Saturday, February 8, 2014

What To Do When You're the One Who's Sick

Living with children during the cold and flu season is like playing Russian roulette.

No, seriously. You know if you play long enough, something is going to take you out. And you multiple the number of bullets in the gun by the number of children you're in close contact with.

I don't think the baby is really big enough to be picking up strangers' viruses yet, but I'm still spinning the chamber with two bullets in it and I was hit in early December with some sinus crap. Now there's a stomach bug making its way through the ranks now, apparently a norovirus, and I feel my days are numbered. I've cleaned my fair share of poop and puke in the last week and Mom has been sick as well. Although right now our focus is on the little people and getting them better, there's no guarantee that I've dodged the bullet as I'm often the last one to come down with whatever we're sharing.

So I dug up this draft from mid December, (I actually wrote most of it the morning of Dec. 15) when I was hit by our first virus of the season and when all the little girls and their parents had been sick.

Silly me. I thought I'd dodged the bullet that time as well. Then I got up a couple of days later feeling less than ideal. Actually, I woke before 5 a.m., two days running, just not feeling good. By the evening of the second day, I knew I was coming down with something and double dosing on Vitamin C and Zinc weren't going to save me.

You know that feeling when your body is just off. No real symptoms yet, and it's not like you could run to the doctor and get a preventative any way. Or a cure once you're actually sick. You do what you can to stay warm, take a little better care of yourself, and hope you can beat it off. Sometimes you do and you're likely to think you were just imagining feeling bad. Then there are the times you have to admit you're sick, can't get off the couch or you're going to die sick -- well, that is only an option if you're not the chief caretaker of little people who can't be expected to take care of themselves.

Moms can't take the day off from their children and unless I'm totally dysfunctional (an ear infection has done that once in the last four plus years), I don't take the day off from being Ma either. Generally, the little people roll in and I survive the day, although it may be touch and go by late evening.

Dealing with the virtually untreatable ailments of winter is one of the toughest battles most parents face. I know, we'd rather be sick than have to deal with sick children for a host of reasons. We know how bad we feel and have a larger selection of pharmaceuticals to treat our symptoms. When it comes to the children, we may never know exactly what hurts or how bad, and even then have a limited selection of doctor approved medications to dole out. While we may double dose ourselves into survival mode, we'd never do that to our children. And besides, when they're sick, we know it's just a matter of time because while we might manage to keep a germ away from them, they'll always share.

Even if parents had rather be sick themselves, it is the most miserable time. You cannot simply tell your child to leave you alone. No, you still have to care for them. You want to care for them. You're driven to care for them even when every fiber of your body screams for you to stay in bed. So you'll pull your chill-shaken body from beneath the blanket where you found a bit of comfort and fetch them a cup of juice. Or you'll hope the stomach virus doesn't hit too hard while you prepare them lunch. Ah, the joys of parenthood. Or in my case, grandparenthood.

So how do you cope when the children are jumping off the furniture and you've lost track of the baby because you just had to close your eyes for a second, even though you don't think you went to sleep?

For future reference, I looked for some ideas for when Mom (or Ma) is sick and toddler isn't. I think these are worth hanging onto, because winter is far from over.

1. TV time. Oh, I know, we hate the sound of children's shows sometimes and we don't like to count on television as a babysitter. But when the adult in charge is under the weather, relent. Depending on how sick you are and how good they are at entertaining themselves, consider using kids' shows or movies as an option. As long as you have good choices, it isn't always a bad thing.

2. Swap toys. Most children have more toys than they need to have out on a regular basis. You may have two toy boxes and keep one in backup reserve. Then you can rotate the toys on days you don't feel well. Another option is to dig the toys from the bottom of the box, where they've probably been forgotten, and reintroduce them.

3. Hide a few new toys. Seriously, what child doesn't get more than they need at every special occasion. Pick a toy that doesn't catch their eye quite as much during the gifting frenzy and put it away. We have birthdays this weekend, so we may have an opportunity to save a few items. When you need something new to entertain them, it will be there. Granted, you can do this with practically any toy that they don't play with on a regular basis simply by hiding it for a week or two. If by some miracle you don't need to pull them out, you can always celebrate the arrival of spring!

4. Take advantage of naptime. Well, if you're lucky enough that all your little ones still nap. Put yourself to bed when they lie down and don't get up until they do, regardless of what you might feel you need to do around the house.

5. Get the family pets involved. If you have a dog who likes to play fetch, let them play in the house as a treat for the child and dog. You may be surprised how long they are entertained and how much energy they burn, making naptime that much more effective.

6. Allow untraditional play. Does your toddler always want to pull out the tupperware and wooden spoons? Let them for a day. If you have something around the house that will entertain them that they aren't usually allowed to touch, but that is really safe, indulge them and take a break.

7. If you can talk, read to them. Most older preschoolers are willing to listen to way more books that you usually want to read, but since they don't take a lot of energy on your part, indulge them.

8. Be an obstacle course. This is best for baby or smaller children, and when you don't have a stomach bug. When you want to lie down, do it in the floor and let them crawl over you. E3 loves that now and she's not so big as to be uncomfortable. When her older sisters get into the game, however, they have to be reminded to be easy.

9. Get outdoors, if the weather permits and you feel up to it. Studies have shown that light exercise and fresh air help boost your immune system, so it may actually speed your recovery. If you have children, odds are good they have a few outdoor playthings that they can enjoy while you sit in the sun. Or, as an alternative, take a walk and the activity will warm you and tire your little one.

10. Ask for help. Oh, heaven forbid that we should admit we cannot do it all, but seriously, sometimes we can't. When Papi got home on the Friday I felt so bad, he inherited not only play, but discipline of E1 and E2. After getting tired of their bickering, he corrected them and they wound up snuggled on opposite sides of me, but at least the drama was over until Mom arrived. We do not have to be superhuman, just ask someone else to give you 30 minutes or an hour when you really need it. Maybe it's your partner, maybe a grandparent, or maybe another mom who will let you return the favor. Cut yourself a little slack and get well.

When you're sick and the little one isn't, it's really all about survival and getting better as quickly as possible, so take advantage of any trick in the book to get through the bad days. And remember that taking care of yourself is as important as taking care of them -- really -- because they can't have the best of you when you're not at your best.

1 comment:

  1. All good advice, but my favorite is #8. I would play dead and let the kids climb over me.