I have had plenty of experience of this kind of survival recently. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had an entirely healthy household since September. There have been chest infections, ear infections, sore throats and those unnamed viruses that just make you feel a bit ‘meh.’ And of course, Squeak’s hand, foot and mouth.
We haven’t had any tummy bugs though. Yet. Taking into account my run of luck, I expect one will hit… oh, about tonight!
Thanks to the abundance of practice the small people have given me, I have managed to work out a bit of system to make our lives run a little bit more smoothly when the lurgy hits.
1. Abandon All Hopes Of ‘Proper Cooking’
Now is not the time to be spending a lot of time (and more importantly, expending a lot of energy) chopping, steaming and roasting.
Even if you do have the energy to drag yourself into the kitchen, and the brainpower to think up a meal, don’t do it. All you’ll end up doing is burning the food while you try to settle screeching children who need you right now.
Been there. Yesterday.
This is the time for beans on toast, pasta with grated cheese, and that beige stuff from the freezer that kids seem to love.
You can make it up to them later.
2. Pretend The Housework Doesn’t Exist
If it helps, pretend the house doesn’t exist! I’m telling myself this as much as you guys. So often I have sat, pinned to the couch by a heavy, sweaty lump of a toddler, listing in my head all of the things that desperately need doing.
The thing is, they don’t. The world will not end if you leave the hoovering until tomorrow. Nor will anyone notice if the bin is a leetle bit full.
I don’t even know why I get so bothered about it. Normally I’d just let it go (I’m nothing if not a slack house-cleaner), but as soon as it’s physically impossible for me to do it, it’s all I can think about.
So from now on, I’m going to make sure there are clean clothes, and enough plates to eat off. Oh, and also that there is a clear path through the living room amongst all the toys (standing on lego does not improve my general outlook).
Beyond that, sod it.
3. Create A Sickness Station
Ok, I never actually remember to do this, but it is a fucking great idea.
There’s nothing worse than suddenly and urgently needing something, and being completely unable to get to it. I’m not talking about anything dramatic, like the solution to a Rubik’s cube, or world peace.
I’m talking about a tissue, for one of those sneezes. You know what I’m talking about.
If I did have a sickness station (and I totally will, next time), this is what I would have in it:
- Some sort of sick bucket
- Towels (because you just know they’ll miss the sick bucket)
- Snacks (mostly for me)
- Spare clothes
- Nappies and wipes
- TV remote
- An electronic device of some kind
I bet I’m forgetting something. But even so, I think with this set-up I could make it so that I barely had to move. For hours.
I can get behind that.
Until I realise what I’ve forgotten, that is.
4. Avoid Getting Dressed At All Costs
Hmmm, this is more my mantra for life, really. But it applies even more so when the kids are ill. Unless you have to take currently healthy children to school, or overly sick ones to the doctors, I have only one instruction.
Unless you can give me a damn good reason to get dressed, that’s what I’ll be doing.
If I’ve got to feed, snuggle and soothe a miserable, sick kid, then I’m going to be comfortable while I’m doing it.
Because of my child-picking-up obligations, I am dressed today. Reluctantly.
And, not for long.
5. Be Patient With Irrationality
I have been practising what I preach with this one, just this afternoon. Squeak is feeling a little better, but she is by no means fighting fit yet. This means she is up and down off my lap every few minutes, feeding, grumping and slapping me across the face when the urge takes her.
So when she became engrossed in playing with her tricycle, I was relieved. At last, five minutes peace!
Because apparently, the tricycle is the most annoying thing in the history of existence, according to Squeak. She can get on and off it, she can ride it forwards and backwards, but she cannot turn.
This didn’t stop her from riding it, though. She went forwards, and crash! She hit the couch. She screeched. She went backwards, and crash! She hit the TV stand. She screeched.
Are you seeing where I’m going with this?
I tried to help her. I showed her how to turn it, I turned it for her. I put it in the middle of a completely obstacle-free area of the room for her. And you can imagine how challenging that was.
But it didn’t matter. She still managed to get herself stuck in the middle of two unmovable pieces of furniture. Repeatedly.
And screamed her damn head off, every time.
I kept my cool. In fact, I think I surpassed myself. Despite thinking, Stop fucking riding it then!, I helped her, I comforted her, and when it came to it, I distracted her. Eventually, she forgot about it, and moved onto something else equally if not more frustrating. As you do.
