When mom gets sick, messes don’t seem to matter so much. My house can be cluttered with tiny dinos and My Little Ponies from one end to the other and that’s acceptable.
When mom gets sick, peanut butter and jelly with goldfish on the side for breakfast, lunch and dinner is a wholesome, balanced meal.
When mom gets sick, running in the house and throwing balls down the hallway is an acceptable use of time and space and any game that can be played with mom overseeing from the couch is a great time and should be played all day long.
I don’t know about you, but when I get sick, I mean, *really* sick, my kids totally don’t care. They still expect to be entertained, fed, clothed and nursed. The nerve, right?! Well, I’ve been pretty sick lately and not just like, “oh I have a cold and it’s a bummer”. I have double pneumonia after having a 103+ fever and nasty flu for over a week and lost 12 pounds. I’ve been SICK. So as I spend my days lumbering around the house barely doing anything productive, I’ve had to lower the bar on what is “acceptable” for my kids while I’m home with them all day by myself. I’ve had to allow things to happen, foods to be eaten and activities to be done that I might not allow under other circumstances and most of all, I’ve had to let go of my self-expectations because I have had no choice.
I was forced to stop pretending I was okay and right about that point when my fever was 104 and I finally admitted I was actually ill, it occurred to me; What do other moms do when they get really sick? Do they just keep going and pretend it’s not happening? Am I a weak woman and bad mom because I just can’t seem to carry on like normal right now? I mean, there’s at least a good 1/2 hour where I don’t feel like death- maybe I should be doing laundry or something…
The day after I was diagnosed with pneumonia with a 104 fever, someone remarked “oh wow, you are still in bed?!” Um… where else would I be? Running laps and shampooing my carpets? Noooooo thanks. I know she didn’t mean it that way, in fact, I don’t even think she knew how sick I really was, but it did make me wonder… don’t other moms just let themselves get better? That whole “supermom who never stops” thing… that’s just a myth, right? ….Right???
The doctor I saw last week told me, “I need you to rest. Not the “mom” kind of rest where you still do all the normal day-to-day things and just don’t tell anyone, I mean rest. As in, sit in bed with the humidifier and do as little as humanly possible until this is gone or it will get worse. Leave the messes and the major projects for after you’re well and get help if you need it. The longer you pretend you’re not sick, the longer you will BE sick.” So, I took her advice.
So then, how many moms actually follow doctor’s advice and really rest for their bodies to recoup and heal from a sickness like this? How many “supermoms” give in and actually allow themselves to get well before pushing through to take on life as normal? More importantly, what lessons do we teach our children by not respecting our bodies during sickness?
Whatever all of those other moms do, I’m okay with admitting I’m not a supermom when I get really sick. I am allergic to most medications and can only take one type of over the counter pain reliever/fever reducer. I’m nursing, so I can’t take most decongestants and the majority of them make me feel like I’m on meth anyway, so I tend to avoid them regardless.
I’m not a hulk, I’m not invincible, I don’t push through selflessly, passing off my own misery to care for the family like nothing is wrong. I can’t even if I wanted to. I don’t get the luxury of “loading up on medication” and pretending I’m fine and honestly, I’m not ashamed of that and you shouldn’t be either.
It’s perfectly okay to sit in bed and have the kids cuddle up with you all day, watching movies, reading books and eating popcorn and other easy to prepare foods while you recover.
It’s totally acceptable to create a space for them to color or play with play-dough to their heart’s content while you watch from the couch. Paint and crayons wash out. Play-Dough vacuums up easily once it’s dry. Dress-up games are pretty easy to manage from bed and who cares if the Lincoln Logs are strewn from the front door to the bathroom? I mean, really… you think anyone’s going to care that you didn’t dutifully clean up every single crumb when you’re sick with a fever and a cough that makes you spontaneously pee yourself? Honestly, if you know people who will care about that, my advice is to stop knowing those types of people.
When you are sick, contagious and miserable, it’s okay to stop being supermom. It’s okay to practice self-care and to give yourself a break. What is NOT okay (in my opinion), is pushing through, continuing daily life as normal, running errands and pretending you are fine. I know, I know, it’s the whole “selfless mom badge of honor” that we all seem to think we need to earn but in reality, it’s not a good thing. Why? Here’s a few reasons;
1- You contaminate every single person in your path. I mean talk about inconsiderate! Just because you can’t stand the idea of slowing down to care for yourself you have to spread your disease all over town? RUDE. I was out of my house for ONE SINGLE DAY after being home for literally 3 weeks straight and the one day I leave my house, I get the worst flu of my life?? I only went to one place and that one place was filled with moms and their kids, coughing and sneezing all over everything. I came right home and did everything preventative I could think of but sure enough, 3 days later I was diseased. Pretending you are fine when you are contagious teaches your children that it’s totally okay to put others’ needs on the back burner just so you can do whatever you want. This is NOT a lesson anyone should be teaching their kids, in my opinion.
2- You teach your kids that self-care doesn’t matter. By ignoring yourself when you are ill, you are showing your kids that even when it’s a matter of health, they are not as important as others around them. You teach them they should put their own needs behind them, even if it causes them harm, to cater to others. The positive lesson you teach your children by caring for your needs is that they, too, should care for their own needs and that self-care is important. You can reinforce this by reminding them how you care for them when they are sick, how you don’t let them get out of bed, either and how important it is for people to take care of themselves so their bodies can heal.
