Tips For Surviving Sick Toddlers, When You Feel Like Crap

Mama said there’d be days like this… Days without an easy button and long nights with wet cheeks, runny noses and clinging arms.

This week has been rough, and it’s only Tuesday. During hot yoga Sunday morning about halfway through the class I thought, “I’m feeling a little off. Definitely sluggish. Achy? Oh crap! Am I getting sick?” The premonition came too late and hot yoga is typically a practice I avoid when coming down with a bug. Sure enough, the wee hours of Monday morning hit like a freight train.

As moms we usually don’t get to call in sick to take the day off. My husband will take time if his schedule allows but his Monday was jam-packed and he was a sleep-deprived zombie himself, meaning survival was up to me. Sick toddlers are high maintenance beings. Although they aren’t typically as high energy, they’re extremely emotionally volatile and needy which means that they are likely to act out more than normal for your attention. Don’t even get me started on how much snot a sick toddler can produce in addition to the increased diaper changes (on a normal day changing my 40lb son is like wrestling a swordfish). All of this is plenty for a perfectly healthy parent, much less when you are sick yourself.

Days like these require endurance, zen and the will to survive. Here are some tips for my fellow comrades on surviving parenting when you yourself feel like crap.

Freshen Up

There is no point in avoiding it, hiding under the covers isn’t an option. Take 5 minutes while your partner is home to shower, brush your teeth, and get dressed (even if that means simply changing from pajamas to yoga pants and a t-shirt. Usually a shower helps wash away at least some of the ick and puts your wheels in motion for the day ahead.

Put Your Oxygen Mask On First

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate and get some quick food in your stomach like a banana, even if you’re not hungry. The calories will protect your stomach from the next step, taking Dayquil or a remedy of your choice. I’m not usually a big fan of taking medicine however, as the last line of defense, down time is not an option so I will in this scenario. As parents we typically rely on getting caffeine in our systems ASAP however coffee can upset your stomach with its high acidity. Try green tea instead. I prefer matcha with toasted rice for a inviting nutty flavor instead of a perfume-y Jasmine or grassy green in this scenario. Once you have your oxygen mask on, then focus on medicating, hydrating and feeding the kiddos.

Allow me to recommend that you WRITE THEIR DOSAGE DOWN. I have a white board in my kitchen where I write who I dosed (twins, remember?), when and with what. When I’m not feeling well, medicated and not at my sharpest I really want to be careful about the babes’ medication.

Hit The Easy Button (When Possible)

This is not the time to try to extend your picky toddler’s palette and load yourself up with a sink full of dishes. As a mom I often forget to make myself something to eat and realize hours later than I’m subsisting off whatever the babes didn’t eat. When you’re sick you have to remember to fuel yourself while avoiding prepping separate meals for yourself and the kids. Go for easy, simple, staple foods that don’t require a great deal of prep. If the smell of sizzling sausages and eggs sounds nauseating to you it probably does to your kids as well. I’d recommend apple slices, greek yogurt, and toast with peanut butter or Trader Joe’s blueberry toaster waffles. Smoothies are perfect for sick days and great vehicles for getting veges in. I’d also recommend leaving water bottles in various rooms for the babes and snacks out where they can pick at will (like mini-wheats, dried fruit, cashews).

Be Realistic

Most days I try to accomplish an exciting outing such as the beach, the zoo, the MOXI, various parks, the Natural History Museum, the library, etc. On days like these however, no one has energy for that mess. This is the time to let gooooooo of caring about cute outfits and super-mom outings. These are the days for coloring books, sidewalk chalk (I’ve literally parented horizontally from the pavement in my backyard while my kids drew around me), storytime, and, if you can manage it, a walk around the block. Getting some fresh air and movement will work miracles for everyone. A neighbor of mine has chickens with a screened-off cutout in the fence. My kids LOVE walking to the chickens so it is a manageable distance to get out of the house and get their legs moving. While in the house try to keep the activities to one room, like the living room or the kid’s bedroom. This way if toys, snacks, etc. explode everywhere the mess is contained to one room rather than the entire house.

Let’s Talk About…. TV Time

I’ll call a spade a spade, this is when I chill out about TV time as well. I only have so much energy, they only have so much focus, sanity is on limited supply all around. I sprinkle in more TV during sick days than usual such as when they are over coloring and the meltdowns start occurring, or I need to cook lunch, or use the bathroom… alone. It’s ok. You won’t be struck by lightning, or create a habit, or suddenly become a bad mom. I’d just recommend not leaving it on all day continuously and be sure to cut it back when feeling a bit better.

When They Nap, You Nap

Remember the basics of having a newborn? When they nap, you nap. Feed yourself, hydrate. These are the basics to survival and they still apply. Enough said.

Be Kind To Yourself

You’re doing a good job. You’re a great mom. You are enough. It’s ok if you haven’t left your house all day, it won’t stunt your kids’ development. It’s ok if you served buttered pasta and frozen blueberries for lunch without a side of vegetables… and you ate a big bowl of pasta. It won’t blow your waistline. It’s ok if your house is a disaster. The mess will still be there tomorrow (to the tune of Annie). Maybe wipe down the mess but leave the highchairs out for the next meal. You are doing what is most important, taking great care of your sick littles and being kind to yourself. Just wash your hands and get through the day. Tomorrow you can Lysol the sh*t out of everything.

Sometimes even the little moments in these off days can surprise you. When my kiddos melt into my body while lounging on the couch, I know that I am giving them exactly what they need at the exact moment they need it, which as a parent is not something I am always so sure of. Sometimes on these days when I don’t have any more energy to give… or clean… they manage to give me exactly what I need too. Last night I gave my kids applesauce packets to tie them over while dinner was cooking. Knox squirted some of his on the floor, said “ut oh” and then walked across the kitchen, pulled a kitchen towel from where it was hanging and wiped up the applesauce from the floor while my husband and I watched in dumbfounded silence. I didn’t even mind that he used my new llama towel.

Hang in there. This time is so fleeting and tomorrow will be a better day.

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