Mothering When Unwell

I stood outside on my back deck at dusk yesterday, looking out towards a darkening sky. The air was still and the leaves hung from the baby gum next to my deck, all languid and lazy like. The air held the crisp tones of Autumn. It’s finally here.

And so, too, is an unexpected illness that has seen me in bed by 6pm the last two evenings, and using what little energy I have in small bouts: to get up and wash some dishes, then sit down again; to make a hungry child a snack, then sit down again; to put a load of washing on, then sit down again. To count down the hours until KB gets home to take over.

I remember the days when I would get ill pre-kids. I’d take the day off work, go to the video shop (those were the days!), hire a bunch of movies then set myself up on the couch for the day. Getting sick when you have small children changes that scenario somewhat.

Now, when I’m sick at home with the kids, there are a few key things I do to make my day easier:

// tidy my surrounding area: I remember when I was sick as a child my Mum would change my sheets and tuck me into bed, then she’d get to work tidying my room, opening the curtains, picking things up off the floor and putting my clothes away. I’d lay in bed and feel like everything was being taken care of. I’m a grown up now (wah!) but I follow the same rules. There’s nothing worse than sitting around sick and miserable in a messy space, so I drag myself around picking things up, putting things away (even if it is just into a washing basket to be dealt with later), and doing a general tidy before tucking myself up on the couch or, if I’m lucky, into bed.

// give myself permission to use the television or ipad: we don’t watch a whole heap of tv these days, but when I’m unwell I use it without qualms. We watch movies in bed, or from the couch and I just lay there and try to rest and spend as much as I can horizontal.

// hydrate: when I’m not feeling well, you’ll rarely find me without my drink bottle and a (hopefully) hot cup of herbal tea by my side. It’s something easy to do even if you’re busy and still having to keep moving. I take a keep cup with me filled with herbal tea if I have to go out.

// cancel everything humanely possible: swimming lessons, play dates, appointments, you name it, I cancel it. As a parent it is near impossible to get time to rest, so what little time I do have doesn’t need to be taken up running around unnecessarily. Someone made a comment the other day about how good I am about paring back when the going gets tough and when I reflected on it I realised that, yes! I am in fact a no-guilt canceller. I do this not just when I’m ill, but when things get too much and overwhelm anxiety is rising… I’m outta there.

// have a bath with the kids: sometimes this takes more energy that it’s worth, but if the kids are ratty and I’m really struggling, I put us – or even just them – in the bath. I don’t know about your kids, but mine relax in the bath and could stay in there for hours with minimal fighting and carry on, so it’s a good place to plop them when I’m unwell. I can either get in with them or just sit on the edge and take a few moments to breathe.

// take time out to move and breathe (even if I don’t feel like it) : studying Yoga is opening my mind to all the things we can do to help ourselves when ill. There are so many breathing techniques and gentle movements that stimulate different areas of our bodies and minds. Things like nadi shodhana breathing for overwhelm, or even just some gentle twists can help.

Remembering even a few of these things helps me feel less helpless and “poor me” when I’m sick. What do you do when you’re home alone with the kids feeling like rubbish?

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