Last winter, I was sitting in my five-week-old’s nursery chair pumping, cooing at her in her Rock ‘N’ Play at my feet, when it hit: that sudden flippy, floppy, churny stomach feeling that can only mean one thing. I have no idea how I managed to untangle myself from the pump, hurdle the baby and make to my knees in front of the toilet before it was too late.
What would have surely sent me to bed with a cup of tea and stack of magazines for the next 24 hours before having kids, this time was over with a quick wipe of the mouth and swish of water before returning to newborn duty. But girl, it was not pretty.
Unfortunately when you’re sick, you’re still Mom. Of course the best thing you can do is get help – from your partner, family, nanny, etc. – so you can sit in bed with tea and magazines and get yourself better. But that’s not always possible. We don’t have family nearby. Sometimes it’s hard to leave work. And, when the universe is really feeling cruel, both parents go down at once (e.g., when my husband got the same bug and opened his eyes literally once in a whole day to whisper, “I heard about this couple who was so sick they couldn’t take care of their baby, and they all had to check into the hospital together” – before falling back into a feverish sleep).
Over the past year of answering to “Mom” and serving as a petri dish for daycare germs, I’ve learned a few coping skills:
Lower your expectations. Repeat after me: Don’t try to thrive. Just try to survive. Cross everything off your to-do list beside getting yourself better and keeping the kiddos alive. Don’t worry about the dishes and the laundry and taking junior on the train to meet Santa in a sleet storm (trust me). The more you can rest, the faster you’ll recover.
Loosen the reigns. If that means half a can of puffs for lunch and a peek at the forbidden TV, so be it. The tiny humans can tell, at least on some level, when mama’s not on her A game – a quick digression from the routine in favor of what’s easy for you is totally OK.
Bust out a new toy. Or one that’s been chilling in a box in the basement, forgotten. You might get 20 minutes to close your eyes instead of 10 – and those extra minutes are precious when you’re not feeling well.
Retire from cooking duties. Put your partner on dinner duty, or call something in. Not only will skipping meal prep give you extra time to relax – but if you’ve got a GI thing going on, it might help keep the rest of your family healthy. Some extra-contagious stomach bugs, like norovirus, are easily spread when sick people prepare food for others.
Wash those darn hands. We know we’re supposed to do it, we tell the kids to do it, then we give the hands an ol’ one-second rinse and shake dry as we’re running to catch someone nose-diving off the couch. But making a point of getting everyone a good scrub when they get home for the day and acting as the Handwashing Police before meals and after the bathroom – for you and your partner, too – is a tiny thing that can make a big difference in preventing family sickness-sharing.
Has The Crud visited your family this winter? What do you do when you’re down(ish) and out(ish)?