When you’re ill as a child it’s great (well except the feeling rubbish part). You get to lay on the sofa and watch Tv, drinks and snacks brought to you and lots of rest and sympathy.
When you’re ill as a childfree adult then you may not get everyone running around after you but at least you can chill out on the sofa, go to bed early and recover at your leisure.
But when you’re poorly and you have a child all of that is out the window. Suddenly you have to feel crap AND continue to run around after your little being. Children still need to be fed, interacted with and taken to the toilet multiple times. It’s a hassle when all you want to do is veg out and not move or speak.
I am a poorly mummy. Not many people know this but I have Myalgic Encephalitis (M.E) and Fibromyalgia. These can both be life long, debilitating illnesses. I was diagnosed with M.E in my early teens, and fibromyalgia in my 20’s. It wasn’t easy growing up with either illness but now as a mummy it’s a fine balancing act between getting on with it and avoiding a complete relapse.
Today I thought I’d share some tips on how to deal with being poorly whilst you still have children to deal with…
1. Be prepared
This is a great motto. I always make sure my first aid cupboard is stocked. I have everything from a first aid kit, paracetamol and ibuprofen, my own medications (inhalers, migralieve, cocodamol), cold compresses…you name it, it’s there. This way I don’t have to drag myself to the pharmacy unless absolutely necessary. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the lower level painkillers don’t take the pain away. I was under pain clinic and trialling strong meds but because we are trying to conceive I can’t take anything stronger. At least the lower drugs do take the edge off so I can still function.
Also, think about what’s in your cupboard? When I have a flare up I cannot face cooking. In child free times I’d get takeaway or just not eat. That’s not viable now as J has to eat even if I don’t feel like it. So I make sure I keep microwave food in the freezer. I have lots of portions of Spag Bol I can reheat for J. I also have ready meals for me as I know I have to eat to keep my strength up. My husband is just left to fend for himself haha.
2. Be kind to yourself
When you feel pants, you don’t have to be ‘superparent’. It’s ok to have a sofa day with movies on tv, it’s ok not to go out and have adventures and it’s ok not to be making arts and crafts or baking in the style of a ‘Pinterest Mum’. When I feel rough I recognise my limitations. I’ll either lay on the with a pillow and blanket off sofa so I can still be part of J’s play or I’ll lay on the sofa and we’ll read books or I’ll get J to bring the toys to me. Sometimes I’ll put Star Wars on and we’ll just chill out on the sofa together.
If I feel up to it we’ll go in the garden and I’ll sit on a chair blowing bubbles for him to chase, or I’ll lay on blanket on grass (that’s if I have energy to get up and down). I’ve made sure J is able to amuse himself (with supervision) and I’m not ashamed to say that on days I can’t play then he has extra time on the iPad. It’s not all day, everyday and won’t hurt a child to have a chilled day.
End of the day, if you look after yourself now then it can stop a bigger relapse or getting worse to the point where you end up in hospital or unable to look after anyone!
3. Sleep…a lot!
Whenever it is safe to do so then sleep. My symptoms get a lot worse the more tired I get. My body and mind just goes. I lose the ability to walk, and sound like I’m drunk. I’m no good to anyone. I can’t sleep whilst J is awake and playing. But I do sleep when I can.
Once J is in bed, then I go to bed. Sod the housework. No one is going to die from toys being on the floor and washing up in the sink (to be frank if you have a partner then it’s not going to harm them to take over housework for a bit…my husband will get on with it if I can’t do it after all it’s his house too).
If you have family and friends nearby then ask them to either come and sit with the kiddies so you can have a nap or see if anyone would like the children for a ‘sleepover’ so you can have some time to recover. I usually go for the former as J’s autism make sleepovers challenging.
4. Check what vitamins you need.
If you’re long term ill or getting run down a lot then you can ask the gp to test your vitamin levels. Then you can be advised on any vitamins you need to increase. You can do this by buying the tablets or from increasing food groups with that vitamin in. Taking vitamins and increasing certain food groups can help. It’s not a cure but every bit of energy and health you can claw back is helpful.
