There are NO sick days for moms, so how do we survive without sitting the kids in front of the TV all day or handing them tablets when we’re just not feeling our best and not able to be our best? While this might sound like the easiest thing to do, it often ends in them whining, fighting, and climbing all over us, which doesn’t help us one little iota. So, since moms don’t get days off, what can we do? How do we “mom” and be sick at the same time?
We’ve never been a media/screen time family. I saw as a teacher how attention problems affected kids and I didn’t want that for my kids. So, we’ve always muddled through, and that’s not for everyone, but we’ve gotten fairly good at basically BSing our way through those tough days and making stuff up to make it nap time or bedtime. Sometimes, that’s all we can do, right? Make it until the next time the kids are sleeping…?
First-trimester exhaustion and nausea were super real for me. Forget morning sickness, I had all day sickness! And, it didn’t go away at that magical end of the first-trimester mark either. It was there the whole time. Cravings? Never had any. Food aversions? Oh yes! To the point of having only the foods I could stomach to eat out on the counter or put on one side of the refrigerator. The sight of everything else made me want to hurl. Fortunately, Sweet Pea was only about a year old at that time, so she didn’t know how much I had limited her food options.
Unfortunately, my husband was essentially away on business for my whole first trimester of being pregnant with Buddy Boy. We didn’t want to tell people too early that we were pregnant, so I sucked it up and dealt with it on my own for a few weeks. I sat on the couch and let Sweet Pea play with whatever. I asked her questions, interacted with her when she showed me something or asked me something. I did my best to not look miserable and to stay awake until it seemed like I might be able to convince her to try to take a nap (she never was a nap taker, not unless you count 20 minutes as a good nap for a baby).
I was as involved as I could be from the couch or lying on the floor. This worked because we had a “yes” space for her. Our kitchen opens to our living room and both were childproofed for her, so I didn’t have to worry too much about what she was doing. The other stuff (bathroom, stairs, front door, etc) was gated off. I stayed involved in what she was doing by asking her questions, offering suggestions, commenting on how fun it looked or how happy the dog was that she was playing with her, etc.
Was it my best parenting? Of course not. But, I put my phone or book down every time she came over, looked her in the eye and gave her my full attention. Of course, just having turned 1, she wasn’t very verbal, so I was doing most of the talking, but we made it work. Later in my pregnancy, when I was just tired, I’d set out snacks and a child-sized water pitcher for her so she could do things for herself. She loved it. I didn’t love all the extra towels to wash, but she learned to clean up her spills, and it was just water on a tile floor, so no big deal.
But, how long can we really feign interest and let our kids do their own thing while we supervise from as comfortable of a position as we can manage? This strategy didn’t work as well at the end of my pregnancy when my nerve pain was bad and moving made it worse. So, while that worked well for an 11-13 month old, and for a 15 month old when we had the flu (so bad I was hospitalized!), it didn’t work well for an 17-19 month old, and I’m not so sure that I’d test it for too long with more than one child. Two little ones can cause a lot of ruckus fairly quickly!
And, obviously, your sole goal here is to keep the littles alive. Anything else is a bonus. Who cares if the dishes pile up so bad that you can’t use the sink or you’re running a load of laundry because someone’s out of clean underwear? As long as no one got hurt and everyone was fed (forgo worrying about the balanced diets too! Just make sure everyone gets something to eat. We’re in survival mode here, not doing your normal, everyday plan), and had their basic needs met, the day was a success.
Now, for whatever reason, you’re not your best. Remember that and don’t be too hard on yourself. Tomorrow’s a new day! Maybe you’re sick or pregnant. Maybe it was a series of unfortunate events and you’re just down on your luck. Maybe you’re sad or stressed about something. So, go easy on yourself and give your kids a little more freedom too. But, remember to just pause and look at them, let them see you are listening, that you care, etc. It will go a LONG way.
Don’t forget to be honest with your littles and say that you’re tired, or you have a deadline and need to get that task done (or whatever it is), but you’d be happy to play with them when you’re done, which should be in about ___ minutes. Then, set a timer so that you stick to your word and don’t lose track of time.
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