3- You also teach your kids that YOUR needs are not to be respected. By pushing through and doing everything as normal, you are teaching them your needs as a mother are not important and should be ignored. The positive lesson you can teach them by respecting your own needs when you are ill is about respecting you and those around you when they are ill. By telling them “mommy is sick, but it’s okay we can still do everything you need to do”, you are showing them that people around them should always jump to make them happy, even if they are ill. By saying “Mommy is really sick right now and it hurts a lot, can we just be still and quiet for a while?” You are teaching them compassion, and to respect your needs and to learn empathy, not just toward you, but toward anyone.
4- It takes longer to get well. Sure, a little activity for some sicknesses can actually be healthy and good for you, but for many others, like the one I have now, can only be healed by allowing all your body’s reserves to focus on killing the virus and healing the body. So many people sabotage themselves by pushing through and getting back to normal before their bodies are ready they end up with even worse and far more dangerous issues like pneumonia (yes, this is what happened to me), chronic bronchitis, annoying, lingering coughing and just in general, taking a really long time to actually feel 100% again.
So, what can we do when our impulse is to keep going? How can we break away from that need to push through? It’s actually pretty easy.
Admit that you are human and your human body can only do so much. It’s okay to stop. It’s okay to do the bare minimum for a while if that means you can be 100% even faster. It’s good for you, it’s a good lesson for your kids and it will make you feel better. Just let go. Do indoor activities, call upon any help you might have, find ways to entertain the children without having to move a whole lot and heal yourself. Even superheroes need help sometimes and it doesn’t make you look like a bad mom or a weak woman for asking.
Moms, we have enough to worry about- the last thing any of us have time for is to have to worry about our health and what others might think of us if we stop for a while and take care of ourselves when we need to. Being a mom means sometimes being a mom for ourselves. So, when you get sick, look in the mirror, put on your stern mom face and tell yourself to go back to bed.
You work hard being supermom every other day of the year. You deserve to take care of yourself a little when your body needs to heal.
Need some “Mom is sick” activity ideas? Here are 10 things you can try!
1- Dress up games and make-believe. Becoming princesses, pirates and superheroes takes time and much of it has nothing to do with you. Open the costume closet – even YOUR closet- and let them create their own outfits. You can then have them invent characters, draw pictures of the characters they’ve created and write stories about them! That should take at LEAST a few hours.
2- Lay down a sheet, put down some cardboard and let Play-Dough, paint or crayons happen. One of the biggest issues for sick mama is the mess made from activities we are too sick to control. So set up a space where uncontrollable messes are okay and just let them happen. On the lawn, a back patio, even a living room with an old sheet thrown down is acceptable. Remember; most crayons and markers wash out and Play-Dough is easy to deal with once it’s dry. So, set it up, sit back and watch them have fun.
3- Make easy food (or better yet, ask for help from someone else to do this) like sandwiches, pasta, cut up fruit, ready to bake pizza, easy snacks and leave it in the fridge to grab and go super fast and easy with minimal clean up.
4- Read books to the kids. If the sickness you have allows you to still have a voice, this is a great way to get the kids to settle down with you for a while. If they get bored with the books, have them tell YOU stories and make things up.
5- Have tea parties. Tea parties are usually pretty calm, quiet and don’t require a whole lot of effort on your part, but can take up at least 25 minutes of your day where you are mostly sitting still and also keeping the kids entertained.
6- New Movies. Kids are often settled by movies, but when they are NEW movies, it’s even better! Have someone visit RedBox or check out Amazon Prime, your Pay-Per-View options through your cable provider or just borrow some movies the kids haven’t seen yet. You can spend hours of your recovery time enjoying the silence and calm created by kids entranced by new media.
7- If you can’t get someone to make you food or go shopping for you, most grocery stores deliver and there is always a food delivery option near most people, like pizza, Chinese, etc. and that can save you a load of time and energy.
8- Video games are awesome when mom is sick. If you allow video games in your house, most of us have time limits set for them, but when mom is sick, a few extra minutes… or hours…. isn’t really that terrible and will allow you much needed rest.
9- Scavenger hunts around the house. Make lists for each child and have them run around the house collecting all the items on your lists. Whoever finishes first, picks the next movie to watch.
10- You know that thing they always want to do and you never let them because it’s a pain and usually takes a while to put away? Let them do it. Building forts, taking all the plastic things out of every kitchen drawer, rearranging their rooms, taking every single toy out of it’s box or “put away” place, getting out every building block in the house and building whatever, wherever for hours, that toy that has a billion tiny parts that is super fun and a pain in the neck to clean up? Yep- go for it. The novelty of being allowed to do it will, in itself be a great motivator to spend lots of time doing it and again- you’re sick. who cares about the mess? You can clean the mess when you’re well or ask someone to help you out and in the mean time, they get to play and you get to rest.
I hope this helps give you that extra push toward allowance that you need in order to just heal and get well. Remember, you can’t help anyone if you don’t first help yourself.