Surviving a Sick Day at Home with Your Kids

Ah, fall. The air is crisp, the leaves have turned a glorious hue — and the scourge of school germs is wreaking havoc on households everywhere.

It’s not even Thanksgiving, and my first grader and preschooler have already logged several sick days at home with mama. Even when my kids are too ill for school, they somehow still have enough spunk to whine constantly that they’re bored, taking occasional breaks to bicker with each other over toys that neither has played with in years.

Although I have the best intentions of handling each illness with grace and serenity, the truth is after a day (or maybe an hour) of playing nurse to my cranky, stir-crazy children, I generally start to lose it. If you can relate, simply refer to the handy schedule below, and you’re all but guaranteed to retain your sanity even on the most trying sick day!

7 AM: Brew coffee. Lots of it. You’ve probably been up at least once during the night with a feverish, crying or vomiting child. Make sure to throw a lid on that caffeinated nectar of the gods. You can look forward to taking your first sip approximately four hours from now.

8:30 AM: If your child is in the mood to eat, lovingly prepare her a vitamin-packed, nutrient-rich smoothie. Artfully serve the drink with a beautifully cut strawberry garnish. Then sink to the floor and sob silently when your child takes one sip, pushes the cup aside and says, “Mama, this is disgusting. I want goldfish crackers/fruit snacks/the Halloween candy I stashed under my bed when you weren’t looking.”

11 AM: Time for some arts and crafts! Note: First, you may need to negotiate the return of your phone or laptop from the germ-infested clutches of your young patient. After the screaming subsides, scour Pinterest for the most complex and labor-intensive project you can find. A fairy house created entirely from popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners? Sure, why not?? Painstakingly assemble all of the art supplies, and make sure huge amounts of glitter are available. Then sit on the floor with your lukewarm coffee and watch your child make a giant mess. Bonus points if more than one kid is home sick and you get to listen to them squabble over paintbrushes and glue sticks.

12:30 PM: Oh, is it lunchtime already? After you prepare your little patient a meal destined for the garbage disposal, gulp down the rejected fruit smoothie and the soggy half-eaten remains of your child’s breakfast waffle. Don’t worry about avoiding your kid’s germs, since it’s a proven fact that anytime your child has a cold, not even a venti cocktail of echinacea and vitamin C and a full body hazmat suit will prevent you from getting sick later.

2 PM: Ideally, your child will take a rejuvenating nap after lunch and let you get some rest, catch up on work or tackle some overdue projects around the house. (Ha! Sometimes I really crack myself up.) Should you miraculously get some quiet time, go ahead and text, call or e-mail some mom friends whose kids are also home sick. Hey, it’s therapeutic: misery loves company.

3:30 PM: If you have avoided turning on the television so far, you are superhuman and should probably stop reading this so you can be photographed and honored on an intergalactic parenting wall of fame. Otherwise, collapse back on the couch for another round of Disney Jr. If your child wants to snuggle, maybe wear that hazmat suit, just in case.

6 PM: With any luck, another adult is home to relieve you for a bit while you drown your frazzled nerves in a glass of wine, chocolate milk or liquefied Xanax. The rest of the evening will be a blur, but plan to pass out with your kid right after dinner. Trust me, this strategy is your best bet for getting more than three hours of uninterrupted sleep.

No matter how you approach cold and flu season with your kids, remember that you’re not alone, and you will get through it. As my own mom always told me, “This too shall pass!”

You’ve got this, Mama! So let’s raise a cold cup of coffee and toast to all the disgusting germs that actually serve a purpose by helping build our kids’ immune systems in the long run. Now I better go lie down, I feel a sniffle coming on.

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