As a stay-at-home (and work-from-home) mom, sometimes I find myself getting irrationally jealous of my husband when he is ill; he just lets his boss and coworkers know he's under the weather, and he takes the day off (as he should) to rest, recuperate, and get back on his feet. What does a sick day look like for a stay-at-home mom? Exactly like a well day — babies need to be fed, kids need to be taken to school, and meals need to be seen to. What's the answer?
I asked myself this very question this past week when I inevitably succumbed to the nasty virus that has made its way around our household. I had been shouldering the extra load when my husband was down for the count; I wiped lots of little noses, took lots of midnight temperatures, and distributed round-the-clock doses of Tylenol to my little ones. But when I woke up one morning with a telltale tickle in my throat, I shoved it to the back of my mind. No, no, it's nothing, I'm not sick, I told myself. Later that day, picking up my boys from school, I began to shudder with chills. Ignore it; you're fine, I said.
But as you might guess, eventually I had to admit that yes, I was sick. And things were only going to get worse before they got better. In a perfect world, I would call in sick and take to my bed. I'd surround myself with quilts, tissues, hot tea, and Netflix while I rested in a quiet house. In a slightly less perfect world, I'd have my husband come home from work or have family members pick up my kids while I recuperated. In my actual world, neither of those things were available to me, so I just survived the best way I knew how. Here are a few things that seemed to help me hang on:
• Make it easy for kids to help themselves. I put lots of snacks in an easy-to-reach basket, and had single serving juice boxes on a lower shelf of the refrigerator. I also had plastic cups available next to the water dispenser. Also? I had to be okay if dinner was pop tarts and fish sticks. Or a bowl of berries and a plate of store-bought rolls. (Both are true stories, by the way.)
• Make it count when you're up. There's something about running a fever that makes getting up seem impossible — it takes loads of effort! So I tried to take care of as many things as I could the few times I ventured out of bed. While I'm up, does anyone need anything? And then if I got requests after I slunk back under the covers, I deferred them until The Next Time I Get Up.
• Be okay with them entertaining themselves — in whatever form that may take. Being under the weather isn't the ideal time to be picky about what your kids are doing for fun. In fact, as long as they were occupied, I was grateful — even if that meant they were building a fort out of my couch cushions or watching kid shows on repeat on Netflix. As long as they were safe and contained to the house, I was happy.
• This one's important: Let almost everything just go for awhile! When you're sick, you just feel miserable. Add to that the feeling of being helpless while laundry, dishes, and clutter piles up around you… you have the ingredients for one very cranky mom. (Speaking from experience.) Tell yourself it will wait. Tell yourself that this won't last forever, and you will tackle the mess with a vengeance in a few days. Remind yourself that it's okay to be out of commission for a few days, and it's okay to put yourself first for awhile to get the rest you need.
How do you deal with being sick while managing a household? Share your tips and advice below!