic and supportive, allowing me to take as many sick leave days as I needed to fully recover.

Lazy FI dad’s version:

The moment we got a positive result telling us our daughter had COVID, we knew that she would have to stay home for at least 10 days. With Lazy FI Mum unwell, that meant I got to spend all that time with our daughter. Do you know what I couldn’t focus on? Correct, work.

Reminder: At this point, I was only 2 weeks into a new role in a new company.

I called my line manager and explained the situation and told her I will not be able to work for the next 10 days and I’m happy to take this time as unpaid leave if necessary. She was super nice about it and told me there was no need to do that, we agreed I’ll join calls and I’ll only use 2 days of annual leave. The next hour, I saw emails going out reallocating my workload, amazing efficiency.

This taught me two things:

  1. This company and my line manager really care about the employees, I chose a great company to work for.
  2. The fact that we had savings took the stress and reliance off my salary, it allowed me to tell my line manager I couldn’t work and that I had to focus on my family (and even suggest unpaid leave). Imagine my state of mind if I were in debt and was desperate for the money. Would I have even told her about it or would I have been so stressed to impress that I would have just tried to work the whole time? I don’t know the answer and thankfully, that’s a scenario I did not have to face.

It is also important to note that Lazy FI Mum’s boss was also very understanding about the whole thing and told her to rest and not worry about it.

Community

Lazy FI Mum’s version:

Being from another country, moving abroad away from all our close family and friends was a decision we both made back in the day. Every year, we talk about it to see if our opinions have changed and if London is still the right place for us.

The biggest disadvantage of this way of living is not having a big enough support system. For example- more quality time with our loved ones, more opportunities for our daughter to spend time with her grandparents, help and support on ad hoc cases like picking up our daughter or even inviting us to dinner so we wouldn’t need to cook every single week. It may sound like small things, but when it accumulates to a lot of small moments, all of a sudden it becomes a big deal. It means me and Lazy FI Dad are each other’s support network. This is for another post, but it does come with its challenges of trying to raise a family and work full time.

Over the 2 weeks, when we were living under the radar, constant support came from the people in our daughter’s nursery. They called frequently to ask if we are ok and if we needed anything. They made sure they take all the necessary precautions so that when we do come back to nursery it’s the safest environment for our daughter. And most of all, they decided to cook food for us, in a time where nor I, or Lazy FI dad, could make something more appealing than eggs and salad. It was a really pleasant surprise that felt we actually do have a form of support.

It reminded me of home, back in Israel, and the reason why I would ultimately want to move back. For this exact same feeling – loved ones who provide emotional, mental and physical support without asking us, just because they love and care for us.  

Lazy FI Dad’s version:

One of the nicest parts of this experience was the Friday night dinner. For those of you who don’t know, Friday night dinner is a pretty big deal in Judaism and we usually cook something special.

As I spent the whole day with our daughter and Lazy FI Mum was still not 100% better, we were going to have a very simple dinner- omelette and a salad, which is what we have most evenings.

Suddenly, the intercom rang, it was one of the staff members from the children’s centre our daughter goes to. We let her in the building and put on our masks (as we were still isolating). Apparently, three staff members took it upon themselves to cook us a Friday night dinner. We were very touched by this gesture. It made us feel a part of a community, which is something we’re not used to. We texted one of them to thank her, she replied “It’s our pleasure. Just to let you know you are not on your own… we care”.

This not only showed us a really nice side of their personalities and how much they care, but it also made me feel much better about leaving the most precious thing I have in this world with them for 6 hours a day.

The food we got for Friday night, so much!

Summary

Lazy FI Mum’s version:

Why is it important for me that Lazy FI Dad reaches FIRE?

Beyond the simple explanation of “that’s what he wants, I’m his wife and I want to support him with his dreams” there is a lot more to it:

I love what I do, and if you were to offer me money not to work, I would probably say no! I want to combine motherhood and work, I love this flexibility and I want to fulfil myself both as being a mum and a career woman. Lazy FI Dad WANTS to retire early, not because he does not like his job, but because he wants to spend every second he has with his family, me and our daughter. Here, he was put to the test, he could’ve easily said he needed to work (and that would have meant real chaos for us) but instead, he acted based on his priorities and based on what he always says – family first. He took care of us completely but mainly he enjoyed himself. Spending all day with our daughter, playing, singing, reading books and just being there with her on the playmat. What I consider as a bit boring, for him meant living the dream. For me, as the person on the side, it was touching to see.

There is complete synergy between our dreams and what we want out of life. I think this is why, in the end, we are so compatible with each other and get along so well together (beyond the love we have for each other of course!)

Lazy FI Dad’s version:

First of all, let me clarify: If you are offering someone money NOT to work, I will definitely take it if Lazy FI Mum doesn’t 😊 Now back to the summary:

We survived our daughter’s first illness and just like the cliché- we ended up in A&E. Funny enough, although in retrospect we didn’t have to go to A&E, I don’t regret doing so for one moment.

During the isolation, I got to spend quality time with her and prove to myself that this is really what I want to do with my life. However, she (and/or her future siblings) will not be at home all day so I will need to fill that time somehow, probably by teaching and tutoring. It is also not healthy for my relationship with my kids to revolve my life solely around them.

We used this time to teach her to fall asleep by herself and she got the hang of it pretty quick, great job baby! Next time it’s Pivot tables.

Having money allows you to focus on the important things and can remove (some of the) stress from difficult situations.

Lazy FI Mum is a much better writer than me.

Being a dad is the most important, fun and fulfilling title I’ve ever had.