- Up front, I’m going to tell you to let go of the things you can’t control. Yes, that is easier said than done. Yes, you are going to have to make some choices and do some things that are not ideal. Yes, you will look back on it and wish you had better options and weren’t so sick. And, yes, it means choosing things you don’t agree with for self-preservation when you are at your worst. Keep the big picture, grand scheme of things in mind when those issues bother you. A healthy mother is much more important in the long-term than any one individual decision not in line with your parenting pholosophy. Yes, your common sense will tell you this when you’re well. But when you’re sick, worried about your health and your heart is heavy for your children, it can be extremely hard to see your way clear. Find two or three people whose parenting philosophy lines up with your own and bounce things off of them and talk it through to help sort through the options. Then discuss it with your spouse.
- Drop every responsibility outside of your home. Your health and your family needs all of your limited energy. Making set engagements won’t go as planned and you might not be able to accomplish your responsibilities in preparation, anyway.
- Ask people not to visit if they are showing any signs of illness. You don’t need a virus on top of what you’re dealing with, especially since your immune system is likely low. Post a reminder on your door. Limit your children going out in public to avoid bringing illness into the home.
- Call in some favors and ask friends to stock your freezer with meals you can eat. Have them focus on the meals or items that are hardest for you to prepare. If you have food allergies, ask them to come to your house to do the preparation using your ingredients. All you need is their time.
- Do what you can to minimize responsibility at home.
- Create a safe room in your house. Have one room that is completely child-proofed with a place for everyone to lay down. This allows you to rest without worry and they can take naps as needed without moving rooms. Keep the room stocked with videos or DVDs, toys, some diapers and wipes and plenty of drinks and snacks. Put a supply of diapers and wipes, tissue, medications or supplements, extra clothing, blankets, extra food and drink, a garbage can and anything else you might need outside of the baby-gated door, out of their reach. My kids learned to lob their trash over the baby gate and into the garbage can.
- Find good homes for your pets if at all possible. We gave away our rabbits, parrot and all but one cat so I wouldn’t have to use the energy to feed them and clean up their messes and provide them with the necessary time and affection they need.
- Close off rooms that don’t get used often so you don’t have to deal with the kids making a mess.
- Make liberal use of baby gates and cabinet locks. Double or triple gate a room if you have to stop a climber.
- Have someone come and help you clear the rooms you use the most and child-proof them as much as possible.
- Box up or put away anything that you have to dust or requires regular care.
- Put away toys with little pieces that seems to always get lost or stepped on in the middle of the night.
- Simplify meals to the bare bones.
- Borrow some extra play-pens or cribs and put them into rooms that you use that are not child-proof. Put some toys in them. If you get sick or have a problem while in one of those rooms, put your kids into the playpen until you’re able to move them and yourself back to the child-proof room. This was critical for me when I would have violent vomiting jags out of no-where. I stationed one in the hallway outside of the kitchen and laundry room doors, in case I got sick while doing chores. That way, I didn’t have to worry about them wandering off or getting into something while I was bent over the garbage can or had to sprint to the bathroom.
- Get a system in place such as Flylady where you make the maximum use of your time when you are able to work.
- Prioritize the necessary organizational chores such as washing dishes, doing laundry and providing meals above cleaning tasks such as dusting and removing crayon off of the walls.
- Set a timer for 15 minutes when you feel like you could do something and get up and get busy. Your first priorities are food and clean clothing. If this seems completely obvious to you, then you don’t need Flylady. But if you get so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to start once you feel like you can work, which can easily happen if your illness came on suddenly or was a surprise, then Flylady is for you.
- Keep a list of what was most important to accomplish and work on it as you are able, even if you can’t get through it all in one day. Slip on some shoes. Start a load of laundry. Unload and reload the dishwasher if your kids can’t, clear the kitchen counters, check your meal prep schedule. Pick up the bathroom and swish and swipe the toilet. Go straighten up the child-proofed room and vacuum the floor. Re-boot the laundry. All together, that should take one hour or less. If you have to take a break, do so, but re-start with re-booting the laundry each time. There were days I could only work on this list in 3-5 minute bites, but at least it slowly got done.
- Buy extra laundry baskets. Put them in a closed off area of the house where you control access. Sort clean clothes into laundry baskets by person. It’s easier to find what you need, but you don’t have to fold if you’re not up to it.
- Try hard to have the dishwasher empty when you start to fix a meal, so you can load as you go. Have your kids empty the dishwasher and put the clean dishes on the counter if bending over makes you nauseated or otherwise ill. Better yet, have a friend come in and move your cabinets around so your dishes are in the bottom cabinet and delegate that chore to your kids.
- Use disposable dishes as much as possible. Not ideal, but it’s less of a health risk in my opinion than making yourself more sick by over-working.
- When you are off of your feet, make a menu so you don’t have to think once you’re able to get in the kitchen. Think extremely basic. Make one simple meal plan for the week, and use it weekly until you are better able to do more. Have a column for each meal, a column for snacks, and a column for prep work.
- Create a shopping list while you’re laying down. Keep convenience items on hand that are your healthiest alternative, in case you can’t cook. When I was at my worst, this meant lots of Lara Bars, good quality lunch meat, baby carrots, cheese and fresh fruit with their raw milk. Not ideal, but it did get us by.
- If your kids are old enough to have access to the fridge, stock the bottom shelf with food and drinks they can get when they need it, with your permission. Keep the fruit bowl full for quick snacks.
- Don’t underestimate your children’s abilities. Encourage them to help you work when you are able, so they can contribute to the effort. Even when little, they can remove lightweight items from the dishwasher and set them on the kitchen counter or a low shelf or sweep or run a little broom vac. Every little bit helps and should be encouraged.
- Know your limits and ask for help when you need it. It’s better to ask for help for a few hours on one day than it is to have to find someone to keep your kids for three days while you’re in the hospital because you made yourself sick when you wouldn’t ask for help.
- Don’t guilt over letting the kids watch TV or videos when you’re unable to take care of them. They’ll adapt to another change in routine once you’re able to care for them again.
- Have someone go to the library for you and check out several books for you to read to the kids.
- Line up someone to pick up groceries. This keeps you from having to leave the house and expend energy that you could use on your children or some much needed housework. It also avoids you exposing yourself to illness, which would make your recovery longer and more miserable.
- Write your medication/supplement schedule down and post it on your fridge. If someone is helping out, they just have to glance at a list of what you need at which meal instead of you trying to remember it all when you’re foggy. This goes doubly for children’s medications and supplements.
- Cook when you’re able and stock up the freezer with meals. When I was up to cooking, I would double or triple it and freeze the leftovers to pull out on days I wasn’t feeling well. If you’re having a bad day, you can bump down what is on the menu, put the thawed meat in the fridge for tomorrow, and pull out a quick meal from the freezer and heat it.
- Re-think your routine. I was at my sickest early to mid-mornings so I wanted my kids to sleep through it. Keeping them up later at night, when I was less sick, meant they would sleep when I was less able to care for them. If you’re sickest at night, wake them up early morning or re-arrange naps so they go to bed earlier in the day. Don’t be afraid to use black-out shades or bright lights when needed. Later, when nights were hard, I’d get them up early and turn on a bunch of bright lights so they’d be tired and go to bed by 7pm, with black-out shades on the bedroom windows.
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Thank you for writing this up, KerryAnn. I’m sure there are many mothers and fathers facing this challenge. Your post is full of practical ideas for anyone with a significant illness and extreme fatigue, regardless of their family/household circumstances. And what a great resource for friends and family who are helping those in need.
Thanks for the helpful post 🙂