Tuesday, May 19, 2009

When Mommy Gets Sick: Guidelines for Self-Care

My family has been battling colds & flu (no swine flu, though - oink) for the last two weeks. I have dutifully played Dr. Mom, waking in the night to administer medicine, driving 40 minutes to our pediatrician's office as many times as is necessary, cooking special foods like homemade chicken soup, and keeping track of who is at which stage of illness at any given time.

But bad news came last night in the form of aches and exhaustion. Mommy has finally succumbed to the germs.

Like all moms, I am tempted to just medicate and plug on. But if the recent flu scare has taught us anything, it is that sick people should slow down instead of pushing it.

Why is that so tough for a mom? Or is it just me?

I remember years ago when I was growing up, my Mother got sick only very rarely. But what a time we had getting her to rest and take care of herself! She would continue cooking and cleaning and shuttling kids here and there, even though she felt awful. She had a home daycare, so she put tremendous pressure on herself -- she never wanted to let down the families who relied on her. Because she was a nurse (I'm told they make the worst patients...) she thought she could manage to care for everyone without spreading germs. She was a hand-washing fiend.

But while she was caring for everyone else, she kept forgetting to care for herself.

Several times, we had to force her to the doctor's office for antibiotics. She always claimed she was "on the mend" or "getting better". It was a load of hooey. She was diagnosed with 'walking pneumonia' more than once and ordered to rest. She agreed only reluctantly and because the doctor ordered her like a drill sergeant orders a new recruit.

I remember saying to myself, as I saw her suffering on the couch, that I would never drive myself to be so sick. And I helped my brothers and sisters and father care for her until she was healthy again.

Fast forward to last Fall. I found I wasn't so different from my mother after all. I got a cold that turned to a cough. I insisted repeatedly that it was improving. It wasn't. An x-ray showed that I had pneumonia. Just like Mom. I had a V-8 moment, a what is wrong with me? revelation.

I needed to take better care of myself.

So, now that I've succumbed to the family flu bug, I'm following a few rules that apply to everyone -- even Mommy.

When you're sick, stay in bed. Clear the schedule. Cancel your meetings. Bundle up and get extra rest.

Ask for and accept help. Rely on a friend to pick your children up at school. Order take-out for dinner or heat up leftovers instead of cooking. Ask your husband to put the children to bed or give them baths. Let your mother know you are ill and ask if she can pick up groceries for you when she goes to the store.

Drink, drink, drink. Dehydration is your enemy when you are under the weather. Flushing your system with fluids (one small glass per hour of clear liquid) can help your body to heal. It can also help keep fever in check. My beverage of choice today is chamomile tea with honey -- great on a tender throat.

Talk to your Doctor. Your doctor and you are on the same team. Sometimes it's good to remember that. You cooperate when it comes to caring for your children; do the same when you need to heal yourself. Keep track of your symptoms and communicate with your physician. Don't wait until until your fever reaches 104 degrees or until you're coughing so hard that you lose bladder control. Don't be stubborn about it -- you're not invincible.

When we take care of ourselves, especially when we're sick, we are modeling self-care for our children, too. It is comforting for kids to know that Mom and Dad are taking care of their health. Whether it's a cold or flu or something more serious, giving yourself the time to rest and recover and the medical attention you need is actually a remarkable gift to your children.

When I allow my children to see that I'm feeling sick, they often respond with care and compassion. My son will get me a blanket, unasked. My daughter will bring me a cuddly toy or a glass of water. They play more quietly, giving me time to heal. (Okay, okay... sometimes they need a little reminding on that one.) And in the end, when I am feeling myself again, they will welcome me back to the land of the living.

Sometimes Moms need a reminder that self-care is important. Paying attention to our own bodies and health is an important part of being the best Mom we can be.

So, I'm off to get a little rest. Hopefully, before long, I'll be feeling much, much better.

- Midwest Mom


  1. VERY good advice. It is hard to take care of ourselves, isn't it?

    Hope you get the help and cooperation you need and that you're on the mend soon.

  2. Thanks! I appreciate the good thoughts.

    ... now back to the couch!

    :) - Julia

  3. Great post. We are on the same wavelength. Here's the post I wrote when I had the flu:


    I hope you feel better soon!

  4. Great reminders. I'm pretty sure I will require a wake-up call before I'll actually succumb to rest during an illness. You are right though and hopefully I'll remember this next time illness strikes.

    Now, you get back to bed. You should be resting. Feel better soon.


  5. It is just so hard to do! Things do not run well or right unless Mommy is doing it all.


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