Parenting While Sick

I vividly remember being sick as a parent with young children. I think the experience must be like army boot camp. You stumble through the day, muddy and exhausted, with body parts aching, but there’s no rest. And that’s because a drill sergeant is shrieking in your face making illogical demands.

You’re awakened in the dark regardless of your desperate need to get a bit more sleep. No chicken soup to eat and no mom to adjust your blankets. Because you’re the mom adjusting blankets, hoping for the sergeant to fall asleep for the night without asking for one more set of pushups.

Well. Ok. The metaphor isn’t perfect, but that’s because I’m not feeling well. I have a cough and a slight temperature and am lazing around asking for tea and peanut butter-banana grilled sandwiches. Don’t judge; it sounded like a good idea in my weird Alice-in-Wonderland fever dream.

Now, my son is nineteen and living in Canada, and my daughter is seventeen and fully capable of taking care of her own physical needs. While we get along pretty well, she’s also got her own stuff she needs to do that doesn’t include me for a pretty big chunk of the day.

That leaves my husband and me, and he’s actually a little obsessed with herbs and medicinal teas. Sometimes, I roll my eyes at him about it. But I’m not rolling them (or anything else) this weekend.

I’m starting to believe in them myself because he’s been delivering steaming, comforting cups like clockwork and fussing over me (and I can’t deny that the fussing is my favorite part).

But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel a great deal of empathy for my fellow parents out there who have young children. I recall being the young mother of a nine-month-old baby boy who didn’t seem to care for sleeping through the night.

During that period in our lives, Gil played guitar at a nightclub, meaning I was on duty alone six nights a week.

I had been feeling unwell for a couple of weeks with a stomach bug that just didn’t seem to go away. I hadn’t been eating well at all, and my baby had been going through a wakeful phase, so the bags under my eyes had probably reached my chin at that point. But the show must go on, even if that show had repeat performances at 10 pm, 12 am, 1 am and 1:30 am.

Being young and still kind of oblivious to the frailties of the human body, I’d just stumble upright, get to my son’s crib and cuddle him back to sleep, then stumble back to bed and immediately fall into a dreamless sleep until the next rude awakening.

Around 2 am, I tried a bit of warm milk to help my wakeful baby sleep, at least until his father got home. I propped us both in the rocking chair, and suddenly the world went black.

Happily, my mother’s instinct still worked in a dead faint, and I woke to my son crying but unharmed, wrapped tightly in my arms as I slumped to the side in the rocking chair (mama brains are amazing).

I stood up shakily, put him back in his crib and called the club owner to ask my husband to come home kind of soonish since his wife couldn’t quite stay conscious.

Gil came home much faster than I imagined a person could reasonably drive a car home and got me tucked into bed (with tea) and my son taken care of. He also did not kid around about getting me to the doctor first thing in the morning.

I was diagnosed with salmonella poisoning that very day. The doctor cheerfully made it clear that she would hospitalize me in a second if I didn’t follow her orders to the letter.

Guys. I was blindly ignoring my own health because I was busy and tired and didn’t have time to be sick. I bet a lot of parents do. But I actually fainted with my baby in my arms, which meant I better make time, if not for myself, maybe for my baby and his mother.

I don’t ignore my ill health too much anymore, partly because I don’t need to worry that my babies can’t take care of themselves. Also, I like my husband’s tea and worried attention.

But mostly, I’ve decided that I deserve to take care of myself and be well. And, if I’m not well, I might as well wallow around and eat peanut butter-banana grilled sandwiches (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it).


  • Leza Warkentin

    I have been living and teaching in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, since the turn of the century. I am a Canadian with a musician-Mexican husband and two Mexican-Canadian patas saladas who are growing up way too fast.

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