Remember how my little M came home from her Christmas vacation feverish and pathetic? I caught her virus and became equally feverish and pathetic.
It started with a cough and quickly blossomed into what I suspect is this year’s flu. When I realized I might be contagious, I elected to work from home rather than bringing my germs into the office. That afternoon, my cough worsened and I was certain I was about to be very ill. I begged off work to stock up on easy foods and medication.
Let me tell you that it’s far easier to be a sick single mother of 7-year-olds than of infants.
When Mommy Is Sick with Infants
The last time I was this sick, my daughters were babies. I had a blog, but wasn’t blogging with any regularity and I certainly wasn’t recording how hard those first few months were. I have vague memories of those days of fever and pain.
On the worst day, my fever around 103°F, I remember thinking there was no way I could carry the babies and their car seats to the car to take them to daycare, so I kept them home with me. I was so weak that I remember crawling into the nursery and feeding my babies, one at a time, holding the bottles through the slats of the cribs as I lay on the floor. I changed their diapers through the slats, too. I was too weak to lift them out of their cribs. They stayed in there all day.
My husband was in Iraq and I was too proud/worried to ask the neighbours for help. The only close friends I had nearby had babies younger than mine–we had 5 little ones born on the block within a 12 month period–or were elderly. I wasn’t going to risk passing on what I had to them. Our families were thousands of miles away.
I was well enough to take the babies back to daycare the next day. One of the teachers didn’t live too far from me. She told me to call her if I were ever in the same situation again. She would be happy to bring the babies into school for me. It hadn’t occurred to me to reach out to my daycare community. I’ve never made that mistake again. I also make sure that my friends and my daughters’ friends’ parents know that I’ll be there for them in a crisis.
When Mommy Is Sick with 7-Year-Olds
When I was at the store last week, I focused on picking up food that my kids could prepare themselves: a fresh gallon of milk for cereal, hummus and pita chips, pre-sliced apples and baby cut carrots, sandwich fixings. For myself, I picked up generic multi-symptom flu meds, bananas, chamomile tea, and the few frozen meals available with sane quantities of salt.
That night, I took my acetaminophen-laced meds before driving out to get my girls from after school care. I explained to them that mommy was very sick and that I needed them to be very grown up. It turned out that M had eaten dinner at the Y, but J had skipped it. I showed them their self-service options and told the girls to clean up after themselves.
I didn’t feel like my temperature was falling even an hour later. I came out from my room and asked the girls to prepare for bed, telling them I didn’t feel good. J asked if she could take my temperature. I asked her to open the box of thermometer probe covers, applied one to our thermometer–we still use the two the NICU sent home with us 7.5 years ago–and popped it in my mouth.
M and J had changed into their pajamas and brushed their teeth. I reminded them to put their dirty clothes in the laundry and sent them off to bed after J brought me a wet washcloth to try to cool my neck and forehead. I kissed them on the top of their heads instead of nose and cheek as I usually do.
J asked me how to set the alarm clock because she was going to check on me every two hours. I told her that I appreciated the thought, but needed her to get plenty of rest to maximize her chances of staying healthy. She wasn’t pleased.
I posted my fever on Facebook and asked for advice. Several friends recommended taking ibuprofen, but I discovered that the only bottle I had had expired. I figured I’d try to push through.
I dozed feverishly until 9:00. On the hour, my two sweet girls scuffed into my room, each in a bathrobe and slippers and holding her nightlight. They wanted to see how I was. Since they were up anyway, I asked them to load up in the car so Mommy could pick up medicine. They were unable to help me at the 24-hour drive through at CVS Pharmacy, so we had to all go inside to pick up a bottle of ibuprofen.
I ordered pizza delivered a couple of times during the week I was most unwell. The girls’ Girl Scout leader took them to their scout meeting and their teacher dropped them home. I loaded and ran the dishwasher as my daughters made their way through plates and cups, and I disinfected around the house as best I could to keep my virus to myself. I also cleaned the cat litter and took out the trash.
Otherwise, though, my daughters have been pretty self-sufficient. I’ve reserved my energy to spend with my girls, talking to them about their days, talking about the things they find interesting, picking up after them, especially dirty dishes, dirty clothes, and dirty floors. They’ve helped out by making their own meals, putting away clean dishes and clothes, and taking care of their own basic physical needs. I’ve dropped them at school and picked them up, run their baths, and checked their homework.
Poor M felt terribly guilty for having passed on her virus to me, so she needed extra affection to help her understand that I had chosen to risk getting sick because I loved her … just as she was doing in caring for me. J tired of working to get along with her sister and needed me to intervene a few times.
There’s been a lot more TV at our house than I’d usually allow, but given that eating a meal wore me out so much that I slept for two blocks of 8 hours the following day, I feel like we’ve been doing really well.
Ever wonder if it gets easier? It does!
How do you manage care for your children when you’re sick?
Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.