My husband is writing a post called emergency preparedness. The emergency? Mom being sick. This sentiment was surprising to me. I knew we were struggling as I’ve been sick for so long (going on 3 weeks), so I wanted to share some ideas for moms, especially stay at home moms. I’ve divided this into 3 different sections acute illness, pregnancy, and long-term illness.
Prepare a simple meal plan. I just did this for my husband in response to his post. Prepare this now while you are well. Include a shopping list. The criteria for my meals were: create no more than one pan of mess and be very simple to prepare. My list includes things like frozen chicken nuggets and scrambled eggs and toast. This menu can be repeated if you are sick for more than a week. The people in your house will survive eating the same meals 2 times in two weeks and your kids will probably even love it if you plan meals they like. Even if your husband is a gourmet chef, now is the time for simplicity. This is also a good tool for you if all your kiddos are getting sick with a stomach bug or something that is keeping everyone up at night.
Give him a list of essential chores. This should be short. Essential is the key word. Mine would include: dishes are done each night, dishwasher is started, and one load of laundry done and folded each day. You don’t want things to get super far behind so that you get sick again trying to catch up with chores, but since your husband is already carrying a big load, you don’t want him to be overwhelmed either especially if he is losing sleep (like mine is due to my coughing) and having to still go into work. If you are sick for longer than a week, you may want to ask him if he could do a few of the essentials during the weekend. This might include cleaning toilets, vacuuming, sweeping, and wiping up spills in the kitchen. If you kids are capable of doing some of the chores, make sure to remind them to keep up with their stuff. We use chore packs, and I have tried to help remind the girls to keep going with their work. Remember, just like the simple meal plan, this is good for you as well if the kiddos are sick.
Managing the kids can be tough. I homeschool, so I’ve made an effort to keep up with our morning schedule in particular which means we have everything but piano and reading done before lunch (if everyone works hard). In the afternoon, put on an audio book, let them play, or put in a movie so that you can rest. Also, if you have a bin or two of quiet time activities, now is a good time to bring them out. If you have little ones, take a nap while they nap. Mostly, let some stuff go. My oldest is currently practicing for her piano lesson. She is woefully unprepared. That is OK. It is the first week that has happened in a long time.
Take care of yourself. You are not going to get better quickly if you keep being crazy like I have been and making chicken broth and applesauce and dried apple slices and pizza roll ups. Don’t knock yourself out, do things in small bursts. Spend five minutes gathering up dirty clothes, here. Spend 10 minutes folding a load, there. Then, rest. Make sure you are drinking LOTS of fluids and eat regular meals as you can. Also, go to the doctor if you need to. Moms are good at taking care of people, use that knowledge to take care of yourself.
You will probably know about this a little before you get super tired and sick (or not if you are one of those people, but most everyone I know at least feels all tired out 1st trimester). Since you are excited and pumped to be making a little person, you need to use that energy to do some freezer cooking, as much as you possibly can in the few weeks before you start feeling yucky. That way when you’re wiped out by 3 in the afternoon, you can take a nap knowing that dinner is thawing in the fridge and can be reheated in the oven, woohoo! For when you are not able to pull it out of the freezer, write down a list of easy meals like your sick list that can be put together quickly and simply like my garlic and olive oil pasta; I ate gallons of that when I was pregnant with Emma. Both freezer cooking and simple meals are helpful once again after the baby is born, put those nesting impulses to good work!
For cleaning, make a list of essentials like dishes and laundry. Then, I would add to it 15 minutes a day of other chores. On a regular week, I average 30 minutes a day of routine chores that I do. I would split these and do half this week and half the next just to keep things from getting gross. Most of us can still do something for 15 minutes, and if you can only do something for 5, then do 5 minutes 3 times a day. But you need to do what you can do during this time. You could also put on a really cute face and ask your husband if he would please do a heavier job like vacuuming every once in a while. He’ll probably say “yes” since he loves you so much and wants to take care of you and the baby.
