The sick mom’s survival guide

Being sick is hard, but there is an added level of difficulty when you are a mother.(Stock Photo)

Being sick is hard, but there is an added level of difficulty when you are a mother. (Stock Photo)

I came down with a cold earlier this week. Sore throat, stuffy nose and killer head congestion. It wasn’t anything diagnosable, but I was uncomfortable enough that pretty much every noise my kids made reverberated in my head. It was the first time in probably a year that I’d been under the weather, and it reminded me just how much I hate being sick.

Of course, being sick is awful. But being a sick mom? Well, it’s the pits.

Before I had kids, being sick meant taking a day off work to lie on the couch and watch TV. It wasn’t how I’d choose to spend a hard-earned vacation day, but at least there were some redeeming elements. BBC “Pride and Prejudice” marathons. Intermittent napping. Saltine crackers.

Now that I am a parent, I almost look back at those sick days with fondness. I’m sure that the chronic sleep deprivation that accompanies parenthood is making my memory hazy, and I’m certain that some of those sicknesses were truly awful. But being a sick mom is really tough, so the days of just caring for myself seem like a vacation.

The few “perks” of being sick are no longer a possibility. My kids don’t care to watch Jane Austen movies with me, and if I lie down on the couch for longer than thirty seconds, someone will likely climb on top of me and accidentally kick me in the stomach or pull my hair. There are meals to be made and diapers to be changed, regardless of how I feel.

Although I’m fortunate not to have a chronic illness, I do know something about being a sick mom thanks to almost 24/7 morning sickness during all three of my pregnancies. If you are one of those lucky mamas who doesn’t get morning sickness, I envy you and sort of hate you. And I hope you have a whole passel of kids. Me, I feel like I am on a Tilt-A-Whirl for almost the entire nine months and spend most of my time either throwing up or feeling like I’m about to throw up.

After 27 months of morning sickness, several bouts of food poisoning, a few cases of strep throat plus bouts with the common cold and flu, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to deal with sickness when you’re a mom. Whether you’re expecting a baby or in bed with a bad cold, I hope these tips help make  life a little more bearable.

1. Take a shower

This is a bit of tough love for you, but the first thing you need to do is get out of bed and shower. No matter how gross you feel, staying in bed stinky and unshowered will only make you feel worse. Taking a quick, hot shower or bath will help you feel at least semi-human, if only for a few minutes.

2. Make your bed

I am a huge believer in making your bed everyday. It will give you magical powers. OK, not really, but it is an instant boost to your psyche. When your bed is made, your whole room looks tidier. When your room looks tidier, you feel less overwhelmed … you get the idea. Make your bed, even if you’re only going to climb back in.

3. Disconnect your doorbell

Picture this: The baby is sleeping and the older kids are quietly watching a show. You lie down on the couch to catch a short nap, and as soon as you fall asleep you hear a loud DING-DONG. The baby wakes up, the once-content kids rush to the door and start arguing over who is going to open it and you, well, you’re just ticked off. Do yourself a favor and disconnect the doorbell. If you’re not feeling well, it doesn’t matter who is at the door — you don’t want to talk to them.

4. Accept help

If a friend or relative calls and offers to watch your kids for a few hours, make a run to the grocery store or bring you a meal, for heaven’s sake take them up on it. You don’t have to be on bed rest or knocked out with food poisoning to accept help. Just remember to return the favor the next time you know a friend is under the weather.

5. Do the minimum

Do only what’s required to keep the house going and the kids alive. Nothing more. Give your school-going kids money for hot lunch, let the dishes pile up on the counter and serve a frozen pizza for dinner. Forget about volunteering or grocery shopping. This too shall pass.

6. Stay positive

When an illness drags on for days, it’s hard to be optimistic. Try to stay positive by reminding yourself that your condition is temporary and you’ll feel better soon. If you’ve got enough energy, try doing something that lifts your mood like chatting on the phone with a good friend or online shopping. Or, throw in a “Pride and Prejudice” DVD and introduce the kiddos to Jane Austen. Maybe it will put them to sleep.


Natalie Hollingshead is a former magazine editor turned freelance writer and editor. She writes regularly about home, family, food and travel for a handful of publications, and is co-author of the book "Happy Homemaking” (Cedar Fort, 2012) with Elyssa Andrus. A native of Alberta, Canada, Natalie lives in Orem with her husband and their three children.

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