The Single Mom’s Sick Day Emergency Survival Guide
You know what to do when the kids get sick, but what happens when you get sick? You need a plan to make sure the house doesn’t totally fall apart, and here it is.
As I write this, I’m recovering from a cold. A cold seems like a rather minor illness, but as someone who doesn’t often get sick, even a minor cold can totally deplete me. Hit me with the flu, and I honestly feel like I’m dying. Fortunately, as my kids are getting older, they are much more self-sufficient. But I remember what it was like when they were smaller.
Single moms often have to scramble to figure out what to do when anything unexpected happens: their own illness, a kid getting sick, an injury, the sitter deciding to close for the day without warning. While you can’t prepare for everything, there are some things you can do to be ready for your own sick days.
This Single Mom’s Sick Day Emergency Survival Guide will help you get through the worst of your sick days without panicking that the world will fall apart without you.
And for you married moms? I know, you’re the center of the family. Kids bypass Dad to ask you for things. You can use this guide too. Just print it out, slap it in Dad’s hands and tell him to get crackin’.
Check your schedule
When you realize you’re sick, the first thing to do is check your calendar. Even if you’re still feeling okay, that little tickle in your throat, the rolling of your stomach, or the mild fever is an omen of things to come. It also means you’re already contagious.
Check your schedule. Call and cancel or reschedule anything on your calendar for today, and probably at least the next 3–4 days. You know your body best — if you think it’s just a minor cold and you’ll be fine in a couple of days, then just cancel today and tomorrow.
Otherwise, give yourself plenty of space to recover.
Call for reinforcements
Your parents, siblings, or good friends make up your support system and now is when you need their support most. Call on them and ask for help. Let them know you’re sick and exactly what you need.
If you need your parents to take the kids, your best friend to make a grocery run, or your sister to swing by the pharmacy and pick up the prescription that’s been called in, be clear. Assign specific tasks to individual people to ensure it all gets done and nothing is duplicated.
Don’t wait until you’re totally miserable. At the first sign that you’re getting sick, start calling in your backup. Set yourself up for the quickest and easiest recovery you can.
Have a premade meal plan and grocery list ready to use
Chicken soup, crackers, ginger ale and whatever else makes you feel better when you’re sick should be at the top of the meal plan and grocery list. Keep foods light, comforting, and healthy. Include alternate meals for the kids if they’re perfectly healthy and don’t want to eat “sick foods.”
Have this meal plan and grocery list ready to go before you get sick. This will allow you to hand it to whomever is helping you and they can get exactly what you need. Be specific too. If there’s a specific brand of chicken soup or ginger ale you prefer, include that.
Write down where you shop and any other details that might be important but easily forgotten, such as food allergies.
Put kid-friendly foods and drinks within reach
Even if you have friends and family helping out, you may have a few hours here and there that you’re left alone with the kids. The easier it is for them to do for themselves, the more you can rest and recover. Move kid-friendly foods and drinks where they can easily reach them without your help.
Think foods like:
· Juice boxes and pouches
· Fruits that can be eaten as is (apples, easy-peel oranges, etc.)
· Baby carrots, celery sticks, cucumber slices, etc.
· Yogurt cups
· String cheese
· Sandwich crackers
· Single serving cereal bags/boxes (pre-packaged or made yourself)
· Peanut butter, jelly, and bread
This not only means you don’t need to help them when they’re hungry, but it also lowers the risk of them getting sick because you’re handling their food.
Keep in mind that this is one of those times when fed might be more important than healthy. So if chips, cookies, or other less-than-healthy foods make their way into the “kid-friendly reachable food” area, let it happen. You can get everyone back on track once you’re healthy again.
Have an important contacts list ready
You might have cleared your schedule, but if you’re really under the weather, you may not be able to tell anyone anything useful for a few days. Have a list of important contacts ready for those who are helping you.
