Sometimes I think (and wonder if it’s been proven?) that heightened immunity is bundled up, standard, with the package of maternal instincts. In the 5+ years I’ve been a mom, I can count one one hand the number of times I’ve really been sick. Along with super-bionic night ears, the ability to sleep with one eye open (not to mention the ones in the back of your head!), and a built-in lie detector, perhaps there is something inside us that realizes we need a stronger resistance to the many germs and viruses these little people carry so frequently. Maybe I’m wrong. But after fighting it off for a while, I have finally been invaded by a nasty sinus-infection and strep throat. Waking up this morning with weepy eyes, swollen tonsils, and splitting sinus pressure made me give a little moan and pull the covers up closer. I said a prayer. I had no idea how I was going to make it through a full day of taking care of the kids.
Sick days for mommies are like instruction manuals for kids. They don’t exist. So today I want to tell you how I survived, and what I think other moms should know about how to prepare for the inevitable day when life knocks you off your feet and you somehow have to keep going.
1. This is a great lesson for your kids. Especially if you are a stay-at-home mom, the little people get quite used to having you get their meals, play on their level, and take them places. Remember that we are not just teaching them how to be kids, but how to live, and how to be adults one day. Grown-ups get sick too and some days we don’t have it all together. Let them help you. Tell them that you are sick and need their help to get better. When a certain little boy got an attitude with me today, I said “Marshall, how do you feel when you are sick?”
“Bad. Really bad. My froat hurts and I cough and my ears hurt too and I don’t like it.”
“And how do I treat you when you are sick?”
“Oh, you take good care of me, Mommy! You always make me feel better!”
“Then how should you treat me when I am sick?”
The smile of understanding spreads across his face and suddenly I’ve won myself little helper. In a world that can be so harsh, it is so important for us to teach our kids compassion.
2. Delegate, delegate, delegate! Little kids actually love to be given jobs to do. They feel so special when you give them a task and beam with pride when you praise them on their accomplishment. When they learn to do things for themselves, life is easier for all of you. So, ask them to get you the tissues. Tell them to go make a pirate castle out of their blocks. Let them work together to feed the pets. Keep them busy while you rest.
One of my favorite strategies to help them feed themselves is to put together “muffin meals”. Pull out your muffin tins and line them each with a cup. Make one tray for breakfast and one tray for lunch. For the breakfast tray, try filling the cups with different, simple foods to make an easy meal. Cereal, raisins, dried fruit, nuts, fresh berries and anything else they like to snack on. Help them get a glass of milk if they can’t do it for theselves, and then let them have fun picking out what to eat. Same for lunch…shredded or crumbled cheese, crackers, carrot sticks, chicken chunks…whatever is simple. Make one pass through the kitchen, and they will be so delighted that they get to pick whatever cups they want that you won’t hear a single complaint. It is easier than cooking with less dishes to wash!
3. Prepare for sick days while you are healthy. It’s always a good idea to look around your home and think about ways you can make things a little easier for kids to do themselves. Maybe you put a dispenser jar in the fridge so the kids can fill their own cups with milk or juice. Or keep a little basket on a low shelf where they can always find kid-proof plates and cups. And make plans to keep them busy too! I love to pick up little craft activities when they go on clearance at Michaels for 29 cents. Keep a couple of unopened jars of play-doh in hiding, as well as a toy or two from the dollar store that you can make a big deal about bringing out when the need arises. And when you make a pharmacy run to pick up your medicine, stop at the redbox and take a new movie home with you. (Unless, of course, you are forced to remove that privilege when your kids run away from you 4 times while you wait in the pharmacy line, screaming “SPACESHIP!!!” while they dash for the blood pressure cuff machine and jostle for supremacy.)
4. They nap, you nap. If at all possible. Even older kids can have some healthy quiet time to read or draw.
Spaceship incident aside, I am happy to say we made it today and I’m proud of the kids for following my directions and playing well with each other. I definitely have some ideas now on some things I’d like to prepare for tomorrow and for the next sick day, whenever it comes. Hopefully, my mom-munity will recover its HP and I won’t go through this again for a long time 🙂
Do you have any ideas about how to make it through sick days with kids? I’d love to hear it in the comments! And I realize that I have only addressed the needs of a sickness like I have today. The game changes when it’s a stomach virus, and/or when everyone in the family gets it at the same time. For this, I recommend having talks with your kids while they are healthy about things that happen when they are sick, so they have more understanding about what to do when you throw up. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did when your child remembers to run to the bathroom instead of staying in place. And make sure you have a spare set of clean linens on hand at all times. A little preparation goes a long way when you’re in survival mode!