German mother of 11 fights virus with discipline and love

EISEMROTH, Germany (AP) – A year after the coronavirus pandemic, Katja Heimann, a mother of 11, is still trying to keep up, despite several closings and months of homeschooling for seven of her children. The secret to her success, she says: structured daily routines, patience, and love.

Heimann, who lives with her husband Andre and their children in the small town of Eisemroth in central Germany, maintains a strict daily schedule to do everything that needs to be done when you have 11 children. That includes a lot of self-discipline: getting up at dawn, cleaning the house, doing laundry, cooking, and furthermore, since schools have been closed for most students in Germany since late last year, helping your children with control. remote. learning.

Despite her perseverance, the situation “has become very exhausting lately,” the 41-year-old told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday.

“The biggest challenge is to keep going,” he added.

Like millions of families in Germany and around the world, the Heimanns are struggling with the continuing daily burdens of the pandemic. But where most families, at least in Germany, have to take care of one, two, three, or rarely four children, the Heimanns have an entire children’s soccer team in the house.

The oldest, Milena, 22, has already moved, but lives nearby and comes to visit several times a week. In addition to the seven school-age children, the Heimanns also have three little ones, the youngest just 18 months old, who are still in kindergarten, which has also been closed a few times due to the virus.

“It’s very loud and cramped here,” Katja Heimann said with a sigh, but also a smile. When the four high school students participate in video conferences with their teachers, she helps her three elementary school students solve their exercises at the long wooden table in the kitchen.

“At the beginning of homeschooling, we had just one laptop for the whole family, that didn’t work at all,” he said. Friends and neighbors were quick to help, lending their spare devices to the family.

Husband Andre, 52, a locksmith, says he’s in awe of how his wife manages to keep their family together during the pandemic.

“She takes care of the home, the duties, the cooking, the cleaning, the paperwork, everything,” she says. “She is amazing.”

Of course, the Heimanns have good and bad days.

Sometimes children argue with each other, get bored and no longer want to distance learning, but want to hang out with their friends again, which is not allowed due to distancing regulations.

“Of course, we have stress and we also argue,” says Andre. “But in general, the situation brought us closer.”

Across the country, families are enduring the brunt of the pandemic and both parents and children are exhausted by continued school closings. While in some German states some schools have carefully reopened for only half their attendance, other states still keep many children in remote learning mode.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Germany appeared to have the virus relatively well under control, but things took a turn for the worse last fall, when the onset of the second wave quickly filled hospitals and the death toll rose. Since November, the 83 million inhabitants of the country have been living under various blockade measures. Restaurants, bars and many leisure facilities remain closed.

However, despite the restrictions, infection figures in Germany have risen again in recent weeks, as the most contagious variant of the virus first detected in Britain has become dominant in the country.

Germany has recorded more than 75,000 deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic a year ago. On Thursday, the country’s disease control center reported 22,657 new confirmed daily cases, up from 17,504 a week ago.

Contracting the infection is a constant fear for the Heimanns, as their 3-year-old son, Oskar, suffers from a rare genetic disease, has an intellectual disability, and is therefore especially vulnerable.

“We have two at-risk patients in our family: Oskar with his genetic defect and my husband,” says Katja Heimann. “So we live in constant fear that someone will take the infection home.”

Despite their concerns, some of the children recently began returning to school part-time and hope to return to full-time classes soon.

“The best thing will be when we can all go back to school every day and get together and play in groups again,” says 10-year-old Martha.

“And going back to playing football, which is currently canceled, which is really stupid,” adds Willi, the 12-year-old brother.

The rest of the Heimann family also can’t wait for the pandemic to end.

“The most important thing will be when the children can finally become children again and enjoy their hobbies,” says Father Andre. “That they no longer get bored and can go wherever they want and do what they like to do again.”


Grieshaber reported from Berlin.


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