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Staying Home Instead

Sick Days

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 15 No. 6, November-December 1998, pp. 185-86

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

"Staying Home Instead" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.


Taking care of my two small children is challenging at the best of times, but when they're sick it seems almost impossible. What patience I have quickly dissolves after nights of no sleep and days full of miserable kids. How do other mothers manage to stay loving toward their cranky children, keep the household running, and get their own needs met too?


Ask for help. Beg for help. Pay help. Assume from the start that there is no way you can do all those things alone. The first problem is that it is next to impossible to get out of the house to get whatever it is you're short of, so call a neighbor, a friend, or a family member, and beg them to go shopping for you. Once when we were all sick, I called my dad, and he came over. He knew just what to do around sick people. He offered useful things like ginger ale, tea, and toast. He read books to the child who was most well. Ask someone with a strong stomach and lots of energy to clean the bathroom and the kitchen. Order in food if you can possibly afford it, or beg, bribe, or threaten a helpful person to bring or make a meal or two.

Clear a room as the sick room, and huddle all the sick people into it on mattresses or sleeping bags. It's easier to deal with one ward of sick people than to have them all over the house. Use the washing machine as a soaker tub and throw new stuff into it until you have a fall load. This cuts down a bit on the laundry. For stomach flu, we keep stainless steel bowls handy rather than counting on little ones making it to the bathroom. They are simple to rinse out between uses and it keeps clothing, bedding, carpets, and upholstery cleaner. Remember which kids prefer warm cloths and which prefer cool cloths for their foreheads and keep a running supply. It's a simple thing that goes a long way to soothing upsets.

For the mom stuck in all of this, when all the kids have finally gone to sleep, make a cup of tea, step outside for a breath of fresh air, and put your feet up.

Linda Clement
Victoria BC Canada


I'm not sure that other mothers do manage this. I know I don't! Mothers only have two arms, two legs, and one head. We can't do it all. When anyone is sick in our house, I relax my standards and release my expectations. Running the household goes by the wayside for a while. The time I might otherwise spend cleaning the bathroom is spent snuggling next to my little ones, reading and playing quiet games. When people are sick, they feel awful and want to be cared for. And that's why I'm at home—so that I can provide that loving care. I'm not at home so that I can vacuum the carpet!

And my needs? Sometimes, my needs simply don't get met. Sometimes, they are met in different ways. I might catch a brief nap while snuggling with my sick ones on the couch instead of reading a book during their nap time. When things get tough, I remind myself that when my children are well, I can work toward getting my needs met. For now, I need to take care of them.

Liz Thompson Grapentine
Oak Park IL USA


I am also a stay-at-home mom with two children. Whenever they're ill, the most important thing to remember is how much they need you. Laundry, dusting and bed-making are insignificant when you hear cries of "mommy" from a feverish child. Perhaps your husband could help cook meals and make enough for you to heat the following day for a quick lunch. Babies who are ill will need less food anyway, so the cooking load should be light. Let your housework go for the long-term benefit of your children. They won't remember a dirty kitchen or lint on the carpet, but they will remember mom's arms to hold them, mom's songs for them to sleep, and mom's warm milk to heal them.

Melissa Presley
Houston TX USA


It's important to remember that the priorities are: getting well, giving love, getting sleep, and everything else can wait. When my first was very young, on the advice of my sisters-in-law, I assembled a "sick kit." It was a box that contained paper plates, cups, bowls, napkins, and disposable tableware. It also contained cans of chicken broth, adult and child pain relievers, various pastas in a box, a couple of toys, scented bath gel and hand soap, and some used books from the library book sale.

The most recent time I've used the kit was last year, when my five-year-old had a very bad cold, and my husband and eight-month-old had a rotavirus. The disposable plates and utensils kept everyone from exchanging germs, and freed me from washing dishes. The worst 48 hours were made easier by food from the box, and I could always sit nursing my baby, play some music, and read, no matter what time of day. When the baby napped in the daytime, I put storybooks on tape on a player for my older child, made sure that he had adequate liquid, settled him on the couch, and gave him a quiet time treat. Then I slept, sometimes in the next room on the floor, sometimes in my bed. I also made time to take a shower every day, and treated myself to the scented bath gel.

The sick kit has helped me remember that when it is that bad, all I need to do is love my kids, hug them, and make hand-washing and showering a fun thing to do. The worst part rarely lasts more than 48 to 72 hours, and prayer is a help to me then.

Laura Runkle
Cedar Rapids IA USA


It is more difficult to be patient when you aren't getting enough sleep. Here are some things we do in our family. Keep yourself healthy by grabbing a nap when you can and remembering to eat well even if it's mainly nourishing snacks. Have dad do as much of the nighttime parenting as the child will allow. Shift essential household chores to anyone who can volunteer (grandma) or be hired (grocery delivery, housekeeper). Relax everyone with aromatherapy, massage, soft music, and baths. Use natural comfort measures to relieve stuffy noses or stomach aches. We watch little television in our house, but I find it a useful diversion when we are ill. Prevention is also a key part of our strategy. If your family gets sick more than you think is normal, find and read books on health and nutrition.

Sharon Starkston
Hinsdale IL USA

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