I thought I didn't care if I got Omicron, and I probably still don't but as I sit here typing on Friday morning, trying to engage my brain, I feel pretty lousy. Three in my household of four have tested positive. I have been the latest to come down with it. I felt fine, until suddenly I didn't. An hour and a half ago the headache and body ache started, I took a couple of Panadol and took a RAT test that immediately showed positive.
We count ourselves as pretty fortunate in our household. We have a big enough house that we can all have space, we have no children in the house, we have plenty of food and I am particularly pleased that I had the insight to stock up on chardonnay. Lots of liquid, regular Panadol and rest and I am confident we will all get through pretty easily. My bloke says he has had worse head colds. As it has only been a couple of hours for me, it is too soon to say, but right now "lousy" feels the appropriate descriptor. Everyone still has an appetite, so yet again my household with little else to do is consumed by thoughts of what we will eat, although they're all in for a rude awakening. As the cook in the household I have zero motivation to enter the kitchen. They can live on cheese on toast, it's about our biggest issue in this home.
For so many, the issues at the moment must seem overwhelming. During last year's lockdown I despaired for the invisible children. As a previous minister of Child, Youth and Family [now Oranga Tamariki], I know the extent of neglect and abuse tens of thousands of New Zealand's children suffer. I also know that most referrals to child welfare come from teachers and other professionals who know these children, see the symptoms and get them help. If they didn't turn up to school – that in itself could trigger concern by a teacher and help for the child being sought. I can't bear to think about those at-risk children home for months on end with no one else seeing them. With the added tension of being under the same roof 24/7 for weeks on end, a limited budget that can't stretch to cover necessities and, in many cases volatile relationships, the ones who potentially are damaged most are the ones we don't see.
That's at the end of the spectrum that most don't want to think about, but there has also been a significant unknown cost for many. The education neglect on our children could be felt for a generation. I don't know any Aucklanders who didn't go a bit bonkers last year – myself included. Our mental health will be affected - some more than others - and we don't have a plan to tackle that. Businesses folding, people feeling isolated, scared and then guilty because they're better off than most. The good old "pull yourself together" Kiwi spirit only lasts for so long.
What will New Zealand look like in five or 10 years' time? Who has their eye on the light at the end of the tunnel and knows how to avoid the freight train coming? We have to deal with the unknown day-to-day that this pandemic gives us as best we can and turning on each other or the government of the day won't get us through that any better.
But what we need right now – for all New Zealanders - is a focus on our future, hope that the cost of living won't make life so much worse and a plan for this amazing country of ours to prosper for all.
• Paula Bennett is a former Deputy Prime Minister and National Party politician who now works at Bayleys Real Estate as national director - customer engagement. She starts as a columnist for the Herald on Sunday today.