Parenting When You’re Sick

When I was a little girl, my mother told me, “Mommies don’t get sick.”


And I believed her.


My sister and I got sick. My father got sick. But my mother never did. At least that’s what she led me to believe.


Little did I know, my mother did get sick, but she just kept going…cleaning, cooking, carpooling, and care-taking…


A lot of mothers are like mine. They just keep putting one foot in front of the other no matter how miserable they feel. And a lot of them feel guilty when they do stop to take care of themselves.


Not me.


One Wednesday afternoon in 2014, I came down with the flu.


I didn’t know it was the flu at first. It started as a bad sore throat, chills, and a low-grade fever.


Thursday, I went to the doctor and he confirmed that I didn’t have strep, and told me to just rest and drink lots of fluids.


Over the next few days, I felt exhausted, my head ached, my throat hurt, I lost my voice, and my fever lingered around 101°F.


All I wanted to do was sleep.


Usually, I would call on my mother (the one who “never” gets sick) to help me take care of the girls. But this time she was sick, too. (Apparently, Grandmas do get sick.)


I learned that it really does take a village. When you’re sick, you’ve got to learn to ask for help. Don’t hesitate to call on your neighbors, your kids’ teachers, and other parents. What’s the best that can happen? They say “yes!”


If you’re healthy now, pay it forward. Be the one to reach out and offer your support.


Here are some things that helped me get through that Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday:


♦ Help before school. Gavin usually took Marissa to school at 7:45 and I took Dalia at 9. By putting Dalia in early care, Gavin was able to take them both on his way to work.


♦ Help during school. I was supposed to volunteer at a school function and be there with Dalia. I told the school I couldn’t help, and called a friend to make sure Dalia had a “surrogate” mom to be with her during the event.


♦ Help after school. Friday happened to be a half-day for Marissa, so I arranged for her to have a play date until 4pm, when I could pick up both girls around the same time.


♦ TV. I’m all for limits on TV-watching, but when I’m sick, all bets are off. The kids had a My Little Pony marathon.


♦ Crafts. The girls had fun painting pictures and beading necklaces (see below).


♦ Routines. Remember those bedtime routines I wrote about?  Boy, did those come in handy! For TWO nights, Marissa read stories to Dalia and they did their entire bedtime routine themselves. Both in bed by 7:45. No joke.


♦ Self-care.  I slept. I drank tea with honey and lemon, and lots of water. I stayed away from the girls as much as possible and washed my hands often.


My fever broke on Sunday morning and by Monday, I was feeling almost 100% better.

Marissa made me a necklace that says “Be Happy” on it.


The morals?

1. Don’t feel guilty for taking sick days.

2. Ask for help and you just might get it.

3. Let go of TV rules, messes, and Martha Stewart meals.


The kids will be fine and so will you.


Here are a few resources for hiring help if/when you need it (I personally haven’t used these services, but they might be helpful):


What’s been the most helpful to you when you’ve been sick with kids? Leave a comment below!


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Showing 6 comments
  • Lori

    One of my worst experiences was when my husband was traveling, my son was 3, and I got his stomach bug that he was mostly over. I was alone for one day with him until my husband got home. No family around and because of the type of illness I did not feel comfortable asking for help. It was the first time I fell asleep when he wasn’t in his crib napping and luckily he somehow knew to stay close by. I admit to having been somewhat jealous of parents who could call the grandparents to help or family. But I knew that that would be the situation when we first started trying to get pregnant and that helped a lot with acceptance. One challenge was that my husband as much as he cares really didn’t “get” how hard it was to parent a young child when I was sick. Luckily I have very rarely been sick but solo parrenting when extremely sleep deprived (i.e. from being up half the night with a sick child) is also very challenging. None of this is to “complain” and I love your suggestions and I have at times gotten help from friends (but am concerned about exposing them to illness). Thanks again!

  • Tatyana

    I love where you talked about paying it forward with some other moms. My hubby is willing to jump in, but he does not have time during the day. And my family does not live nearby. So, I’m going to resolve to let my mom-friends know that they can call on me (any maybe I’ll be able to call on them when I’m sick).

    • Pam Howard

      Oh, Tatyana, that’s so great! I’m sure that when you take that first step and reach out, they’ll return the favor when you need it.

  • Helen Butler

    I have to admit I’m a bit like your Mum Pam, especially when I have a low grade illness. But there have been times when I’ve been so sick I couldn’t get out of bed. We don’t have family help close by so I had to rely on Hubby and friends when it came to school drop off, meal times etc. It can be hard to relinquish control (and meet a neighbour at the front door looking less than glamorous!!) but that’s ok. Thankfully it doesn’t happen too often! 🙂

  • Clare Greig

    Yes it is so tricky. I remember the time when my husband and I both had food poisoning and couldn’t move. The kids had to go to our neighbour and then their aunty. We literally could not do anything. Great tips Pam.

  • Kristy


    Great advice in this article, especially asking for help when you need it. I LOVE your idea of paying it forward by also offering to help others when they are unwell.

    My gorgeous dad came over and cleaned my house when I was 9 months pregnant with pneumonia.

    Thanks again for sharing.

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