Keeping the Home Fires Burning While Mama’s Sick

Candles in fireplace

Image by alibree

It's been a rough week. This mama has not been feeling her best, that's for sure! Last Wednesday I found myself the unwitting victim to a nasty throat virus that still hasn't realized he's no longer welcome around here.

Life has been moving at a sloooow pace around here. I didn't even have a blog post prepared to put up this morning, and for the first time in a long time, it just really didn't matter as much as sleep did.

(Note: This post has been edited to protect you from the blog author's whinyness. She needs to remind herself more often that no matter how sick she feels, she is doing far better than she deserves. 🙂

There's no such thing as a sick day for moms, so just how is a busy and in-demand mama and wife supposed to keep the

family fed, clothed and the house from falling apart when times like

this hit?

1) Take the time that you need to take care of yourself.

I know, this isn't always possible. I could have used much more rest, more naps, more baths, more time to just sit, curled up in a warm blanket, doing nothing. But, when the time was available to do the things I needed for myself, I chose not to feel guilty about taking care of me.

Now, I am not usually one of those moms that advocates trying to find a whole lot of "me" time, but rather I love to encourage moms to wholeheartedly serve their families and seek God to meet their needs. When you're sick, though, you truly can't take care of anyone else until you get yourself back on the mend. So if you desperately need a nap, find a way to do it while some or all of the children take their own naps, quiet times or even watch an appropriate movie. Our Little House on the Prairie videos have seen a little more use this past week, and honestly, that's ok! Make your primary focus to get yourself better, and do the best that you can to care for your family's basic needs.

2) Keep food s.i.m.p.l.e.

Following #1, this only makes sense. And by simple, I mean simple! I confess… my children ate popcorn and a fruit smoothie for lunch today. The other night, dinner consisted of peanut butter on sprouted grain toast, with slices of apple. One of the first nights I was sick, my husband brought home buns and made us sandwiches with a bit of lettuce, cheese and tomatoes. And I am ok with this! When you are sick, it's perfectly alright to spend a week or two offering food in survival mode. No one will die. You can get back to fermented veggies, homemade sourdough breads and roasted chickens next week, but for now, yogurt with granola makes a very acceptable dinnertime offering! For more on this, see this post about feeding your family through morning sickness.

3) Drop those expectations.

Most of you probably didn't know it, but yesterday was Canadian Thanksgiving. It's not quite as big of a deal as it's American counterpart, but it's still a much celebrated holiday, usually with a turkey and all the trimmings. I gave up all hope of making a fancy meal for my family. We sat around the table (no tablecloth, no candles), eating a lasagna that was one of the last meals from my frozen after-baby stash. We prayed together and thanked God for our blessings, which we still felt in abundance despite the lack of holiday foods and decor.

Two weekends ago I cleaned out my garden (except for squash, tomatoes, greens and carrots) and planted annual rye grass to grow over the winter. This weekend, the weather got too cold and my squash and tomatoes had to be brought inside. Do I have any intentions of getting out there right away to pull up the old plants, till it a bit and get that rye seed in the ground quickly? Nope. In a couple weeks, I'll clear out the plants, and mulch it over with some dead leaves and call it done. No big deal.

Those who know me well know that this is a difficult area for me. I don't like not accomplishing things that I had planned to do. I don't like missing out on things. Sometimes, though, it's just not reality. I think it is both good and humbling for us to realize that we are weak, and not capable of doing all that we plan to do!

4) Do what's easy.

Doing a full, deep-clean of the house? Not so easy right now. Sitting in front of the fire folding laundry while my kids play nearby? Much easier!

I've been trying to fill my days with smaller, simpler tasks that I can accomplish, even if it's not what I had originally wanted to do or doesn't fulfill all that I think needs to be done. A few examples that come to mind of slower-paced activities:

  • catching up on emails (or online work, if you're a blogger or have a business)
  • reading books you've been wanting to read
  • sorting through family photos
  • doing mending, knitting or crocheting
  • ordering online (start Christmas shopping!)
  • write Thank Cards you've been needing to write
  • and anything else that's low key!

5) Break tasks down.

One of the techniques that I use to get stuff done when I'm just really exhausted is to choose one chore or activitiy that really needs to be done (forgetting the other 13 things I need to do), and do that one things, then allow myself to sit and rest for a period of time. If it's too big of a task, I can break it up into smaller tasks, like vaccum the living room only, then rest. Then vacuum the hallway, then rest.