Managing your other kids. Your kids will be excited when you tell them about the baby, and if they are older it’s probably a good idea to tell them early on because if I got all tired and started throwing up without telling my oldest, she would freak out and think that I was dying of cancer or something (Yup, we’re all about the drama here). Again, try to keep up with a simplified routine, making the best use of mornings. You may need to go to bed very early in order to be able to get up with little early risers (or maybe your kids are like my friends and sleep until 8:30 or 9, if so, don’t tell me about it, I don’t want to know). When I was pregnant with my first, I had to get up at 6 a.m. for work, so I would go to bed between 9 and 9:30, then I would come home and take another nap at 3:30 or so until 5. Take advantage of a quiet hour to nap, make some quiet time bins for younger kids and let older kids have a reading time.
Again take care of yourself by eating food that’s good for you and resting when you can. Drink lots of water, take your supplements, and see your doctor as recommended.
I’ve never really had a long-term illness, but I did have brain surgery which left me pretty much out of the game for 3 weeks, highly restricted for 3 months, with lowered energy for closer to 6 months to a year. If you can, have someone like a parent come and stay with your for a while. The three weeks my mom came were super helpful. She made sure I ate good food, took my meds at the correct times, and correctly washed my hair without getting soap in my incision. She took care of my kids, made supper, and did the laundry. My husband was home for part of this time, but he was pretty focused on me and worried. It was nice for him not to have to think about who needed a bath and what groceries needed to be bought. If you don’t have a mom who can come, check at your church or with a homeschooling family to see if you can find a volunteer or inexpensive mother’s helper.
When people ask you how they can help, have a list-give this list to your husband as well, prioritized for importance if you’re neurotic like me. Laundry, a meal, picking someone up from an activity, cleaning the house, buying diapers; people will do these if you ask them. If they asked what they can do and you just told them something, they are kind of stuck, so think BIG! I’m kidding, but don’t be too proud to ask for help. You’re a man down, and that’s hitting your family pretty hard. Get some help.
Again, go simple with meals and housecleaning. You’re going to want to spend the energy that you have investing in the important people around you. I once joked that my bucket list would be to go through my storage area downstairs because I wouldn’t want to die thinking my husband would never take care of it, but that’s dumb. Don’t be like me, spend the energy that you have reading books to your kids and sitting outside watching them play. Tickle them and have long talks with your husband. Write letters to people you love, and read the Bible, pray.
When you get better or have good days, expect that it’s probably going to take you the same amount of time you were sick to catch up on things. I was restricted in activity for 3 months; and it took me about 3 months if not more to catch up on all the organizing and cleaning that I was not able to do while I was recovering. It’s like baby weight, it took nine months to put it on and it’ll take at least nine months to take it off, more if you’ve been pregnant back to back. Don’t expect to jump into normal activity right away after recovery. Take it easy, give yourself a break, and have realistic expectations. The world has never come to an end because a mom just dumped in the next season’s clothes without removing last seasons (trust me I haven’t done this yet because of being sick for 3 weeks and even though my 5 year old keeps coming out in shorts when it’s almost freezing out, no one has died yet). Whatever your big project is, simplify it, let it go, make it easy, or let someone else do it. Recognize your situation for what it is, and don’t feel badly for taking time to recover.
I don’t know what to say about schooling as I’ve never homeschooled in this situation. If I had to advise, I would recommend finding a quality homeschooling program that’s more student led or directed like A.C.E or P.A.C.E. if you’re really down. Otherwise, you may want to find a more scripted program if you’re used to doing your own, or take a summer break in the middle of winter (spring/fall) while you recover. Even having school from mom’s bed or the couch while she rests could be something that works for some.
I won’t give you another redundant reminder about taking care of yourself with proper nutrition (or whatever you’re able to eat) and water and rest. You already know this, but do what you can to get better or have more good days than bad, and your family will be happy.
Above all else, whatever your situation, love on the people in your family and give them the best of your patience and kindness. Lean hard on God, depending on Him for those things because He gives awesome gifts, and He does work everything together for good to those who love Him.
I’m not an expert by any means, but I hope some of these things are helpful to you, and let me know if I can pray for you.