At a minimum, this list should include:
· Your doctor’s name and contact info
· The kids’ doctor’s name and contact info
· The pharmacy where your prescriptions are filled
· School name and contact info
· Contact info for the kids’ other parent(s)
Beyond that, you might consider providing passwords to someone you trust that will allow them to access your calendar and email. This will allow them to clear your schedule further if you end up being sick longer than you anticipate.
Get signed up with a teledoctor
You’ve probably heard of this by now, if you haven’t already signed up with one. It’s a service that allows you to see a doctor via video chat to diagnose your symptoms. You don’t have to leave home, risk contaminating others or exposing yourself to worse illnesses.
Many accept various insurances, so check first with your insurance to see if there’s one they specifically cover. If they don’t have a list, look for any that say they accept your insurance and check into how it works.
Even if it’s not covered by your insurance, these virtual visits are often pretty inexpensive compared to an in-person appointment. Plus, you save money on gas, and time spent driving to the doctor and waiting. Teledoctors can prescribe medication, if you need it, too.
Make sure you sign up before you get sick, though. That way, when illness strikes, you just need to tap a few buttons to be seen.
Check medication expiration dates and quantities
There’s nothing worse than a sore throat and nothing to soothe it because it’s all expired or empty. Unless it’s a headache and nothing to soothe it. Or nasal congestion… you get it. When you’re sick, you want to be able to grab the appropriate meds, take them, and start feeling better.
Take time before the sick season starts (or right now) and go through your bathrooms and make sure all the meds you have are up-to-date and have enough to get you through an illness. Make a shopping list of what needs to be replaced and then shop ASAP. Don’t delay on this.
Make sure you check the kids’ medicines too. If you get sick, the kids won’t be far behind, and vice versa. It’s best to be prepared for everyone’s sake.
Make up a Portable Sick Bay
Let’s face it, single parents don’t have the luxury of cuddling up in bed and focusing purely on recovery. Sometimes we’re stuck going to the store, pharmacy or other places simply because there is no one else to do it.
So before you get sick, make up a Portable Sick Bay. This should be a little pouch (a makeup pouch can work perfectly for this!) that holds the following:
· Cough drops
· Throat spray
· Nasal spray (both a vapor inhaler and a moisturizing spray)
· Ibuprofen, aspirin, or the like
· Hand sanitizer
This will allow you to do what needs to be done while still controlling your symptoms. And the hand sanitizer will ensure you both don’t contaminate others and avoid picking up something worse than you’ve already gotten.
Have quiet time activities on hand
When you’re sick, the last thing you want is to hear kids screeching, yelling, and thumping around. Prepare quiet time activities before you get sick so they’re ready to go at the first sign of illness.
Try to find movies, cards, puzzles, coloring books and other activities that the kids will enjoy — but set them aside specifically for when you get sick. When they’re not usually available, the fascination of getting to play with them will extend the time you have before the kids complain of boredom.
And if you end up not getting sick? Make sure you sort through the activities and rotate them out for more age-appropriate ones as needed.
Let the kids entertain themselves
As moms, we have a tendency to worry about everything, including how the house looks. Maybe it’s because we know much of the work of cleaning falls on us. But when you’re sick, it’s not the time to worry about messes. Let the kids entertain themselves, even if it means they’re making messes.
The harder you work while sick, the longer it takes for you to recover fully. The more you try to clean up after the kids, the more you spread your germs and risk getting them sick.
As long as no one is bleeding, dying, or on fire (and that includes the house and other inanimate objects), let it go. If they play more video games than usual, watch more TV, or grind some glitter into the carpet, it can all be remedied when you feel better.
If the kids are old enough and your neighborhood safe enough, let them play outside for a while. The fresh air will do them good, and you won’t have to worry about the mess they might be making.
The only thing worse than being sick as a parent is being sick while also caring for sick kids. But if you plan ahead, you can take it easier and recover so that you can get back to life as usual. And we all know the chaos of normal life is much better than the chaos illness brings.