Oh, you thought this section was going to be about being patient with your own irrationality?
No, I don’t know how to do that.
6. Take Any Opportunity To Horizontalise
I’m not talking about the times when a child wants to live on your knee, or passes out on you, or maliciously ties you to the couch.
Although, disregarding the last one, those options aren’t that bad.
No, what I’m talking about is those times when your kid is momentarily distracted by the TV, or feels just about well enough to play with their toys for a bit. There are a thousand things that you could do with this time.
But they are all stupid.
What you should do is horizontalise. On the bed, on the couch, on the floor even, who cares? Just flop and exhaaaaaale. Because you deserve it.
And also, it’ll be over in 2 mins 42 seconds, anyway. So you might as well savour it.
7. Acknowledge That It Would Be Sensible To Go To Bed Early, Then Stay Up Late Anyway
Ok, maybe that’s just me. I am a self-professed night owl, and also more than a bit of an idiot. I know that once the kids are finally asleep, I should collapse into bed and catch up on all the hours I’ve missed. It’s simple.
But I just can’t do it.
After a stressful, intense day of meeting the needs of a poorly child (or failing to meet them, as the case may be), all I want is some time to myself. If I go to bed straight away, then it’ll be morning again.
Which is crappy.
So I waste time reading pointless articles on the internet, playing inane games and consuming my own bodyweight in carbs. Occasionally I might go wild and watch a film with Mark, or read a book if I’ve got enough brainpower left to comprehend words of more than one syllable.
Yeah, I’m reading shit on the internet.
It’s not logical, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t make me feel better than a bit of extra sleep would. But it’s just how I’m built. I like going to bed about as much as a strong-willed two year old does, i.e. Not. One. Bit.
You should totally not copy me in this though. Be sensible.
Do as I say, not as I do.
Go to bed.
8. Medicate With Cake
Ok, it doesn’t have to be cake. I’m not that controlling. And you should definitely not use food as an emotional crutch.
So, don’t do that.
But if you’re anything like me, sometimes the thought of a bit of a treat can get you through the toughest of days. Unless they’ve infected you with their revolting diseases as well, in which case… bleurgh.
There are only two criteria for selecting this delectable foodstuff. These are:
- It must be tasty.
- It must be bad for you.
Have you got that? Go on then, go wiiiiiild.
9. Weep Occasionally In Secret
I’m not exactly saying that this will help, but it’s definitely always on my list! I like to compare myself to a pressure cooker sometimes. Except rather than releasing gas (phnarrr), I release salty salty tears.
And for me, it helps. A bit of the tension eased, I can go back to the feeding and changing and wiping and stuff.
And fill up that tension-ometer all over again.
10. Celebrate Small Achievements
When it feels as if the entire world is falling apart, and you’re never going to sleep again, it’s important to focus on the small things.
Got through a whole day without getting covered in vomit? Pat yourself on the back.
Kept everyone alive and moderately uninjured for 24 hours? That’s serious good karma, right there.
Kids played without your input for a whole five minutes? Paaartaaaay!
If you only see success in the big things, then life will be plagued with disappointment and feelings of failure. And that’s not cool.
Although I have to admit, number two on the ‘small things’ list may be a bit of a big deal, actually.
11. Enjoy The Cuddles
I don’t know about your kids, but when mine are feeling ill, all they want to do is deposit themselves on my lap and cling to any available skin I have been daft enough to leave exposed. Except for Big Girl who, in her advancing years, often prefers to simply lie around looking stricken.
But mostly, there’s cuddling.
There are times when this is incredibly frustrating. To be restricted in your movements, unable to grab a drink or nip to the loo when you want to is just… grrrrrrr!
It doesn’t always have to be, though.
Yesterday afternoon, poorly Squeak fell asleep while feeding. As I looked down at her peaceful face, I thought, When was the last time we did this? Then I realised that it was about six months ago.
And that sucks.
It’s really convenient to be able to leave your kid sleeping in bed or wherever. You can get all the things on your to do list ticked off, or give attention to your other kids. Or just sprawl around doing nothing.
But I have to say, I really miss the days when all I used to do was feed, cuddle and stare at my small babies.
So yesterday, I savoured it. I grabbed a pillow and a book and just chilled out with my warm little beast on my chest.
Just one thing, though: if your kid’s got a temperature, take a layer of clothing off before you get snuggling.
Otherwise, it’ll get pretty uncomfortable.