a single mother

When Mom Is Sick and Your Well-Oiled Machine Comes to a Screeching Halt

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Once cold and flu season hits, everyone in your family is bound to go down for a bit. It usually starts with the kids in school or daycare. Patient Zero then brings the plague home, and you spend the next month passing it back and forth. It’s heartbreaking when your kiddos are sick. It’s infuriating when your partner is sick (man flu is real). But what happens when mom, the hub, the glue that holds it all together, catches the yuck? Parenting through illness is incredibly difficult, but it’s something we’ve all had to do. Before the holidays, I was sick for an entire month, and am JUST NOW starting to feel better. But life, she went on, dragging me along moaning and hacking.

Parenting through illness takes on a special hell when you’re the only parent. Single moms and dads, we do it all, even when we feel like death.

Everyone knows that the best remedy for a cold or the flu is rest. Lots and lots of rest. You need to hunker down in bed with medicine and tea and Netflix and just sleep it off. But when you’re a parent, especially a parent to a small person who can’t get their own snacks or wipe their own ass, that’s just not possible. Moms don’t get sick days! So what can we do, when we’re the ones with the fever and the cough so bad we break a rib?

Ask for help! If you have a partner, throw the entirety of your job at them and run as fast as you can for dark, quiet solitude.

It really does take a village, and when you’re parenting through illness, you need to enlist that village for support. If you’re a single parent like myself, that means asking for help from your friends and family (if they’re nearby). Maybe getting someone to take your oldest to school, or your toddler to the park. If you’ve got a baby at home, have grandma or a friend come over and watch them while you rest ALONE. When you’re used to doing it all, it can be so, so hard to ask for help (trust me, I get it). But we all need a hand once in a while, and calling in that favor when you’re sick as a dog is the perfect time.

Do the bare minimum to keep the kids alive until you’re among the living.

iPads? Hell yeah. Paw Patrol on Netflix for 3 hours? You’re damn right. Snacks at their level so they can graze for the afternoon? You’ll thank yourself when you come out of fever delirium. Being sick when you’re a parent can mean that your standards need to get much lower, so you can make it through the worst of it. You are not a bad parent, AT ALL, for letting your kids make slime in the bathtub while you lay on the couch in a DayQuil haze.


Be kind to yourself. I know how hard it is to not be able to do it all. But not taking that time when you’re sick can mean you’ll get worse, you’ll be sick longer, and it’ll end up being a disaster in the long-run.

So if whatever contagion your kids brought home has finally felled you, do yourself (and everyone else) a favor and go lie down. Ignore the mess. Don’t answer the door when your 4 year old knocks on it so you can wipe their butt. Call in your people, or rely on your partner, and just shut your mind off to what is happening outside your bedroom doors. Don’t worry, the circus will be there waiting when you’re well enough to deal with it! And whatever you had will find it’s way to one of the kids, AGAIN, because that’s just how life works.

(Image: iStock/vladens)