How to Parent When You Are Sick or Hurt

On the best of days, parenting can feel like an Olympic sport. One minute you feel on top of the world. The next can have you sweating and willing yourself to make it to the finish line that is bedtime. Throw an illness into the mix, and you have the recipe for turning your day upside down. Your delicate house of cards feels ready to collapse in one germy mess on top of you.

It doesn’t have to be so bad, though! Sure, being sick on top of parenting is extremely difficult. There is nothing you want more than to lounge on the couch, binge a show or two or ten, and stuff your face with chicken soup. Having littles around makes that virtually impossible. But there are ways to make your sick days manageable and doable. Grab your tissues and comfiest blanket, and read on to find out how!

Parenting While Sick or Hurt

Lean into your tribe.

Now is the time more than ever to tap into your network of family and friends and take them up on their offer to “let them know if you need anything.” I know it can be hard to accept help. It can be challenging to let go of the reins and allow others to assist you. But generally, people want to help and enjoy taking something off your plate, especially when they know how much it could help you!

In November of 2020, my husband and I came down with bad cases of Covid. We were incredibly fortunate to have come through on the other side of it. But we were down for the count for weeks. To top it all off, we had our six-month-old son at home with us, and I was 11 weeks pregnant with our second child. It was very scary, and we isolated ourselves at home to rest and recuperate.

We were so lucky to have had our family and friends band together and help us from afar. My sister and her family sent us meals. Our best friends arranged a Cold Stone Creamery delivery surprise on our doorstep. Other friends arranged for grocery delivery of all the essentials we needed. We were overwhelmed by the generosity of others. We knew how much it was killing our family not being able to help give us a break with the baby and allow us to rest and relax.

Parenting during that time challenged us in ways that we didn’t know existed. But we came out of it stronger than ever and are so grateful for our health and network of family and friends. It was so essential for us to accept the help offered to allow our household to continue running and have the things we needed for ourselves and the baby.

Download those apps!

Another way to navigate parenting during times of hurt or illness is to download apps that make your life easier. The obvious food ones such as DoorDash or GrubHub can take the stress off of making meals for your household. They can save you precious time in the kitchen and instead get you back on your couch to recuperate. Grocery shopping apps such as Instacart are lifesavers in getting your grocery shopping done with the click of a button. Not only are you resting and getting your to-do list done from bed, but you are also staying home to avoid the spread of germs.

Utilize all that modern-day amenities have to offer and enjoy the ability to get things done from the comfort of your home and phone. Doing so allows you to conserve your limited energy. Instead, put your time and efforts into getting better while still being a great parent.

Pick your battles.

This one is tough for me. I like to have the house picked up every night and have the dishwasher going steadily like clockwork. However, it’s a different ballgame when you’re sick and still need to be a parent. Pick your battles and save your sanity.

Are kids in pajamas all day? Do kids miss a bath or two? Leftovers for dinner all week? Laundry piling up? Anything goes when you’re sick and trying to keep your household afloat. Focus only on the things that HAVE to get done. Leave the rest until you’re feeling better. Don’t worry, that pile of laundry will still be there in a few days, I promise.

Going to bed with a messy house can feel stressful. I get it! But it also can be liberating to throw your hands up and say, “Who cares?! I need rest.”

Be realistic and work smarter, not harder.

Try to remember that this is a fleeting moment in time. If everything feels in chaos (because it likely is!), remind yourself that this too shall pass, and things will be back to normal in a week or two. Your network will be around you again, you will get your energy back, and the house will be running like clockwork once more. Give yourself a break, tap into the available resources, and focus on getting better.

It’s easy to feel guilty about wanting just to be left alone to wallow in your sickness and lay around for hours. But when kids don’t allow that to happen, you can use what you have to your advantage and set things in place to make the household run smoothly.

Quick tips to remember:

  • Lower your standards of how you usually run the home and your to-do list.
  • Let go of the guilt for what you haven’t accomplished or for relying on more screen time for the kids.
  • Communicate with your kids and let them know that “Mommy is feeling really sick today.” Many of them want to be your big helper. This also helps them learn empathy.
  • Parenting horizontally is perfectly okay. Have your kids:
    • Play doctor and you can be the patient.
    • Draw or color a picture for you.
    • Read to you. Or, if they can’t read, make up a story by looking at a picture book.
    • Build you a tower with blocks, Magna-tiles, or Legos.
    • Do an obstacle course around the house — do jumping jacks in the kitchen, crawl around the coffee table, hop down the hall, spin in the playroom, hop on one foot in the living room, etc.
    • Go on a scavenger hunt around the house — bonus if you have them find things you need like your slippers, chicken noodle soup, kleenex box, etc.

No matter what, it’s no fun being sick. Being a parent when sick is a different level of hard. I know your patience may be thinner than usual since you are already feeling cranky and tired, but taking a step back and getting some quiet time to yourself will allow you to feel renewed and ready to walk back into the mayhem of the day. I am wishing you all healthy and happy parenting in 2022!

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