I’ve not started 2013 the way I planned. (Though when you’re a professional parent, does much ever go to plan?) For the last few days of 2012, I’d already been dizzy and unwell and it deteriorated from there. New Year’s Day was spent in bed – not with a hangover from a wild night of partying but instead with aches, fever, cough and headache.
At least my wonderful husband was around to look after me and take care of the kids. He even made me chicken soup.
Yesterday (2 Jan) he had to return to work. I was wondering how I’d manage, feeling shocking and barely able to do anything for myself, let alone being the main carer for 2 young children. As you can read over on my blog Dutch Australian, we’re fairly new to life in The Netherlands and I don’t have a lot of back up support nearby (and also often find it hard to ask for help anyway!). As it turned out though, we did ok and I learnt 5 interesting and important things about my children and being a parent:
1. They are already much more independent than I realised – and enjoy being so.
My eldest is 5 and my youngest is 3. I already am teaching them to do many things for themselves – they help make breakfast, dinner, set the table, tidy up and lots more. I found it quite amazing though to watch the enthusiasm it sparked in my eldest to realise that with mama quite ill, she was going to get to do most things herself – and help look after her little sister too. She did a great job and my 3 year old also stepped up her game a little – though by nature (or by right of her age!) is a little less inclined to understand that mama wasn’t at her beck and call. I loved the joy on my 5 year old’s face when she brought me a peeled mandarin for breakfast, knowing she really was helping care for ME! I also found it quite amusing to see that when she had the freedom to make her own lunch, she poured both hagelslag (a dutch form of chocolate sprinkles eaten on bread) on the same sandwich as her ham and cheese – and learnt that wasn’t such a great idea. But she learnt it on her own, when usually I would’t have even thought to give her that chance. (Pity I didn’t get a photo of that one!)
2. I need to make my words count
Most likely to my husband’s delight, I have lost my voice. Well, it’s there, but using it can send me into fits of violent and quite painful coughing so I’m keeping quiet. I’m not by nature someone who is of few words – but have realised just how much I rely on speaking in my parenting. I often feel I have to tell the children 20 times to do something before they listen – and now I’m starting to realise that as I talk most of the day, it all kind of blends in. In the last couple of days when communicating with my children, if I don’t speak as often, when I do speak, they MUST listen. Right now, I really mean it when I say I’m only saying it once. And I’ve gotten really good at raising my eyebrows, giving a “look” and pointing, I think I’ll keep that in my “parental arsenal” to use more regularly!
3. Doing “nothing” for a few days is ok
I’m someone who not only likes to be busy but thrives on it. I find it incredibly frustrating being so ill that I don’t even have the energy to interact for more than a few minutes at a time on Facebook! (luckily that only lasted about 2 days) So I guess being really unwell forced me to “switch off” in more ways than one. As evidenced by this blog post, as soon as I’m able to be, I’m back online, but have just spent a good few days doing nothing. In terms of my children, usually I’m either busy taking them somewhere, running them to and from school, or a playdate, or the shops, or tidying the house, or, or, or…. By my world stopping for a while, I had to literally lie there and watch them. Everything else kind of faded away – and this was ok. Still there though, were my children’s gorgeous little faces and big personalities. My eldest made me smile dancing around in the back yard while I lay on the couch, and checking on me now and then through the window!
4. Our health is incredibly important.
Well this isn’t something new that I’ve learnt, but more something I’ve taken for granted. I’m constantly thinking of and worrying about the health of my children – keep warm, eat up, drink this etc. I’ve had a few minor health issues niggling at me for a while myself but I’m working on them and I can still get by and carry on my day to day life. However this flu really knocked me out for a couple of days and without my health, I really cannot parent properly. My youngest especially really needs a strong guidance and my eldest still just needs me. It’s said so many times, but it’s SO true….you need to look after yourself so you can look after your children. A few days “out of action” is bound to happen but as parents we need do all we can to maximise the amount of time we can parent at full health. I dragged myself to the playground next to our house today so we could get some fresh air (until my youngest bashed her head on the equipment but that’s another story!). Here’s the photo my eldest took. See me looking after myself, while looking after them!? I brought a blanket and borrowed their warm koala hat!
5. Children are really resilient
No matter what you throw at them, kids amaze me with their resilience. This is the 2nd week of the two week Christmas school holidays here in Holland and I had nice outings and playdates planned. Fortunately we did get in a really nice short family holiday last week and a lovely Christmas and New Year’s celebration. At first I worried about the kids being bored at home all this week while I’ve been sick, but we’re doing ok – they seem happy enough. Here’s just a couple of things we’ve done, which required minimum effort & input from me.
Set up a “cinema” under the stairs, where they watched The Lorax on the iPad….twice! (Several hours of valuable rest and recovery time for me)
Note this different angle shot for the popcorn delivery slot and my daughter’s “comfortable” position!
We measured how fast the bulbs are growing: (about 1cm a day can you believe!)
We also played hairdressers – my youngest can finally sport a decent sized ponytail!
So while my body has been unwell, I’m glad i’ve had the chance to use my mind to re-examine being a parent from another angle and I hope these insights can help you too! How have you handled being sick while also having to look after children?