A mother of eight kids – including quintuplets – has given an honest account of ‘iso life’, saying there has been times she felt like she was “losing her grasp on reality”.
Kim Tucci, known as Australia’s quintuplet mum, has also revealed her struggles with homeschooling and the impact isolation has had on co-parenting with her recently separated husband.
Kim lives in Perth with her children Kurt, 13, Aiva, 9, Indiana, 6 and 4-year-old quintuplets Keith, Allie, Penelope, Tiffany and Beatrix.
Here, she tells Melissa Grant what it’s been like self-quarantining with eight young children during the coronavirus pandemic.
How have you survived self-isolation with eight children, including four-year-old quintuplets?
We decided to self-isolate the children early before any government recommendations were put in place. I couldn’t bear the thought of risking having eight sick kids with coronavirus. Let’s face it, it’s every mother’s nightmare to have one sick child let alone eight.
I found the isolation period to be very lonely and repetitive. Honestly, it was like Groundhog Day and every day blurred into the next. I tried my best to look after my mental health during that period by taking time out for myself and working out the best hacks to get those quiet moments. I bought a stack of colouring books and crayons for the quins to keep them occupied when I needed 15 minutes of peace. Simple things!
What was an ordinary day like before isolation?
Every day is busy in our house. We typically wake up at 7am and everyone has breakfast and gets ready for school. School drop off is at 8.30am but I am constantly running late most mornings as someone is sure to have a morning meltdown over something or another. I work, clean and cook during the day while the kids are at school. At 3pm, I pick-up the kids and we start the night time routine. There’s never a quiet moment that’s for sure!
What is an ordinary day like during isolation?
Well if I’m completely honest we all lived in PJs and every day blurred into the next. Most days I didn’t even know what day it was and, in the beginning, I thought I was losing a total grasp on reality. We follow a military routine normally so not much changed during the isolation period other than we all stayed home, but I tried to keep as close to that routine as possible.
While I did try and home school my eldest three children, it was just too difficult to home school the quins – I didn’t have enough hands and patience. The quins enjoyed their afternoons just being kids really – playing in the sun in our garden, colouring, etc. And here I am to tell the tale of isolation with eight kids!
What are your tips for keeping kids entertained at home?
Firstly, all the mums out there need to be kind to themselves. Homeschooling is hard. I am pretty sure most of us parents have a newfound appreciation for teachers now!
We tried to get the kids to play outside in the garden as much as possible to burn off some of that energy. And I was always on the lookout for cheap colouring books and educational material that would keep them occupied. I bought a pack of coloured chalks and we all drew rainbows and positive messages on my driveway – I will always have fond memories of that day.
I also found food to be a great entertaining hack. As you can imagine with eight little ones it’s constantly snack time! When I was desperate for five minutes of peace it was very tempting to just reach for a chocolate bar to keep them occupied, but I was conscious I didn’t want them to be trapped in the house and loaded up on sugar – a recipe for disaster!
I did some research on food options and discovered Nexba Live drinks from Woolies (Kim is now an ambassador for Nexba Live drinks) which have been a lifesaver. They taste just like the soft drinks the kids love but have no sugar and actually have a billion probiotics in them so are good for them. It keeps the kids happy and entertained and I’m guilt free, not having to deal with a sugar comedown later in the day! The quins were even making games out of them and doing blind taste tests with the different flavours. Definitely a little hack I’ll be continuing post lockdown too.
I read you have temporarily separated with your husband Vaughan – how did you manage co-parenting during the lockdown?
Vaughn and I have decided the best way forward is to stay permanently separated. We try and share the duties of the kids, but lockdown did complicate the balance of co-parenting together.
Are you managing any ‘me time’ during isolation? Do you have any tips for parents who may be feeling overwhelmed?
I have my good and bad days; I find that if I don’t make time for myself, I tend to burn out and by the end of the day I am sitting in a heap on the floor crying my eyes out. My best advice to other parents is; take your time if you need it because if mum falls apart everyone in the house will fall apart too.
I love listening to music, I will sit in a quiet room and jam to my tunes if I feel I need some self-love. I also try and plan future nights out with my friends, so I have something to look forward to. My best friend and I are already planning a night out on the town when the restrictions are up and I can’t wait.