So you're feeling under the weather. Looking after that bundle of energy is tiring at the best of times, so what happens when you feel that nasty tickle in the back of your throat?
On average, we’ll get between 2 and 4 colds per year and the kids will have between 6 and 8 - sometimes it feels pretty non-stop when you’re passing them back and forth. Whereas before you might be able to take a ‘sick day’, curl up on the sofa and watch daytime TV - once you become a parent you have other responsibilities - and those responsibilities don’t care about your malaise.
How bad can it be?
Although colds and other viruses are the most common, illness can vary in severity. One day you’re fine, the next you’re bed-ridden and couldn’t possibly look after a child.
So what happens when you can’t move, or there’s something more serious going on? There’re plenty of resources out there - including our own piece on looking after your mental health - but for now, we’ll focus on the day-to-day illness.
Much also depends on the age of your children, when they’re younger they need more attention and looking after, as they get older you can trust them to look after themselves a bit more. You know yourself best - don’t push yourself and ask for help if you need it.
Just get on with itIf your ailment is mild and more of an inconvenience, you might be better off just carrying on nearly as normal. Load up on vitamins, don’t overexert yourself and be a bit more liberal with screen-time. Beating a cold is about keeping liquid intake up, getting enough rest and potentially, feeling positive about how you’re going to beat it. Eating some healthy food will help give your body the tools to fight the infection and get you back to full strength quicker.
Lean on your support network
If you’re lucky enough to have family nearby, or even friends who are willing to take the strain and provide entertainment for the bambinos for a couple of hours, let them know you need them and head back to bed for some much needed recuperation. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
If possible, also remember to discuss with your partner about the possibility of them at least working from home. We’re lucky that thanks to Covid, more employers are open to flexible working and the prospect of working from home and this should hopefully mean fewer parents feel as alone when ill.
Invest in distraction techniquesIf you’re not 100% then supplement your missing energy into other activities that you wouldn’t usually allow as much time on. For example, allow more screen time, perhaps provide more snacks and press play on some podcasts. You could almost view it as a treat day for them! Lean on technology to provide some much needed assistance. Toddlers have an instinctual desire to help, perhaps you could enlist them to do basic mundane activities around the house for a bit. As long as you can keep them occupied and allow you that valuable downtime to close your eyes and rest your pounding head, you’re winning.
Remember it’s ok not to be ok.
The days when we’re ill are the ones when we can feel our obligations bearing down on us the most and they can seem like the longest days in the world. You’re still human, and the same message rings true as it did when you brought them home from the hospital: as long as they’re fine at the end of the day, you’ve done your job. You don’t have to be the perfect parent (at any time) so give yourself a break and wallow a bit. Everything will get done eventually.
Speak to them
If they’re old enough to understand, you could enlist their help to look after you. Afterall, they love you as much as you love them and want you to feel better. Explain the situation to them and let them see you be ill. They need to understand even Dad and Mum need looking after too and you can help teach them how best to deal with it at the same time.
Younger children understand a large amount too and they may benefit from the openness of saying “Daddy is ill and won’t be able to play as much today.”
How do you stop your child getting ill when you are sick?
It’s unlikely you’re going to be able to stop germs passing through the household - but if you want to do your utmost to prevent this where possible, make sure you follow all the advice we’ve been given a lot of recently! Wash your hands regularly, sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve and don’t share any household items such as cutlery or towels. You’ll also have to resist the urge to kiss your little angel
How can I be a good parent when sick?
Just make sure the basics are covered. They’re dressed (as easily as possible), they’re fed and everything is in easy reach. Keeping them safe and well while using as little energy as possible is your only goal for the day.