One of the toughest parts about being a parent is parenting while sick. Unlike work, where, at least in theory, you can take a day off to rest and recover, parenting is a round-the-clock job, where you are the back-up option, illnesses be damned. Add in the gazillion illnesses your kids bring home to you from daycare, and parenting turns into a nonstop blur of keeping your kids alive while also surviving the latest nasty virus.
The first major sickness my son brought home was RSV. He had a mild temperature for about a day, only to quickly bounce back, while my own infection turned into bronchitis. For the next few days, as my son cruised around the house in his Baby Shark costume (it also happened to be Halloween), I spent my time on the couch, coughing up a storm, trying to keep it together enough until my husband got home and could take over.
My son’s diaper stayed soggy longer than it should have, his bottle came only after he started yelling, and one of my major strategies for keeping in one piece was sticking him in a baby bouncer, which occupied him for all of fifteen minutes before he started crying again.
A few months later, my son got the flu and promptly gave it to me—only this time, my husband was out of town on a work trip. Just as before, my son bounced back quickly, leaving me in the lurch to care for him while sick, feverish night feedings and all. I still can’t quite remember just how I handled that, but we are both still alive and in one piece.
This has been a pattern pretty much throughout the entirety of my parenting journey—my kid has given me strep, stomach bugs, bronchitis, and the flu more times than I can count. For the latest installment of parenting while sick, we all got COVID-19. For a week, my husband and I laid on the couch, barely able to move, while my son, who was mildly sick for about a day, destroyed the house. Someday, I’ll remove the last of the marker scribblings from the walls, but until then, it’ll stand as a memorial to survival.
Because I’m bound to deal with this again in the almost-certainly not-so-distant future—and I know I’m not the only one—I come to you for advice. What are your strategies, tips, and tricks for parenting while sick? Veteran parents, leave a comment below to help me and other parents of small children to better survive these times. We’ll round them up to share in a future post.