COVID-19: The key worker diaries - Kayleigh

25th Jun 2020

Kayleigh is on maternity leave from her care job, balancing the needs of a 3 year old and 9 month old, while her partner works gruelling night shifts keeping the supermarket full of produce.

Kayleigh (28) and Adam (27), live in a maisonette in Plymouth with their two children, who at the time were aged 8 months and 3. While writing the diary, Kayleigh was particularly concerned about her imminent return to her job as a care worker when her maternity leave ended.


Monday 6th April

I woke up this morning feeling tired - I’ve not been sleeping well for worrying about everything at the moment.

Adam got home from his night shift at Asda at 6:20am. It was his 4th night in a row and to say he’s exhausted is an understatement. He told me last night was very full on, they had a huge delivery come in, which is great to know as the shelves are becoming better stocked again but tiring for the people working around the clock to keep up the pace.

I’m so proud of the work he’s doing. I don’t think he’s getting the recognition he deserves. He really is an essential worker right now. If there weren’t people stacking shelves there would be nothing to buy.

We spoke for 5 minutes before he went to bed and I went downstairs with the children so he can sleep.

I’m already running out of ideas to keep our 3-year-old son entertained. It’s very full on with an 8-month-old as well as him not going to nursery as usual - but it is what it is.

I turned on the news and heard that Boris Johnson has been moved into intensive care. That sounds worrying for the country although I’m sure he’s going to be very well looked after.

Tuesday 7th April

Adam finished his 5th night in a row last night. There’s a lot of pressure on the night workers to get the delivery out, even when deliveries are running late. Especially as the first customers in are NHS and care workers - they want to make sure they have everything out for them. It’s just constant - 10pm til 6am.

Last week, ASDA was letting customers in overnight and Adam said those night times were like day times. Some shoppers had no regard for the shelf-stackers and were getting very close to the workers and reaching over them to grab food. It made Adam feel uncomfortable.

I’ve done the weekly shop today - queue took 20 minutes to get in. Not too bad. I managed to get everything I needed. I always feel a lot better once I’ve done the shop, a bit more optimistic.

I’m not complaining but it does make me think about who the government is really recognising as key workers. Supermarket staff are getting no recognition at all. They are not allowed to go to the front of queues because the emphasis is on the NHS and that’s right but there just isn’t much understanding for the less talked about jobs.

Wednesday 8th April

Today was a challenging one. It’s been tantrum after tantrum with my son. He usually has a good routine going but that’s out of the window at the moment. He doesn’t understand why he can’t go to nursery or why he’s not seeing his friends, family, or why we can’t go to the park. He’s missing it all.

Normal life as he knows it has just disappeared. It must be so weird for him. He’s at an age where he knows something is up but is too young to understand what is happening. I understand his frustration - I feel it too. It’s hard to get your head around all this as an adult let alone as a child. We’ve told him there are nasty germs going around that could harm us.

I think the kids pick up on Adam’s stress too. It’s relentless for him, knackering. The only conversation I managed with him this morning was a quick: “How was your night?”. He said the deliveries are now huge and so the work is much harder but he’s very grateful for it. He got the job at ASDA after being laid off from Wetherspoon’s last year. Jobs are not always easy to come by and it’s only going to get harder the longer this goes on.

I’m starting to think about the end of my maternity leave next month when I will need to return to my job as a care worker.

I do feel anxious. When I left last year everything was normal. Now, I’m going to have to return to my kids each night worrying about whether I’m bringing home the virus. In one sense it will be a sort of normality but I’m scared because I will have to put myself out there. But there is no choice. My family can’t afford for me not to work.

Friday 10th April

So bored. It’s such a long day when there’s nothing to look forward to. I totally understand why we have to do it but it’s so hard, such a huge change to everyone’s lives.

Like a lot of families, we don’t have a garden - only a small balcony. We’d give anything for a garden to sit in right now - it would be so lovely to have that bit of space which is our own. We just have our daily walk which is the highlight of the day. I feel like I’m grieving for our old life.

Saturday 11th April

I’ve felt a bit happier today. I’m trying to just accept what it is at the moment and enjoy what we can.

We took a walk in the sunshine and it felt really good today. We just didn’t want to go home. I didn’t fancy cooking tonight so we just had macaroni cheese for our tea - cheap meal and we all like it.

I usually enjoy cooking and I’m also very good at sticking to our £50 weekly budget. I write a list before I go to Aldi or Asda and stick to it. I keep to supermarket brands and buy cheap cuts of meat which I batch cook in dishes like spag bol and curry. I managed to buy a slow cooker for £10 recently and it has been brilliant.

Monday 13th April

How do you keep a 3 year old entertained? SEND HELP!!! I’m out of ideas and exhausted. The days are long.

I did the food shop today at Aldi. I took my list which I always do and stuck to my meal plans. We’re used to budgeting as we don’t have a lot of money. Our income hasn’t really been affected by the pandemic as Adam is a key worker but we live month to month. I’m just doing it the way I usually do.

Boris Johnson is now out of hospital but I felt disappointed listening to him. I feel like the government needs to be clearer on things, to give people some direction and hope.

I’m pleased the prime minister is in recovery but he will never have to queue up in a supermarket, stack shelves or work in a nursing home. These are worries we have which he will never understand.

Wednesday 15th April

Another better day. The household is a lot calmer and happier. Still boring though at times. I took my son out the front for a kick around with the football.

There is a lot more talk in the news about the lack of PPE for medical and care staff. It’s heartbreaking. For many people, their pay does not reflect the risks they are being asked to take.

My mum is a care worker and I worry about her a lot. Her employers are responsible and providing gloves, aprons and face masks but there are still days when she feels very anxious and doesn’t feel like going in. Soon it will be my turn.

I’m really missing the family. Just when I think I’m getting used to this ‘new normal’ it hits me like a ton of bricks. The severity of it all. Worrying about your loved ones. Will we ever go back to normal again? It feels impossible right now. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about jumping in the car, driving to my parents and just giving them the biggest hug.

Video calls are great and all but it’s just not the same as sitting and having a cuppa and a proper chat.

I sense my dad is finding it tough. He has worked as a bus driver for 24 years but has been furloughed. There is a lot of uncertainty for people job wise. Will there be jobs for them to go back to?

Later, we took a walk through the woods just behind where we live today. Feeling genuinely quite happy and content.

I think I’m adjusting more to this way of life now. Accepting it. Can’t do much else right now. It’s also the last day of the diary, which I’m really going to miss. It has helped me to clear my head on days when things have felt hard.