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Utah Mom Juggles Life Amid The Coronavirus Pandemic

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Since the pandemic began, we've shared the stories of Americans whose work, health and home lives have been turned upside down. Rachael Serrano's days are like nothing she'd ever wanted to imagine.

RACHAEL SERRANO: I'm waking up wondering, how am I going to feed my kids today? Am I even going to be able to provide food for them?

SIMON: Rachael Serrano has five children. Her oldest is 14. Her youngest is a newborn, just 29 days old. And she has another baby too. He's almost a year.

The family lives in Ogden, UT, where her husband is a forklift driver. They were all right before the pandemic hit, but as it worsened, her husband made a difficult choice. He quit work to keep their family safe.

SERRANO: Where he was working at, they were constantly getting people coming up positive for COVID. And I couldn't risk him bringing that home with my son, who was diagnosed with epilepsy, also diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. He also has asthma. If you were to get it, COVID-19, it's not good.

SIMON: Rachael Serrano's husband kept looking for another job where the risk was lower. But in May, as bills piled up, another hard choice. They moved into a two bedroom apartment with her father-in-law.

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SIMON: Rachael's husband just started a new job this week. And with long hours, it leaves Rachael busy in the apartment with their children.

SERRANO: It's stressful because not only am I trying to figure out how I'm going to feed them for the day, but again, I have my son who's epileptic, so I have to constantly make sure he's OK. My three kids are in school. They have their little Chromebooks that they get on to do online school. But we're cramped into this little space. So it's hard. It's frustrating for everybody, not just me, even my kids. You know, they're just constantly arguing with each other. Or, you know, Mom, can you do this with me today? And I can't because it's hard for me to attend to them when I have my baby.

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SERRANO: I ended up having to have an emergency C-section. And being here at home, I was supposed to heal, which - I didn't do that. Soon as I got home, I started cleaning, wiping down the doorknobs, make sure everyone was wearing a mask. You know, not letting people come over. If someone were to catch COVID here at home, there's one bathroom here. So there's no way to be able to stop it from going around. I can't have that happen here at home. So all I do is keep cleaning and keep cleaning, make sure everybody is staying clean.

We get help through WIC, but even then for a 10-month-old is not enough because he does eat a little bit more. We're getting help through churches. There have been more than a few times where I've taken out of my own mouth just to make sure that my kids ate.

If I have a little bit of time during the day where I'm not with my kids, I get on these groups that are on Facebook, Mothers Helping Mothers, Families In Need, to see, OK, what is out there right now that people are able to offer to help with right now? Food, clothing, Pampers, these things - really is a job. I mean, I may not be bringing home a check, but I do still work 24/7. I'm a mom. I'm a teacher. I'm a counselor. I'm a therapist. I'm everything out there, all in one. And it's stressful. There's times that I have no choice but to put my mask on - I go outside, and I just sit and cry. And then again, I have to wipe my tears before I come inside.

My oldest son knows what's going on. He has told me, Mom, let me go rake a few yards, and I can help with money. And that is a hard thing, as a mom, coming from your kid to say that because it shouldn't be like that. You should be able to provide for your kids, not them seeing you struggle and saying that they want to go out and work to help you.

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SERRANO: It hurts to say this, but I hope what my three oldest (ph) remember about this is, you see the way we're struggling? I don't want you guys to struggle like this. This is why school is very important - for you to finish school and graduate, so that way, you don't have to struggle the way Mom and Dad are struggling right now. And I want them to say, OK, you know what? I want to be able to take care of my family. I can do that by finishing school, going to work, saving money up.

We're struggling. And it's going to be hard, but God never gives you more than what you can handle. And he gives his biggest battles to the strongest soldiers. I'm going to get through this. We're going to get through this. I'm going to make sure we're going to get through this. I have no choice but to get through this.

SIMON: Rachael Serrano, a mother of five in Ogden, UT.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.