Surviving Parenting While Sick

There is no nice way to put it: parenting while sick stinks. This week in Parent Chat, we're talking about ways to survive the inevitable.

Oh how I wish I could take a sick day as a mom.

It’s inevitable that when you live with virulent little petri dishes—I mean children—you will find yourself taking care of those children while you are also so sick yourself that you just want your mommy to come and take care of you.

In the last two weeks I’ve had to brush off my “parenting sick children while sick” survival tips, and picked up few more from friends:

1.    Be prepared.

Wandering the aisles of the store late at night (when kids seem to get the sickest), and trying to coherently remember a list, is the last place you want to be. Before the seasonal viruses find a way into your household, or in between bouts, get your supplies in order. Your wallet will also thank you; I’ve racked up my biggest bills while “sick shopping.” Others will appreciate you keeping your germs at home as well. Things I keep on hand:

  • Remedies and medications (watch for sales and stock up), and don’t forget remedies for the adults in the house as well.
  • Rehydration aids such as Pedialyte, or supplies to make my own.
  • Upset tummy friendly foods. I also keep a few quarts of B.R.A.T. Feel Better Drink on hand as well, or some PediaSure for when my kids don’t feel like eating anything solid.
  • Extra broths to make quick soups.

2.    Call a temporary truce with TV and technology (for today).

Although limiting the amount of screen time your kids have each day is advisable under normal circumstances, while sick it’s OK to ease up and lean on these a little more than you normally would. I tend to opt for the choices that would normally be offered as more of a treat, such as a Harry Potter, or Star Wars movie because endless episodes of Backyardigans are not conducive to my healing.

That being said, sometimes too much screen time causes other problems for us, particularly in the not-quite-better-but-too-early-to-go-out phase, so I try to break up the day with quiet activities, like low mess arts and crafts, Legos, or extra reading time. We also visit our great online go-to spots for audio stories we can all listen to together, like Storynory.com.

 3.    Pass the baton.

If you are lucky to have a partner that is not also sick, and able to be home, hand off when you can. DO take time for self care like naps and showers.

In our house, we divide to conquer. One of us tends to make temporary camp in our guest bedroom, to hopefully spare the still well spouse from getting sick. Also, when my kids are sick, odds are good they will eventually end up in bed with mama anyway, but if my husband can run interference, I can get a few hours of good sleep before the middle of the night wakings.

If you are co-parenting your kids, discuss with your ex how to handle the inevitable child illnesses that will arise, and agree on how you can work together to give each other a break when sick.

4.    Lower your expectations; ask for help, and accept it.

Be realistic about what can and needs to be done, and let people help you. While it can be a lot to ask someone to take over with your germy kids directly, let them help you with things they can more realistically do to help ease your load. 

Friends could drop off supplies, groceries, a meal, make a library run, or do a school drop-off/pick-up for you. A family member could help keep up with the laundry. It should go without saying, but be sure to reciprocate when able.

Also, let go a little. Jammies all day? Absolutely! As one friend offered, if they want to play with the package of Band-Aids, and it will give you a precious block of rest while they are happily occupied, by all means let them have at it.

5.    Try to embrace the positive.

 While I don’t want my kids to be sick, when they are I choose to appreciate how they once again want to sweetly snuggle for extended periods of time. Because I am also sick, I can just let go a little and join them.

Additional strategies that are nice if you are able to:

1.    Call in professional reinforcements.

If you are able, just a few hours of relief may be worth the extra money to hire a sitter, or a mother’s helper. Expect to pay a little extra “battle pay" to handle a sick child.

2.    Outsource and deliver!

If you lack a network of available and willing friends and family to mobilize, make friends with the takeout delivery drivers and online speedy shopping options. Also, try services like Taskrabbit, where you can post just about anything you need done, and a willing runner will bid the job and get it done in a jiffy.

3.    Aftermath and recovery.

Once everyone turns the corner, head out for the day while a crew comes through and gives the house a nice thorough deep clean.

What would you add?

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