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The day began with a far too familiar sound from my kids' room. My seven year old was asking if my four year old was "ok" while my four year old was coughing in such a manner that can only lead to one thing...vomiting. I hit the ground running as I left my bed to assess the situation. Apparently my youngest woke early with this suspicious cough and the oldest was trying to help her without disturbing me (bless the thought). Unfortunately, the water my seven year old administered was coming back up right as I entered the room. Miracle of miracles, we made the bathroom in just enough time to save the carpet but, as is natural, my four year old's jammies, hair, and socks were not so lucky.
After cleaning her up we ventured downstairs. Now I had to get a regular breakfast for the oldest, and dry toast with plainer than plain applesauce for the youngest. Yep...I's no rookie here...sure, I could phone our MD...but we've walked this road before.
Step #1...assess the problem. Well, one bite of toast and applesauce each with nearly immediate "feedback" told me we were on the stomach flu train today. If there was any further doubt, the colorful "display" from about 3 tastes of a peppermint to try to soothe the beast confirmed all.
Step #2...decide if/when to phone the professional. I felt capable to handle the situation, only after having dealt with it before with my oldest, then my spouse, then myself. Sure...I could make an appointment, but it'll just cost me a co-pay to hear our MD say, "yep...no food/drink for 12-24 hrs. And watch for dehydration problems." I thought I'd take on day #1 of this myself, with a note to contact the MD office if symptoms persist or worsen.
Step #3...care & contain. The toast and applesauce were soon history and we faced 60-120 minutes of no intake at all to establish a base. In that time...only 1 more "feedback" session. The couch cover spun in the washer, with the jammies, socks, and some disinfectant. My youngest's hair was tied back and I made her a nice nest on the now towel covered couch. It's in this phase that we remained for my "day off" work.
We watched two movies together and even tried to play a bit of Yahtzee before lunch. I gave my youngest about 2 ounces of tepid water to sip over a 60 min. period only after 2 hours of no food/drink. For her lunch...1 saltine...nibbled ever so slightly over the next hour. All was going well until I went online to do a bit of work (errands also prey on my "day off"). She just threw up again...so the trash can beside her is newly sanitized and her clothes changed and now I'm phoning a few back up contacts for work for me tomorrow in case I catch this bug today/tonight.
I'm sure most parents know this tale quite well. It's all part of life as a parent. Thankfully, my spouse and I have perfected a work/child care arrangement so we'll never miss work to care for a sick child. Whoever's not working is caring. Whoever's working the following morning gets the night before's first bid for sleep. It's a great system. However...odds of missing an actual "day off" are quite good. Is that fair...maybe not. Does that matter...not really. But heaven help the co-worker who dares ask you how your "day off" was when you report for work next.
So here's to the greatest endeavor and "career" for which no income will EVER be earned. To parenthood! Cheers!
How to Survive Being Sick When You're The Parent.
So...I made it to work ok Tuesday after caring for my stomach flu stricken four year old on Monday, my day off work. The stink of it now is that I woke Wednesday for another day off work to find myself stricken with stomach flu symptoms. So the extra moisturizer I worked into my overly dry hands from washing them every time I tended my sick child...apparently could have been spared.
Parenthood is the absolute, hands down, greatest adventure of my life. The only thing about it I really have trouble coping with is not having the privilege to be sick. There's simply no explaining to the little ones, and sometimes even the other parent...that you need to stop everything, go straight to bed, and not be disturbed until you feel better. They just don't understand...especially if you're a super parent (whether you don a cape or not) whose seemingly magic touch solves most any problem faced by the family unit.
So at 6:45am, when I needed to use the bathroom and return to bed...I simply shed a quick tear, used the bathroom...put on pants over my jammie pants and headed off to wake the girls for school. This technique of powering through pain/exhaustion/fatigue I perfected when I was pregnant with my youngest, working 3 jobs, and caring for a then 3 year old. Soon after I woke them I zipped off to the bathroom again, asking them to start dressing. I returned to them playing in the bottom bunk, suppressed my urge to yell, and told them they could use the bathroom once the disinfectant had its 2 min. to work. Step #1: Find the strength, patience, or whatever you need to put one foot in front of the other.
Then I helped them get dressed and we headed to breakfast where I immediately assured my now well four year old that I would not be making pancakes this morning. I gave them cereal or Pop Tarts as choices so they didn't feel like I shut them down right as we're trying to get psyched for a great day at school. They ate. I used the bathroom again. I ventured a very safe breakfast option for myself, kept it down and then corralled them upstairs for teeth brushing while I gathered their coats. Step #2: Give yourself a break, downgrade your usual flexibility and be sure to put yourself up at least one rung on the "to be pampered" ladder.
The dawdling was minimal as we made it to school right on time. I told the dog she'd have to take a rain check on our usual park outing traditionally set for each morning after leaving school. AND...I made sure not to feel guilty about that. The kids were off to school and I was home making sure the dog got out back to take care of her needs before using the bathroom again and heading straight to bed. Step #3: Celebrate every victory, no matter how tiny and leave the guilt out of your life for now.
I napped every moment I wasn't in the bathroom. I cried a bit, reverting to that inbred feeling I hope others experience when they just need their own Mommy for a minute. And then I baked a few extra minutes into getting ready to go back to school for my pre-schooler. I wanted a hot shower because of my chills and aches...but I slept too long. I queued that for when I returned. My head was pounding and I felt a bit dizzy...probably the dehydration kicking in, so I took some ibuprofen and got out my mug for some hot tea upon my return. Then I got to school and back and got my four year old settled with a snack and a cluster of different activities. Step #4: You outrank your kids temporarily. Plan to take care of yourself throughout the time you're ill.
Then I told my daughter I was pursuing that hot shower and some tea. She whined when I told her she could entertain herself for this time...but I held firm. "Mommy's not feeling well. She needs some extra care today." That sufficed because I made it suffice for her. After a thaw under nearly scalding water and some tepid tea to avoid drastic temp. changes in my tummy, I sat with my daughter to spend some time with her before going back to school for my seven year old. Step #5: Keep all the tips your MD has told you for the kids in mind for yourself...and insist that those around you treat you nicely.
After getting the seven year old, I laid the ground rules for the afternoon. Get the chores done without my help and then play together without fighting so Mommy can rest. I even went to lay down as my reward for making them pancakes for dinner. Then I rose with extra time to be with the girls before bed. After laying back down when the girls were tucked in for the night, I found myself unable to sleep. I've got a fever now (which I rarely have) and my head hurts again from dehydration. So I sit here, not getting angry that I can't sleep, but sipping tea while reminding myself how well I did today. I have promised myself a trip (without kids) to a coffee shop or a retailer as my reward. Step #6: However you held up is AWESOME! Reward yourself.
Bottom line: you can't take care of those you love if you don't first care for yourself. Even exceptional parents sometimes forget that because they are so devoted to their loved ones. But I'm here to say that parenthood is very much the art of survival. Secure your own lifelines before helping your family. Success won't be far off!