I almost didn’t write this week. Hint hint, it has to do with the subject of this blog post. But as I was sitting here, mulling in my own sad mixture of a twisted knee, lingering stomach bug and mild cold, my coworker and friend, who is currently suffering from her own sinus infection, said in a sweet nasal voice, “Hey, why don’t you write about how parents don’t get sick days?” Brilliant.
First, let me take you back for some sweet, sweet nostalgia. Remember sick days? Ah yes. You probably weren’t feeling very well (hence the sick day), and that stinks. But on the other hand, you had a WHOLE day of nothing but watching mindless TV shows, eating delicious soup, drinking something fizzy, and curling up in a warm, soft blanket. You got to miss school, or work. You had an excuse to be a couch potato. People were extra nice to you, and brought you things like tea and crackers. It was glorious.
Let’s fast forward to parenthood. Those days of lazy healing are gone. So gone. Because now, you have a child.
Last week our family (and I’m talking our entire family, including grandparents and our dear, sweet babysitter) got hit with the stomach bug. Apparently it has been going around, so I’m guessing some of you have been hit with it as well. I won’t go into details, but it was violent, and really, really not cute. Needless to say, some of us had to take off from work, either to take care of a sick baby, or to take care of ourselves WHILE also taking care of a sick baby.
And even though taking off from work can be fun some times, in this case, it was not. It involved a lot of shuffling around with a whining sick toddler attached to the leg, cleaning up messes, and/or trying to get said whiny pathetic toddler to sleep/eat/drink fluids. It involved getting up throughout the night and way too early because the poor little guy couldn’t sleep well. In other words, it did not involve taking care of ourselves and resting.
Obviously, our healing is important too. We can’t be good parents if we don’t allow ourselves to heal. So what can we do?
- Wash your hands. And everything else in sight, for that matter. If you’ve been lucky enough not to get sick, remember that things like Norovirus, the most common cause of stomach flu, can sit around on surfaces for up to 3 weeks! 3! So make sure you break out the bleach and/or cleaner and get busy. And don’t forget the toys… these so often end up in infected little mouths (kids are such vectors, am I right?). And while we’re on the subject, shoes should be left at the door- we track a ton of germs in on the bottom of our feet. Prevention is key, my friends.
- Bring in the reinforcements. This is a tricky one if you have the stomach bug or something equally extremely contagious. But here’s where something I’d like to call “staggering” comes into play. When my husband came down with the bug first, I was not sick yet, so I did as much solo baby care that day as possible. I gave him ample hours to sleep and recover. The next day when I got sick, he was well-rested and ready to take over. If a partner isn’t available, maybe enlist a friend, neighbor or family member.
- Don’t feel guilty when it’s your turn to rest. Like I said, we can’t be good parents if we ourselves are feeling terrible. So if you have the option to rest, REST. I had this ongoing guilty dialogue in my head when I was sick lying in bed, getting up only to rush to the bathroom every 10 minutes or so. I could hear my son being fussy and demanding downstairs, and I felt guilty for not being there to help. As if I would have been ANY help at all! There’s no place for guilt in sickness. If you can’t stand not helping, ask for your partner or support person to take your kid(s) out of the house. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Don’t forget your own needs. I was so hyper focused on making sure my kiddo got enough fluids, I realized after two days of being sick that I had barely taken a drink of water. AGAIN, you cannot be a good parent if you’re not taking care of yourself. Dehydration is not going to help anyone.
- Use whatever you need to use. Like so many other parents, my goal for my kid is limited screen time before age two. That being said, if you are sick and your kiddo is sick and you have no reinforcements, and watching TV is the only thing that will give you a moment of rest, Bring. It. On. Daniel Tiger, you saucy little cat, you gave me at least 45 minutes of rest time over the last weekend, and I cannot thank you enough for it.
- Help kids help themselves. If you have an older toddler or child, make it easy for kiddos to access what they need, like snacks, or juice boxes, so you can stay resting when possible. And don’t expect yourself to be making healthy gourmet meals (which of course I always do when I’m not sick… right). If ever there was a time for fish sticks or mac n cheese, this is it. Another idea is to have a box of activities that you only pull out in case of emergency. It will be new and exciting to them, and buy you some extra rest time.
- Let the mess happen. You can clean when you feel better. Which will be sooner if you don’t try to clean when you’re feeling like crap.
- Factor in some post-sick self-care time. Sickness has a way of throwing routines for a loop. Self-care is such a key part of any parent’s week, and it can get pushed to the side to make room for the overwhelming needs of a sick family. So make sure when the tidal wave of illness has passed, that you put back in those self-care times. That could mean getting back into your exercise routine, for example, or scheduling a “date night” with your partner.
Do you have any tips for parents dealing with a sick house? If so, comment below!