Aside from some common pregnancy ails with each of my four babies, I am a relatively healthy person. I consider myself blessed that my most recent health complaints have only been those of the cold and flu variety. I think most mothers would agree, however, that even these common bugs can throw the most organized households into a state of chaos. Here is a list of coping skills to get you through to healthier pastures…
Rest. Yeah, yeah… I know. When you have a newborn or some wailing toddlers to care for, getting a decent night’s sleep seems like a major accomplishment. Throw in the sleep required to bounce back from a nasty virus, and the suggestion seems laughable. Try to take a moment to visualize all the times during the day when you normally would pay bills, scrub the floor, or take an extended shower. If you were able to chuck those tasks aside for a day, it would be possible to use those extra minutes to lie on the couch while the hooligans watched Barney. 10 minutes here and 15 there can keep you from descending deeper into the dark recesses of exhaustion and possibly infection. (If you can’t nap for fear of a little one escaping or decorating the couch cushions with permanent marker, set the timer on your cell phone for brief interludes while you “rest your eyes.”)
Ask for help. I understand that pride can get in the way of enlisting the assistance of a spouse or relative. Maybe you’re a single parent with little resource to pull from. Whatever the reason for being unable to get a hand with the basic day-to-day duties of “mommydom” while ill, do your best to communicate your needs. Stomping and mumbling about the house with a Kleenex wedged up your nostril while you violently scrub the mac and cheese off dinner plates doesn’t qualify as martyrdom, so don’t even attempt it. Older siblings can be asked to help out more than usual. Don’t worry; permanent emotional scarring won’t occur if you ask them to do most of the household chores for one day. It may even give them a sense of accomplishment that they could help you out for a change.
Lower your expectations. That’s right. Unless it will spoil, die, or run away, leave it for the next day. Clutter management, laundry, vacuuming, and even the dishes can wait if they have to. You won’t have company during your bout of illness, so there is no sense in preparing for it.
Love your kids. Some of the most precious activities you can share with your children are the ones that require the least energy. Reading books, telling stories, or just cuddling can all be done from the comfort of your sick-bed. They’ll love that they are getting so much attention, and you’ll feel good knowing that you are still able to contribute to the family in the most essential of ways.
This list is not exhaustive, and it certainly applies for sick daddy caregivers, as well. Chicken soup, peppermint tea, and some good tunes can help speed the healing process along, but ultimately you’ll just need time and some good old fashioned TLC.