Surviving the “Sick Days”

When you don’t have kids, sick days aren’t so great because you’re sick, but if we’re honest, many of us enjoy the downtime to just watch movies, sleep, watch daytime TV, sleep, relax, sleep, take a hot bath, sleep… you get it.  Pre-kid, when I got really sick, I was a fan of what I call the “NyQuil Sick Day” where you spend the day resting and watching TV then max out on NyQuil around 5 or 6pm, basically pass out, and wake up some 15 or so hours later feeling totally fine.  It was wonderful.

Then I had kids.

As any parent can tell you, once you have kids your sick days change.  In fact, even the meaning of sick days change as you now have three types of sick days to contend with: When you’re sick or when your child is sick (even worse is the version of this where multiple children are sick) or everyone is sick.  They all come with their sets of problems and they all can leave you feeling worse than when they started.

The ‘You Are Sick’ Day

This is when you’re sick but your kids are totally healthy.  Little children (and even some older ones) seem incapable of understanding the “I am sick, please let me rest” attitude that we tell people to take when they are sick.  They continue to want to play, go outside, have you make food, clean up, and help them.  It’s not their fault they don’t get it (well, the younger ones at least), but get it they don’t.  If you have a TV and are willing, it can become your friend (and drive you crazy at the same time), especially if it’s not something your kids watch regularly (and we’re talking kids here, not babies, please don’t put your baby in front of the TV for the day).  Another option is to have a box of toys that your kids can use by themselves without help and are special enough that they’ll be excited by them (the special bit is why they should only come out when sick or you really need the time).  If you’re able to do a little bit of stuff with your kids, arts and crafts are great ways to keep kids occupied without too much exertion on your behalf, especially if you work towards making something they can play with after.

If you are still breastfeeding, you have to watch the medication you take.  If you are co-sleeping, you also have to watch the medication you take as it can make you drowsy and make co-sleeping unsafe.  So all those remedies you’re used to?  Say goodbye to most of them.  Instead, make sure you’re stocked up on honey, teas, heating pads, and anything else that won’t knock you out but will help (note that some cold and flu medicines are okay, but always check first that it doesn’t make you drowsy and is safe while breastfeeding).

All this can be ignored if you have a partner or family member or friend who can come to your place and entertain and watch your children for free or take them somewhere to entertain them for free.  Except that rarely happens in our society.  Partners (if they are working) can rarely take work off and family and friends are often working or live too far away or don’t want to risk getting sick themselves.

One thing to remember: Most likely you will end up sick for longer than you did pre-kids, but will learn to function at 20%.  So instead of being at 0% for a day then rebounding, you will remain at 20% for a week, but your kids will still be alive at the end too.  Parents are kind of incredible that way.

The ‘Your Child is Sick’ Day

This day is when you feel fine but your child (or children) doesn’t.  Most people think this day is easy – you stay home and care for a sick child, but really it depends on the kid, your work expectations, and the number of children sick versus healthy.  Lots of variants here.  If you work and you’re home, you may actually be expected to work from home which means you have the added stress of trying to actually do something while managing sick kids (when they’re older, this is usually fine, but when they’re younger, it can be a real problem).  However, if your work offers family sick days, you may want to take one and absolve yourself of all responsibilities for the day.  If you absolutely have to work, you’ll have to keep those kids entertained...

If you have more than one child, you will either have multiple sick children or healthy children who want to do things they can’t do because of the sick children who need you to feel better which makes the healthy children frustrated because they need you too.  It’s a no-win situation.  Again, TV may be your friend here.  So is story time so if you can read for extended periods, so go for it as you may engage both the sick and the healthy here.  If you have healthy children, you may need to use the sick kids’ sleep time to spend some quality time with the healthy ones (if you aren’t working).  This is also a good time to have some toys that are stored for special occasions so that the healthy kids can do some activities on their own.  If you have sick children that need cuddling all day, the extra toys and activities will be much needed for the healthy children.  This, of course, also assumes the healthy kids are stuck at home and no one else can come and help you (sadly, as mentioned above, a rather common occurrence in today’s society).

Remember:  Because of how viruses work, when you have more than one child, the most likely scenario is that one child will get sick and just as he gets better, the next child goes down, and so on and so forth until they are finished with this illness and have moved on to the next.  In fact, in all reality, rarely do you get just one of these sick days, you either start with the ‘you are sick’ day and it moves to ‘your child is sick’ day or vice versa.  Sometimes, though, you end up with...

The ‘Everyone is Sick’ Day

This is the time when some awful illness hits the whole family.  Sometimes it’s the flu, but usually it’s one of the more nasty ones that involves all sorts of things coming out, because that’s just the way it seems to work and it just wouldn’t be hard enough without that, right?  We can thank Murphy for that one.

What do you do?  There is no guide here.  You simply survive any way you know how.  There are no rules, it’s the hunger games of sick days where you and your virus or bacterial hosts fight to the death.  Good luck.


By Tracy Cassels

February 03, 2014