A technique that I learned a couple years ago from Crystal is to set a timer to do chores like these. Give yourself 5 minutes to work as hard as you can, cleaning or doing laundry or starting dinner, and as soon as that timer beeps, you're done. You can use the timer to set times for resting as well. This is so helpful when you're feeling tired and overwhelmed, because these small tasks or 5 minute segments are relatively easy to handle, but when you do this several times over the course of a day, even a sickie can do a few things to keep the home running more smoothly.

6) Plan to depend.

I can't tell you the number of times this past week I've cried out to the Lord for strength to go on, to care for my family, to endure pain, to grant me rest. He always meets our needs, even if it's not in our time frame or in the way that we are hoping. His grace is sufficient in our weakness.

I have also found my family so willing to help out when I let my needs be known. Abbie loves to get her own snacks or some for her brother, as well as to help clean up when she knows I need her help (she keeps suggesting paper plates so I don't have to do the dishes!). She is also wonderful at entertaining the baby for a short period of time. Ryan has been amazing to let me sleep in a couple of mornings, to put the kids to bed by himself some nights, to help out in the kitchen or pick up something simple from the store, etc. When I communicate what I need to him, he is more than happy to try to find a way to meet that need for me.

And now, this tired mama is going to sign off and get a simple dinner started for the clan. 🙂

How do you keep things going when you're under the weather?

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  1. I don’t! But, after I heal up…I am back at it. Sometimes you just have to let things go and get yourself better.

    Playing “supermom” doesn’t bring an award at the end..sometimes you have to leave out the “super”.

    sandyt oe

  2. I am so sorry you are sick. I have had strep throat several times in my life and it’s definitely one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced. Probably the only thing worse was when my ear drum ruptured. Childbirth is nothing compared to those experiences!

    I’m glad that you posted this though. I am suffering from chronic pain at the moment and some days I can barely get out of bed. I feel so guilty because my poor son has seen so much Signing Time I’m scared his brain is going to melt. This post is going to help me, I just know it. If I can’t get a ton of stuff done, at least I will be able to do a tiny bit and feel good about it!

  3. praying for you!!
    I was just on bedrest because of an emergency surgery (and now am only up to 70% or so!)…I can to call in the reinforcements and had moms from church, MOMS club, and our homeschooling co-op bring meals or watch the kids. It was such a blessing!!!
    We did use paper plates and even ordered food in a couple of times.
    My house…messy. I am trying to just keep the laundry going and piling up all the clean clothes. My husband has helped fold it when he can.
    Not doing much has been REALLY hard for me…but I am making great headway in my Nourishing Traditions book!!
    May God bless your efforts and give you rest (and healing!!),

  4. What a bummer, I’m so sorry you’re sick! Last year I had some virus/bug/maybe strep? that came with the worst sore throat of my LIFE, and I felt like I was on my deathbed. I did the same things, meals were completely hodgepodge, and on went the tv (and I only had two kids at the time!). My 3 kids are the same ages as yours, and I have felt very overwhelmed these past few weeks, and I’m not even sick!! Can I ask what you let them watch on tv, or which videos you have for them? There is so much garbage out there, and pbs only airs Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood once a week.

    Hope you feel better soon 🙂 Have you tried swallowing raw garlic? I chop it up into small chunks and take them like pills, usually 4-5 cloves when I feel something coming on.

  5. Thanks, ladies. Actually, I thought it might be strep too, but I had it checked out and it’s viral, not bacteria. It felt pretty similar to strep, though. Now, my throat has almost healed but it’s gone into my throat lymph nodes, which have become really swollen and tender, and just as painful as the initial infection. Oh well- this too shall pass, right? 🙂

    And Jen, have I ever been taking raw garlic! About 3-4 times a day, I make myself “raw garlic toast”, which consists of toast with butter, and about 3 large cloves of raw garlic through my garlic press. It’s hot stuff, but I like it! If that doesn’t scare the virus away, I don’t know what will, LOL! I’ve been doing pretty much every natural thing in the book, so I’m sure this virus has to leave one of these days!

  6. I hope you are feeling better soon! It is definitely hard to be a mommy and be sick at the same time, since you can’t actually drop everything and lay in bed all day. You have offered some great tips!

  7. Great tips, Stephanie. I pray you feel better soon. It is difficult when the mama is out with an illness. I remember with my last pregnancy not being able to get out of bed because of the exhaustion. Tough times for everyone, but having a gracious husband is the biggest help.

  8. Last Christmas I was out of commission for a week – really sick. When I wasn’t sleeping I was laying on the couch close to my family but trying not to move much… couldn’t eat or anything. My husband took over meals and basic home routines and while it wasn’t the holiday I’d envisioned, we were all together and came through it!

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