I have been vaguely planning on writing a post about being ill and looking after a toddler – if we’re honest, a fairly awful combination.
And then I actually got ill this weekend – some kind of hideous end-of-Christmas-holidays, back-to-school chest infection, I don’t want to make a fuss or anything, but I got ill and I am still looking after 4 small people so it seemed like an appropriate time to actually write this article. And in fact I don’t want to you feel too bad for me but we are now also in the middle of a power outage and I’m writing this by candlelight so you know, I’m pretty dedicated to the cause.
So here are my 6 essential steps to survival, should you find yourself ill and looking after a toddler or two.
1. It’s ok to feel sorry for yourself (even if your husband doesn’t)
I mean hypothetically, obviously I haven’t been feeling sorry for myself but it really would be quite understandable if one were to feel sorry for oneself – being ill when you are looking after small children is the pits. My 2 year old sat next to me at 5.30am this morning in bed waving the duvet around letting cold air in and screeching “I want youuuu to get up mama” and in my feverish, hacking cough state, this felt like she was holding some kind of vendetta.
So, feel sorry for yourself. And then…
2. Move on and get out
If you can, try and get everyone out of the house for an hour in the morning. If you have some kind of vomiting bug, all bets are off, you can ignore this advice and proceed straight to steps 4 and 5.
Getting out will have a two fold benefit – i, that your child is slightly less stir crazy because they’ve had a run around; and ii, you feel less guilty about steps 4 and 5. Keep it simple, a trip to the park or a walk around the block.
Nursing a baby when you feel terrible is no fun. But it is also an excellent way of keeping a baby quiet for a while so that you can at least lie down. Actually babies and illness are really not a great combination and some support in this situation is pretty helpful. I did retreat to bed this afternoon with a few of our 7month old’s favourite toys – including an old version of this (here in the UK)- far and away the ugliest toy we own and the only baby toy with batteries but honestly, if you have a baby between 6-24months then I cannot recommend many things more wholeheartedly.
Anyway, I took the legs off this hideous noisy toy and popped it in the bed, along with a few shakers / soft toys – and this baby paper – and propped him up with pillows next to me. This gave me half an hour to lie still, rest and really immerse myself in step 1 while he played.
Novelty goes a long way in keeping small children busy. It might be worth having a few special toys to hand – new or just reserved for these occasions – today I pulled out some playmobil that has been holed up in storage for a while and it kept my 2 year old entertained for a while. Now is also the time to allow them toys or snacks that you might not normally – today my 2 year old took a number of photos with my phone and also ate 2 packets of yoyo bear snacks – anything goes.
5. Switch on the tv.
Really, now is not the time to be a martyr. I mean if your toddler will play independently with play dough or some other handy indoor activities, what an excellent outcome for all involved. But if not (as toddlers often have some kind of sixth sense and so only play independently when you are actually available to play, and whenever you need them to play independently they are completely desperate for you to read/play cars etc)…if this is the situation, pop the tv on and do.not.guilt yourself about it. A day of tv is really No big deal. Make it cosy, get some blankets and give yourself a break. I never allowed myself to do this first time around and looking back I wonder why I felt such pressure not to just relax and get better whilst my toddler was entertained by the Octonauts. It is not indicative of your general parenting and just a function of needing to get through a day
6. Call in the troops
Look if I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that friends and family like to help and that you really ought to let them. Call on your network of people that care and let them help. Under no circumstances try and appear fine – just let them come around and look after one or two small children while you go to bed.
6 easy steps! Plus a packet of fox’s Viennese biscuits and copious tea. And a hot Ribena. The essential guide to looking after a toddler whilst ill. Poor you! (Poor me!)