5. Bring the upstairs, downstairs
Stairs are a big source of pain for me. When I’m having a flare up it hurts my legs and back to the point I end up crawling as I can’t stand. To save myself unnecessary trips I have a selection of things downstairs that I may need. I have blankets and pillows, I have a spare top as I get cold easily. When I am having a particularly bad time I will have a potty downstairs so J can use that rather than me escorting him up and downstairs multiple times in an hour.
I make sure I charge my phone in the evenings so that I don’t have to run up and find my charger during the day, and I have make a big bottle of squash in a sports bottle so I don’t have to get up and down for drinks (also means I don’t have to keep stretchy to the floor or table for a cup/glass of drink). I also make J bigger flasks than cups so his drink is easily available. Even the kitchen can seem a mile away when you feel rough.
6. Claim any free time you can
If your child goes to an early years provider and you are feeling particularly in need of time to yourself or you don’t feel ‘safe’ to look after your child you can ask the provider if any additional hours are available. You will need to pay for these and it will depend on the space available but it may be an option to use. I know J would be happier to have an extra session at nursery then putting up with me unable to even talk to him.
If you have a long term illness then do look into options of funding and respite that you may be entitled too so your child can be in a stimulating environment, having fun, whilst you get much needed rest. Depending on your condition there may be charity groups that can help point you in the right direction.
7. Pace yourself
I used to hate the ‘pacing’ and ‘boom and bust’ discussions with my occupational therapist. It all seemed so useless for everyday life. I couldn’t expect to put things on hold but actually that’s exactly what you need to do. Have a look at the week ahead. Do you have something everyday? If so when are you resting to get better or just to have time to let your body have down time? Do you need to do all those activities?
I try to plan my week so I don’t have too much in one go. If I have a busy Saturday, I’ll have a chilled Sunday. If I have a play date with a friend then I’ll ask if we can do it at my house so I don’t have to go through getting dressed, driving…generally leaving the sofa (I have really understanding friends and family who know that if I say I’m struggling that I’m not just looking for an excuse).
As I said previously, ask for help. I’ve often gone over to my parents for dinner as I haven’t felt up to cooking, or my friends come over and bring a packed lunch rather than me making lunch for us and kiddies.
There is a great video on ‘The Spoon Theory‘ which shows just how much energy you need in one day and why you need to cut out what you can.
8. Make the most of the internet
Online shopping is an amazing thing. When I feel unwell the last thing I want to do is walk around the shops. Ordering your shopping online and getting it delivered will save you a lot of energy. You don’t have to get dressed, or even brush your hair if you don’t have the energy.
If you have a birthday of a family member then use somewhere like amazon where the gift can be sent directly to the persons house.
9. Have a notepad handy
Whenever I’m unwell, whether it’s my m.e, fibromyalgia or sick bug my brain just doesn’t work the right way. I think that I’m so busy focusing on looking after J that everything else just disappears into the blank parts of my head. I find having a notepad helps. I write down times of medication, any phone calls, if I’ve noticed we’re out of something (then I can tell hubby and he can get it for us) etc.
It’s also great if you are worrying over all the things you should be doing. Writing a to do list can help you realise that none of it is needed right this second, and some of it can be done from the sofa or bed (eg: anything you can do on your phone). I can prioritise what needs to happen and use the energy I do have on the essentials.
10. Little and often not all at once
An example of this is when housework can’t be avoided. Washing of uniforms and underwear, bedding etc has to be done. But I do short cuts like sitting on a chair to load the washing machine (you’ll be surprised the energy you save), hang clothes to dry rather than tumble dryer so I don’t have to iron them (and only iron what you absolutely have to…and do it sitting down). When washing is dry and I don’t have too great then I leave it on the stairs. I rarely make a specific trip upstairs just to take up the washing. Wait till you have to go up anyway eg: toilet or child’s napping (oh I wish this still happened with J) then take the washing. If it sits in the corner of the bedroom for couple of days, so be it. Doing it in stages rather than rushing to get everything washed, dried and putting away saves that little bit of energy.
Whether you have a horrible cold or a long term illness, being ill when you have a child sucks. It’s tiring and the days seem long. Be kind to yourself, accept and ask for help and let your child know you don’t feel well. I tell J when I’m feeling poorly and depending on his mood he’ll either come lay on sofa and watch tv with me or he’ll be happy on his own. Not everyday will be a sofa day and end of the day if you don’t look after yourself things will be a lot harder.
Take care x