It would be an understatement to say that last week kind of kicked my arse a bit. Hugo was sick with a virus and then an ear infection and the poor little guy needed his mum ALL the time. Which is fair enough, but with being needed in such an intense way comes a side of exhaustion that I think all parents can relate to. Getting up at 4.30am everyday, being woken at night and then gaining only an hour reprieve during the day (if I was lucky) can quickly send you a bit crazy, which I realised when on Sunday morning at 4am I screamed at my awake children that ‘I’m not depressed I’m just tired! Go watch TV if you won’t go back to bed’ Yes, friends it was not my finest parenting hour, but that’s what a week tending to the sick on no sleep will do to you!
So, given that there will be many times when we all experience the ‘joy’ of sick children, I’ve put together five lessons from my week of snot mopping and panadol-filled syringe toting for you all.
1. Embrace the helplessness
Looking after sick kids is such a helpless feeling, but the first step to staying sane is embracing that helplessness and then get stuck into what you CAN do. It won’t be something that takes away the pain entirely but it may be something that gives your child a little bit of comfort when they’re feeling anything but comfortable. These things will almost always be excruciating for you (like watching endless repeats of Charlie Bear), but your child will feel that little bit better for it.
2. Embrace the inconvenience
It’s an unwritten rule that children will get sick at the most inconvenient of times. For me last week it was during the end of the production schedule for the magazine I work for. Print deadlines wait for no child, however sick – but having a stressed out mum, trying to do it all is no help to either party. So, I hatched a plan. With one story to finish, I went into work to get the files and information I needed, while Mr P negotiated with his work to start late. I then let my work know I’d finish my final story at home and would be in touch by email. The story was finished later that day and sent for appropriate approvals in time for the sick boy to be wanting my attention. I can’t pretend it was quite as carefree as that sounds as I was quite stressed about it, but by embracing the inconvenience and coming up with a solution that would work for me, my sick boy and my employer I felt more at ease with moving onto point number 3 …
3. Be, not do
As discussed in point one – sometimes a sick child just wants the comfort of their parent close AT ALL TIMES, as my Hugo did last week. I’m not always comfortable with sitting down for lengths of time – my head whirs with all the things I want to get done and why is my house so dirty and I need to hang out the washing and gosh, I haven’t blogged for ages (you get the picture). I found that I could feel more relaxed and almost relish my extra caring duties when I just let go of the need to DO and embraced the need to just BE. All those other things can wait … a sick child is a call to be in the now, to pay attention to what is and what won’t be for much longer.
4. Sleep when you can
It’s so tempting to use the time’s they’re asleep to catch up on all the things you didn’t get done while partaking in enforced couch time. But I found a little nap, even if it’s for half an hour, is enough to charge the batteries and improve the mood. I also put myself to bed early instead of staring blankly at a TV or computer screen and awoke the next day a lot happier for it. The day after my 4am crazy yelling bout, my husband got up to the boys while I enjoyed a couple of hours extra rest and here I am a day later feeling like a completely different person. It’s OK to insist on some extra sleep, I promise you’ll feel better!
5. Escape if you can
This one also falls into the self-care category and although it’s last on the list, it’s definitely one of the most important! Being home with a sick child all week, with noone to talk to in real life can make you go a little bat-shit crazy. So, take any chance you have to escape once the child is asleep and in the care of someone else. I didn’t feel like going to my usual yoga class but I made myself go and found a little bit of myself while doing so and on Friday I arranged to meet a friend for a meal and a glass of something bubbly. This human contact made me feel less zombie and more human and ready for whatever the next day threw at me.
So, these are just 5 of my lessons from caring for my sick child last week. What’s your best tips for looking after you while looking after a sick little one?