My daughter hates it when I’m sick. I try to maintain her routine as much as possible when I have a cold or a mild bug but this flu season really knocked me over. When I had a rough night sleeping and faced a thermometer reading 104.2 the next morning, there was nothing for me to do but head back to bed. During times like these, it’s hard to act like someone’s mother. When I’m fevery and achy and miserable, I want MY mother. I want soup and tea and someone to put a cool cloth on my forehead. I do not want a sweaty child crushed up against my pained muscles.
It was time to get very strategic about my resources. During this week-plus illness, I felt not-that-horribly-bad around 11:00 in the morning, if I had slept and had some fever reducers on board. So, that was the time I tried to work in ten minutes of Special Time. My daughter was sympathetic enough not to request outside water hose limbo during these short sessions. It was all I could do to muster enthusiasm and attention, but she clearly loved the reassuring time together.
Then I tried to imagine all the things she and I could do together that didn’t actually require me to leave the bed. Coloring is a very quiet, if somewhat disorganized activity. There’s always TV and video. I could even manage to nap through Cyberchase if the topic wasn’t geometry. Some of the time I was up for reading. Books on tape are wonderful to lay in bed and listen to, even for those who don’t have kids!
By day three, it was time to call in the big guns. My daughter had been sick before I was, so I didn’t think she was much of a contagion risk. I called friends with children to see if she could visit them for playdates. I called friends without children to see if they were up for a couple of hours of Legos. Do any of your child’s grandparents live near by? I spent lots of time wishing we had that luxury.
The hardest part was trying to sleep while my daughter played with her step-dad. She uses any possible excuse to sneak in to “check on” me. It’s tough to rest when a six-year-old “sneaks” into your room every fifteen or twenty minutes and feels your forehead or brings you a drink or water or just hops onto the bed asking if you are feeling better yet.
At some point a cranky, I-am-missing-Mommy child may just need to let out their unhappiness and anxiety over a sick parent. One morning my daughter confided, loudly, “I hate it when you are sick!” and I was together enough to respond, “I’m sorry you have a sick Mommy, that’s no fun.” She shot a glance at me and burst into tears. I snuggled her into the covers with me. “It’s not fair that your Mommy is sick,” and “I’m sorry this is hard for you,” kept the tears going. For a moment I let go of the guilt, the vain attempts to entertain, the strategies and stopgaps, and remembered that all my daughter really needs is to share her feelings when things don’t go her way. She didn’t need me to “fix” her sick Mommy. She just needed me to be there, sick or well, to help unload the upset she was feeling.
This article originally appeared on handinhandparenting.org as Sick Mommy, But Listening!