Parenting while sick. Every mom has been there. You feel miserable. Maybe you’ve caught the flu or food poisoning. And unless they are sick themselves, your kids aren’t going to give you the day off. Babies still need to eat, toddlers still create chaos, and your older kids still need help with their homework. Ideally, every mom would be able to call in a babysitter or lean on her support system in order to get a little rest. But sometimes you just have to “woman up” and take care of business. Even if you feel miserable. And even though it’s tempting to power through, you also need some rest. When you are stuck parenting while sick, these ideas can help you make it through the day (without making yourself sicker).
It’s not ideal. Parenting is a hands-on experience. It requires non-stop motion. But when you are parenting while sick, it’s time to lay down. Get horizontal and stay that way as long as possible. You’d be surprised what you can do for your family while you are laying down. You can read books, shout instructions from the other room, and even work a remote. I had a stomach bug recently and spent most of the day with a one year old climbing on my head while I lay down. It wasn’t ideal, but I got some rest. This is your excuse to stay laying down. Once you start feeling better, you can go back to your whirlwind life.
Let your kids help—they want to help!
I think my kids secretly love it when I’m sick. Not because they like seeing me miserable, but because I let them do a lot of things that I normally do for them. For example, the last time I was sick, my 4-year-old twins made their own peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. They loved that independence and were so happy to have that feeling of accomplishment. I’ve even let them start doing it on a regular basis now that I’ve realized they are ready for that task. Unless you have babies or very young toddlers, your kids can help you while you are sick. They can pull out snacks, fetch items like tissues, and even pick up around the house. Let them help you!
Have quiet activities on hand
Think ahead before you are sick. What are some independent activities that your kids would love doing? Pick up a few things like puzzles or coloring books. Set them aside so they’ll be new for the next time you get sick. When you feel like a bus just hit you, that is the time to pull out your quiet activities. Your kids will love it, and you might even be able to catch a nap while they work quietly.
Accept that things will get crazy
Even if you have older kids, things are going to get crazy while you are sick. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can go back to getting better. Your normal chores will fall to the side. Your 3-year-old will pull out every single blanket you own to make a fort. Your kids might even dump every single bin of toys your family owns. It’s okay. Things will be fine. You can deal with the crazy once you get feeling yourself again.
Plan your screen time
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Nearly every parent I know uses screen time to entertain their kids when they are sick and don’t feel like parenting. Don’t feel guilty about it. Not at all. My only word of warning is to use screen time intentionally. My kids turn into grumpy, whiney people when we’ve had too much screen time during the day. Instead of letting the TV blare all day, pick a time when your kids will be allowed to watch it. Maybe after playing nicely together for a certain amount of time. Use screen time as the reward. It’s a great way to bribe your kids for good behavior, and it’ll mean your kids don’t turn into emotional zombies all day long.
Do the bare minimum when parenting while sick
Most parents are good at recognizing that they can’t get everything done while they are sick. But in case you need to hear this piece of advice, it’s okay to skip a few things. Stop doing the laundry for a few days. Don’t worry about the toys on the floor or the dishes in the sink. When you are sick and have kids, you do the bare minimum. Get the kids to school. Feed them. Make sure everyone is safe. That’s it! Now is not the time to be ultra-productive.
Your family doesn’t need gourmet meals while you are sick. Open a banana, add a piece a toast, and your toddler is set for breakfast. When my twins were around a year old, I got sick. I remember sprinkling a bunch of breakfast cereal next to where I was laying on the floor. They had fun eating cereal off the floor and I was able to rest (as much as a sick, twin mom can). Get pizza delivered, have kids find their own meals if they are older, or pull out a freezer meal.
Wash up to prevent germ spread
My kids love to share their germs with me. They bring them home from school and the playground. Which means that most of the time, my husband and I get sick after everyone else has already been sick. But, in the event that you are sick first, stop the spread of germs before they get to your kids. Disinfect anything you touch. Wash your hands before meal preparation. Do a vampire cough into your elbow. Be cautious when you cuddle your kids.
Call in backup
You might not always have the option of asking for help. Ideally, your spouse can step in to help with the kids while you get some much-needed rest. If that’s not a possibility, try hiring a babysitter so you can take a nap. Low on funds? Ask a trusted family member or friend to take the kids for an hour or two. Better yet, trade for babysitting. Worst case scenario? Put the kids to bed early and go to bed yourself!
Parenting while sick is never fun. It’s also something that every parent will have to deal with at some time in their life. You can do this!