Parenting when you are sick
A lot of us will remember the joy when we were younger of being too sick for school, but not so sick that we had to stay in bed all day. I remember someone calling this “the ultimate sickness”. Those were the days where we were able to indulge in doing nothing!
Those of us who grew up without Netflix relished the chance to watch the ‘daytime’ TV shows like Oprah or Sally Jessy Raphael. Sadly, I can only imagine what the daytime TV binge-watching experience is like in 2022. That’s because everything changes once you become a parent.
Now, being sick is the ultimate curse! Not only do you not get to sit around and binge-watch TV, but you also need to keep going. Your baby still wakes during the night, they still need feeding and settling, and if you have older children, they still need to get to school.
There is no such thing as “the ultimate sickness” now that we are parents, and there is certainly no chance to just ‘sleep’ and ‘rest’. For parents who have endured sickness with little ones, they will know exactly what I’m talking about.
The worst part of all of this is that we know that rest is fundamental to recovery when you are unwell. For example, research tells us that resuming normal activity and exercise too soon after Covid-19 infection may prolong symptoms. So, how do we even begin to imagine rest when we have little ones to look after?
Although it’s going to look significantly different to how you managed sickness as a child and young adult, there are still meaningful ways that you can rest and repair as a parent:
1. Don't be a hero
First, don’t be a hero – ask for help. I’ve said this time and time again but people actually relish the chance to help. People feel good helping. So ask a family member or friend if they could watch your baby for an hour or so to give you a chance to rest in bed. Or even if they could take your little one out for a walk or to play at the park.
If someone offers to make you dinner, don’t feel awkward about saying yes – take them up on their offer! There have been countless times that I have declined offers of help because I have felt too embarrassed. Do not let unhelpful thoughts prevent you from getting the help you so deserve. Just store it up, and when that person is unwell you can repay the kindness.
Asking for help may also include asking your partner to help with night feeds. If you are still breastfeeding, they could bring the baby to you in bed, and they could do the settling and nappy changes. Working together as a team while you are unwell can help to fast-track your recovery.
2. Cut down your to-do list
Only do the “must-do” activities of the day and forget about the things you “would like to do”. To better explain this, a must-do activity would be to feed yourself and your baby or to take a shower. A “would like to do” would be things like the washing (unless of course you’re down to your last pair of underwear!) or tidying the house. The washing and tidying can wait. When you only engage in the “must-do” activities, you are giving yourself more time to rest and take it easy.
3. Sleep when the baby sleeps
If your little one is still napping – sleep when they do or at least rest with a good book or a TV show. This is a must! And it goes hand-in-hand with point number two.
Now if the phrase "sleep when the baby sleeps" makes you want to laugh (or cry!) because your baby or toddler just DOES NOT SLEEP, you'll want to check out the Little Ones App. In the app you'll find trusted sleep solutions, detailed troubleshooting notes, gentle settling methods, day and night support from certified sleep consultants and loads more... basically everything you need to improve your baby's sleep!
4. Cut corners where you can
Consider things that you can do to make life easier in the short-term. For example, ordering healthy takeaways or buying ready-made meals. Or perhaps seeing if there is a laundry service, or a one-off cleaning service that you can use to keep on top of things while you are unwell. You’d be surprised at what is out there!
5. Embrace screen time
If your child is old enough (i.e., not a baby) let go of the device/TV guilt and use it as much as you need! For a few days, there is no harm in letting your toddler watch more TV than usual - especially if it means that you can rest on the couch next to them.
Remember – this is not forever! And, when that guilt starts to creep in, ask yourself – “what would I say to a friend if they were allowing this same behaviour?”. Chances are, you’d reassure them, or even encourage them to allow screen time. If you’re really against it though, an alternative to screen time could be setting up a play area for your little one where you can lie down next to them and rest.
6. See your doctor
Finally, make sure you talk to your family doctor about whether there are any medications or home remedies that might help to ease your suffering. Many medicines are safe for breastfeeding parents, so you don’t have to needlessly struggle. Your family doctor is there to help!
Although it might not feel like the “good old days” of watching day-time TV, taking on board some of these tips can help you to rest and repair as a parent. Remember, the more you rest and look after yourself, the quicker you will get back to full health again!