LIKE so many other families across the country, Lisa Chesters is trying to give her kids a normal childhood in a coronavirus-restricted world.
The Bendigo MP has two children under two with partner Matt Emond - Daisy aged 20 months and Charlie aged four months.
Ms Chesters said her tip to keeping the family happy while in and out of lockdowns was trying to keep to a routine.
"For Daisy and Charlie, they don't really know life without COVID restrictions," she said. "I finished maternity leave with Daisy just as COVID restrictions hit in March last year.
"So being in and out of lockdown for them - it's their life. But with two under two, the challenge is keeping that routine going - remembering to keep going for walks, remembering to get out and have a run around in the park and working out ways to keep them engaged and encouraging them to hit their milestones.
"What has really helped Matt and me and Daisy and Charlie is adapting that home routine so we still have a routine.
"COVID or no COVID, two under two is a lot of fun and a little bit crazy. The difference is if I only have to jump on a Zoom meeting in the morning, I only have to worry about what top I am wearing. You make it work, (which means) Charlie has been to question time a couple of times while I have been working from home."
Ms Chesters said one of the most confronting things the family had experienced was to get COVID-19 tests when showing cold or flu-like symptoms.
"It is common for little ones to get colds," she said. "At one stage we had everyone in house with a cold. We had symptoms on a Tuesday, Wednesday we got tested.
"It's confronting that your four-month-old and 20-month-old are getting COVID-tested, it's not a pleasant experience. We were all clear but that you can't go to a GP (with flu-like symptoms) until you have had a COVID test is a challenging thing.
"You do what you have got to do and it's lucky we have such brilliant Bendigo Health and testing staff but they are the extra things we are doing in COVID than you would normally do."
Ensuring Daisy and Charlie are able to socialise with other children and reach their development milestones is at the forefront of Ms Chesters' mind as a parent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The most challenging thing is all the informal things you do with children haven't really happened in any consistent way," she said.
"We're starting things like tumble tots or swimming lessons, only for them to be cancelled.
"So like every parent, we are working out how to keep them engaged and hope that once restrictions ease, we will be able to have more consistent routine.
"The moment we are allowed and it's consistent to do so, we will be setting up regular play dates."
Ms Chesters said early childhood education and care was critical, with those born during the pandemic potentially missing out on important aspects of it.
"ECEC is critical and for a lot of us we did that informally with cousins or being in playgroups," she said.
"Long-term, we have to think about ways we can engage little ones so they learn those skills post-COVID.
"You notice when kids go to playground - well we can't at the moment - but kids are so excited to see each other because they just don't get to engage with other kids in any other way.
"So longer term we'll have to look at the generation of COVID babies and make sure they are socialising and reaching development milestones and critical things that go with ECEC. We hope once we're all vaccinated we can get back to the regular activities that so many parents and babies do.
"But I really want to give a shout-out to early childhood educators and the way they have worked to keep little ones engaged. You talk about about development milestones, like clapping hands and rolling over, but hand sanitising is a new milestone kids are learning."
Ms Chesters said the pandemic had also been hard on parents in different ways.
"(The pandemic) is incredibly isolating, especially if mum or dad is home alone and their partner is working on-site," she said.
"I really encourage people to reach out with phone calls and video meetings. It's not perfect but we have to get through this lockdown to a stage we can socially engage again.
"In the meantime, you make it work and anyone who has had children in the past two years, I hear you when you talk about the challenges you face."
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