Austin City Council Member and Firefighter Husband Forced To Live Apart During The Pandemic

Thursday, April 30th 2020

Two people on the front lines during this pandemic are Austin City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, and her husband Tom, a lieutenant for the Austin Fire Department. Due to Tom’s job and Natasha being at higher risk to contract Covid-19, the couple decided to live apart during the pandemic. Judy Maggio chats with the couple about the challenges of being forced to self isolate from each other.

Judy Maggio: We appreciate all you're doing for our community right now. And I wanted to interview you both because you're in a unique situation. Talk about the challenges this pandemic has placed upon your family.

Natasha Harper-Madison: As Covid-19 really settled into Austin, and we recognized that it was definitely gonna spread fast and get worse before it got better, we made the conscientious decision as a family, to have Tom reside elsewhere for the time being. I think that, in a lot of ways, he's protective of me, and recognizing that I'm immunocompromised, and he loves me and just wanted to make sure that I was safe and healthy. And so, it was a sacrifice we were happy to make for the greater good of our family and the city of Austin. We both gotta keep working.

JM: Tom, this was an act of love on your part. It really was. Where are you living and how are you staying in touch with your family?

NHM: Well, I'm real close by. And so I just walk over there on the regular, and they drop stuff off for me on the front porch that I need and vice versa. And then we just kinda hang out in the yard, about 10 feet away from each other.

JM: I wanna know what you’re seeing on the front lines, Tom, because I know that your work as a firefighter has probably changed due to the pandemic. Can you give us just a little glimpse of life as a firefighter in Austin right now?

Tom Madison: Well, everybody's a little on edge, but I think we're doing pretty good. Right now, we're treating every call as a potential exposure to Covid-19. And yeah, definitely things have changed.

JM: So what has been the hardest part about being separate during this time? How have your kids been handling it? How many kids do y'all have?

TM: I miss them. So we got two daughters that live in the house, and I'm definitely a girl dad. So it's been really hard for me. And I think it's been hard for them. I'd like to think so. But I miss them, and I'm just used to doing all the stuff, cooking and taking them places, and now there's none of that for a while. Just text messages and phone calls.

JM: Natasha, how are things at home without Tom? How are you getting through this without him?

NHM: Well, you know, I miss him for all the reasons. He's my partner in life and my best friend. So I miss him, and I'd be remiss without mentioning that, shout out to all the single parents. I have had to take on all the roles. So I make all the meals. I do all the laundry. The kids and I do all the cleaning together. I've become an educator. I'm teaching a 4th grader and a 5th grader. I'm a dog groomer and all the things in between. And I really just admire parents that do this by themselves, and don't have the luxury of working from home.

JM: What are you looking forward to most when you can finally live under the same roof again?

TM: Oh man, just touch, you know? It's just hard not to give people some hugs, you know?

JM: Yeah. Natasha, what are you most looking forward to?

NHM: Yeah, I definitely agree with touch and affection. I look forward to some relief from making all the meals and doing all the educating. My job is non-stop. I go all day, every day and having to balance that space between the work that I have to do and the work that has to get done in the house, has proven to be a challenge. I really look forward to having some support there. And just that look on my girls' faces, you know they love their daddy so much. It's even just the littlest things. You know, a really ridiculous dad joke, or the opportunity to introduce him to a show they love. I miss that look on their faces and that feeling, it's palpable, the joy. And so, just really looking forward to him being back home, and us picking up that familial, joyful vibe in the house.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Our reporting doesn’t happen without you.

Did you value this reporting? Then please consider making a donation to Austin PBS. Your gift makes the quality journalism done by the Decibel team possible. Thank you for your contribution.

Decibel is Sponsored By:


Support Decibel

More in Health:

See all Health posts