Order Out of Chaos: How being felled by the flu helped me to help others care for my children

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By Darline Turner-Lee

A couple of years ago I was felled by a serious case of the flu. You know the kind that I’m talking about; my head was so congested and heavy that I could not lift it off the pillow. Every fiber of my body ached, from my eyebrows to my toenails. It hurt to breathe and coughing racked my body with earthquake-like tremors. All I did was sleep.

In one of my moments of consciousness I looked from my bed only to see three pairs of eyes staring back at me. It dawned on me that my children, then aged about 18 months and 5, had never seen me so incapacitated. And the look of utter panic on my husband’s face would have been laughable-if it hadn’t hurt so badly to laugh. With labored breathing and in between coughs I gave him what few instructions I could to “hold down the fort.”

As moms, most of us multitask as easily as we breathe (when we’re not sick, that is!). We can eat one handed while simultaneously nursing and stirring a pot on the stove. We unconsciously time errands and tasks around feedings and naps as if we’ve been doing it all our lives. And to be honest, I got a particular sense of satisfaction from taking such “meticulous” care of my children and that they so clearly “depended” on, and preferred, me.

This “sole provider” mentality bit me on the butt during my illness. While I had always done everything, I had never shared any instructions with anyone as to how I cared for my kids. Because my husband travels extensively for work and my family lives out of state, I just simply did it all “because I had to.” While this was true in theory, I never had a contingency plan-a plan for what to do in case of an emergency or in my case, serious temporarily debilitating illness. As soon as I was able, I put together a few very basic instructions in the event that I again became incapacitated or unavailable. I highly suggest all mothers put together similar instructions and have them ready-just in case.

Put a list of all your children’s medications, the doses and the schedule on the inside of the medicine cabinet in their bathroom. Also put the name, address and phone number of the pediatrician on the top of the list along with the name, address and phone number of the pharmacy on the top of the list. My daughter is asthmatic and takes medication daily yet her own father was unaware of what medication she was currently taking, how often and how much when I was ill. This could have had tragic consequences. Such information should be readily accessible in the event of an emergency.
Put a variety of foods/snacks your kids commonly eat in an easily accessible place. I currently have a low shelf in my pantry where I keep the kids cereals and snacks. It’s easy for someone unfamiliar with our household to know what the kids like and will eat and now that my kids are older, it’s easy for them to get a snack on their own.
Put the kids’ dishes, cups and utensils in an easily accessible place. Before I got sick, I had kept the kids sippy cups, bowls and utensils in an upper cabinet and “served” them when I fed them. After I got sick, I moved their items to a lower cabinet. Now that they are older, they set their places at the table by getting their own plate/bowl, along with a cup and utensils. I also keep small Glad plastic containers in that cabinet so that now they can grab a small container and get a snack from the pantry. (after asking permission of course!)
Make “everyday” clothes easily accessible. While my son was a baby, I had an emergency “stash” of diapers in the closet and I also had several onesies easily accessible on the dressing table. Now that my children are 7 and nearly 4 years old, I have taught them where I keep their clothes so they know where their underwear and socks are and where their “everyday” clothes are. In my absence, they can dress themselves.
Keep your husband or the children’s father in the loop. My husband travels extensively for work and was often only home on the weekends when my son was an infant. (Luckily he was home when I was sick!) Since that episode, I periodically update him on what the kids are doing, meds they are taking, etc…At least once a year I leave him alone with the kids for the weekend. I get time away, my husband gets to experience caring for the kids and my kids learn that Daddy can take care of them. (These have become coveted times of movies, snacks and burgers and fries!)
Even without my “systems” in place, everything worked out just fine. About 36 hours after I had become ill, I shuffled out beyond the confines of my bedroom. To my horror there were toys all over the family room, the TV was blaring some cartoon I had never seen (nor allowed my children to see!), dishes were in the sink and my son had a fair amount of his last meal all over his face. His diaper was attached in an unknown configuration and everyone was still in pajamas. But the children were laughing and playing with my usually very clean-cut engineer husband who was equally disheveled. They greeted me with a casual, “Hi mom,” and continued their game without missing a beat. I have no idea what they ate, they weren’t bathed and the house was a mess. But in all honesty, everything was just fine.

About Darline Turner-Lee

She’s a nationally certified physician assistant, ACSM Clinical Exercise Specialist®, perinatal fitness instructor and the owner and founder of Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond. After 2 miscarriages and 2 high risk pregnancies, she set out to develop products and services she would have used while she was having her own children including Bedrest Fitness, an exercise DVD designed specifically for pregnant women on prescribed bed rest. Her company provides information, products and services to support high risk pregnant women and new moms. For more information on Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond, Bedrest Fitness or to contact Darline visit www.mamasonbedrest.com.

Posted by hahmom   @   1 January 2010 0 comments

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