A Mom's Fool-Proof Guide To Surviving Being Sick When You Have Kids

by Reaca Pearl

Parents don't get sick days, but wouldn't it be nice to call in when you have a fever, aches, chills, and can't keep anything down? Then again, if you're anything like me, there's no one to call. So in lieu of actual rest and a babysitter you keep on retainer, I've discovered and/or developed 10 hacks for surviving being sick with kids. Yes, yes. You're welcome.

Something I never understood when I was a kid was that parents never ever get the rest they need. I, for one, had such severe pregnancy-induced insomnia with my first that I was looking forward to the sleep I thought I'd get once the newborn arrived. Ha. That newborn? Yeah, they had colic. That same newborn is now 8-years-old and still crawling into bed with me every night. And the lack of quality rest that's par for the parenting course is quadrupled when parents are sick.

While I don't know your life, dear reader, I'm going to go ahead and assume you don't live with someone who will lock your bedroom doors and completely parent your children for you — while simultaneously pretending you're not even in the house— so that you can recover from your illness. Which sucks, because the only thing that brings someone comfort in times of sickness is crawling underneath the covers, folding yourself into a tiny ball, and alternating between naps and easy-to-digest television. How can I do that with one kid, let alone three? They need mama, not a whimpering, shushing, sopping-mess of a walking snot bubble.

To be honest, I haven't gotten it all figured out yet, but I'm committed to finding all the life hacks that will make my inability to call in sick from parenthood somewhat bearable. Perhaps the following hacks will help you survive, too.

Use The Television

The television is there for you, my sick parent compatriots. Please do not allow yourself to be guilted into not using it when you're sick. Last week I could barely move with a congested head and weak arms. I sat on the couch with my toddler and watched cheeky tank engines and This Is Us all day.

Hey, we know television isn't the best solution all the time, but when you're sick, don't be a hero and don't be afraid to use it.

Use Your Support System

For my family, this is a loaded suggestion. No one really wants to watch the kids of a sick parent because they don't want to get sick themselves. Then there are those of us, like my family, who live relatively remotely and generally don't have a support system to lean on.

Sorry to tell you to do something that I generally can't even do myself, but if I could rely on other people, I would! So if you have supportive people who will babysit so you can nap? Again: don't be a hero. Ask them to watch the kids and crawl into bed. Housework, schoolwork, and your work-work can wait.

Take Medicine

Obviously this is not medical advice. In other words, please listen to your doctor.

If you have medicine that will take some of the pain away, and allow you to be up right with your kids, then do it. Don't be a hero trying to survive on your Great Aunt Sally's home remedy of garlic and honey. Pain relievers are meant to relieve pain. Use them.

Become A Train Track

My favorite hack, discovered accidentally when my oldest was a toddler, is becoming a train track. Or a race track, or a horse track, or whatever kind of track. Give your little one some cars or trains, lay face down on the living room carpet, something along the lines of "I'll be your road," and let them go wild.

It's not lazy, dear reader. Oh no, it's brilliant. So long as your living room is soundly child proofed, no one will be hurt if you doze off for a second. And that wheel in your nostril is a perfect wake up call.

Go To Work

I know we're taught not to go to work when we're sick. While this is seemingly fantastic advice, it's generally unrealistic for parents to take sick days from work for themselves in the United States. The reality is that, unfortunately, many Americans have limited paid sick time and can not afford to take unpaid time off. In my experience I had damn well better go to work sick, because when my kids were sick I had to take my sick time. Not to mention the often overlooked bonus that it's actually a lot easier to work with adults while ill or medicine-headed than to take care of children.

Make Forts

Get yourself some chairs, dark blankets, soft pillows, and teach your kids the magic of fort making. Then bury yourself in the darkest, coziest, softest corner of whatever fort they make. They won't expect you to move anyway, because you'll tear down all the blankets with your big head if you do.

Go On Rain Forest Adventures

The rain forest adventure is an especially helpful hack for sinus pressure and severe congestion. Close the bathroom doors and turn the shower on full heat and full speed. In no time, you'll have your own steam room to clear those sinuses and your kids will be squealing with delight at their monkey and macaw sounds.

Oh, and don't let your kids into, or anywhere near, the scalding hot shower.

Teach Them About Evaporation & Condensation

A slight variation on the rain forest adventure hack, the condensation hack is probably better for the slightly more mature child. Again, close all the doors to your bathroom with the shower on full heat, full speed. If you're too hoarse to speak, turn on a YouTube video about condensation. Bonus points if you can convince your kid to write down their water droplet observations and ponder the exact time when liquid turns into steam.

Use Your Neti Pot

Argh! I hate to be that person that just swears by this natural remedy you have got to try! But if you can't beat 'em... well, you know.

Since I've been suffering from some bizarre sinus issues throughout my entire life, my doctors insisted I start the Neti Pot when I was a tween. I can tell you quite honestly, and without a hint of exaggeration, I felt like my sinuses were being ripped out of my face with burning tongs while suffocating on salt water. Needless to say, that didn't stick with me for very long.

Recently, however, I've gotten back into the old Neti pot courtesy of an Ayurveda module in my yoga teacher training. I can tell you that those days I get up and my face is two inches two big due to congestion? That Neti pot is a dang miracle. I can actually breathe. I follow it up with some nasya oil because I live in a super dry climate.

Don't Be A Hero

Did I say this already?

Seriously. Whatever you can do to survive being sick with kids, and maybe even feel a little bit better, do it.

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.