Parenting when sick is hard. Really hard.
Back in the day, taking a sick day was almost a treat. When you were at school, you were cocooned in the safe embrace of your parents’ attention, with Lucozade on tap and a whole library of 80s films to watch on VHS. As an adult before kids it was a great, legitimate way to avoid work and snuggle up under the duvet on the sofa and devour the whole of This Morning. Although you’d never admit to ANYONE that you enjoyed watching it. But sick days as a parent are very different.
If you find yourself in sole charge of young kids when you’re under the weather, it feels like an unending hell. Your children never seem so needy and demanding as when you’re trying to hold it together despite the imminent threat of an unfortunate explosion at either end. It’s almost as if they know.
So, when fetching a glass of milk seems like a task slightly more strenuous than that which faced Edmund Hilary scaling Everest and you are parenting solo, here are five pieces of handy advice to help you survive.
Advice for parenting when sick
Find stuff that distracts them
Every young child has at least one obsession. It might be drawing, playing with trains, building stuff out of Lego or anything else. Whatever your children love doing, it’s time to bring it out and hope it distracts them for a while. It takes a little effort to help set up whatever activity it is that will hopefully pull their focus, but if it allows you some uninterrupted time lying on the sofa to wallow in your sickness misery, it’s worth it.
It could also be the time to bring out something new and intriguing to entertain them. Organised people might keep a box of new toys ready for such an occasion, ready to present to the child and allow them that first flush of interest that comes with any novel play item. The rest of us can simply raid the Christmas or birthday present stash. Desperate times require desperate measures. If you don’t have a gift cache, then Amazon Prime is worth a try if you think you might be parenting when sick for more than one day.
Make illness into a game
Sick days as a parent are tough on you, but they are a novelty for your children. You can play on that in order to keep them entertained. Obviously, the best way to turn it into a game is to instigate a doctor roleplay. You’re the patient, obviously, and they have to cure you. This may involve a bit of hair-pulling, prodding with thermometers and the like, but at least they are not making you get up and move around the house. Anything that means you can remain lying down has to be encouraged.
Depending on the age of your children and the potential hazards involved, you can send them on a treasure hunt to find things that will help you feel better. Fetching a glass of water, a teddy bear, a book (not that you will get to read it) and other items will buy you a bit of time and make them feel involved and important. Win/win.
It’s all about the screen time
Screen time is a thorny topic amongst parents and we all have our own opinions and thoughts. However, if you strictly limit your kids watching CBeebies, Netflix and the like, parenting when sick may be the time to relax those rules temporarily. It won’t damage your children irreparably, but it will allow you to rest whilst they are looked after by the digital babysitter.
In circumstances like these, where you need time without being pestered or having to keep moving around, the TV or iPad is a good way to distract the kids from disturbing you. You can turn it into some quality family time, snuggling up and watching a family film together.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Even if you don’t have any close friends or family free or close by, there is always someone to help, even if it’s only a little bit. If you have one child in school and another at home, one of the other parents might be able to take your eldest on the school run with them. A neighbour might step in to your children to swimming lessons and the like. Of course, it’s too much to expect to hand the kids over for the whole day, but even having an hour off could give you the chance to catch up on much needed sleep.
Let mess be mess
You know when your computer runs slowly and you have to close all the unnecessary programs down through the Task Manager? Well, that’s the way to view sick days as a parent. You don’t need to over exert yourself. Parenting when sick is already difficult enough without adding in more jobs to sap your remaining energy.
If your home is a mess, let it stay a mess until you are well enough to tackle it without having to collapse in a corner and weep afterwards. If the washing up piles up, it’s not the end of the world. You have to make the most of the strength you have to look after the kids and yourself, laundry and dusting can wait.