How to Take Care of Kids When YOU Get Sick
There is a wealth of information in the parenting blogosphere about what to do when your child is sick. These survival guides can be a lifesaver when you’re dealing with a sick little one. I love these posts. Heck, I’ve even written one. What I don’t see as often is what to do when you’re sick. You, Mom, the person who takes care of everyone else.
In most cases when moms are sick we still have kids to take care of. Especially when you’re a stay-at-home or work-at-home mom with no regular childcare arrangements or backup plan. Or a working mom too sick to drive her child to daycare.
And the you-know-what really hits the fan when you and your child are sick at the same time. For myself, I am usually sick a few days after my kids, having caught whatever illness I get from my beloved germ vectors…err children.
I have a vivid memory of having a stomach virus when my oldest daughter was about 18 months old. She was healthy as could be and bouncing off the walls as usual.
I was home sick from work and it was just her and I. Too sick to stand up, I had to crawl or drag myself from room to room making sure she stayed out of trouble. I finally barricaded the two of us in her childproofed bedroom and half-dozed on the floor while she cruised around playing.
I even remember strapping her into her high chair and, after thorough hand washing, throwing a muffin on the tray for her lunch. Because I didn’t have the strength to stand and make her a more well-rounded meal. I’m just lucky she was past the age of needing to be spoon fed.
I learned a few things from this bout with a stomach illness while caring for an active toddler. About being prepared for days when Mom is the one who is sick. Here are a few tips for when it happens to you.
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What to Do When Mom Gets Sick
1. Create a Safe Zone for Kids When Mom is Sick
When I was too sick to do anything but crawl the best I could do was barricade my daughter and me in her room.
Pick an area of your house that is childproofed and lock your child and yourself in the space with doors or baby gates or whatever else it takes to close the area off.
Ideally, there should be a place for you to rest where you can also see your child. Even if it means laying on the floor.
If you have older kids who don’t need as much supervision, that makes things a little easier. Just set yourself up where they can find you when you’re needed. And where you can hear them and check-in.
Then bust out the mess-free crafts or let them pick a couple of movies to watch so you can rest.
Setting this up will be a lot easier if you think it through ahead of time. Where would you go with your little one where they could be safe when you’re not well enough to be totally hands on?
Trying to figure things out with a pounding headache or a heaving stomach is a lot harder than thinking it through now.
2. No-Prep Meals for When Mom is Sick
It was a happy accident that I happened to have muffins in the house when I was too sick to make food for my daughter. They weren’t even something I typically buy.
I learned from this incident that it’s important to have some no-prep food on hand for your family in the event of your illness.
It may be you want to keep a couple of kid-friendly tv dinners in the freezer for emergency meals. Or even just crackers and cheese with some dried fruit to get you through in a pinch.
Cans of soup or easy-to-assemble sandwich fixings can also do. Especially if you have school-age kids who can prepare some of the food themselves.
Even if these aren’t things you would typically plan on for meals or snacks, you’ll be glad you have something on hand if the situation ever comes up.
3. Call for Help When Mom is Too Sick to Provide Care
If you are truly too sick to provide adequate care for your children during an illness, by all means, call for help.
Ideally, your spouse is available to take over when you need to rest and recover. But when that isn’t the case, consider which friends and family might be available to help.
It’s a good idea to have these people in mind before you need them. And to discuss with them in advance if they might be able to provide backup care.
This can be a tough situation because when you’re sick and presumably contagious it’s hard to ask others to help you and risk spreading illness. But if you have an infant and are too weak to hold them you’re not in a position to provide the care they need. A trusted friend or family member will hopefully be willing to step in and take over.
If you’re able to take care of your kids by creating a safe zone, using no-prep meals, and maybe extra naps and screen time for the kids, consider whether a friend or relative can drop off food, or pick up any needed prescriptions.
Enlist help to give yourself the time and space to recover. The sooner you’re back on your feet, the sooner you can get your Mom hat back on and get everything back in order.
When Mom is Sick & the Kids Get Sick Too
When both you and your kids are sick you’ll be even more grateful to have a safe zone in mind that is baby proofed and a few no-prep meals on hand.
Even better if your no prep meals include things like cans of chicken soup that are safe recovery foods for after an illness.
And calling for help may be even more necessary depending on how sick everyone is. Don’t hesitate to reach out when you need help. You may be a supermom but that doesn’t make you super-human. Even moms get sick and need help once in a while.
When Moms Gets Sick…
Preparing for the day you end up sick as a parent doesn’t require a typed up disaster readiness plan or survival kit. But a little forethought and a few just-in-case food items and phone numbers to call if you need assistance can go a long way in making the experience less stressful.
If you’ve already thought through a safe zone for your little one, a few no-prep food ideas and who you might call if the situation becomes emergent, then you can focus on getting well.
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