For better or worse, in sickness and health, ‘til death do we part; the beautiful, sacred and very important words we speak when we wed. My husband and I recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, and we talked about these words. We talked about or betters (four beautiful kids, our careers, our life) and our worses (two miscarriages, twins that spent a week in the NICU after they were born a bit early), and the fact that we are very blessed with good health and four pretty healthy kids. We shouldn’t have done it; we shouldn’t have said the words, “Thank God our kids never get SICK SICK to the point that it’s ridiculous – and never all at the same time,” it was the kiss of death.
All four of our kids came down with a horrible stomach virus on the same day not a month after we dared to speak that sentence. Let me just explain to you what life looks like when you have an almost 7-year-old, a 4-year-old and then 14-month-old twins all vomiting and sick at the same time. There is not enough laundry detergent, carpet cleaner, baby wipes or washing machines in the world to handle this situation. And there are not enough adults. I don’t know what we did to deserve this, but let me tell you that it was the worst 24 hours of our lives, and I’m pretty certain my husband is lucky he made it out of that one alive. So lucky. I’m not a violent person by nature, but I distinctly remember thinking that I would kill him in that time frame; more than once.
In an effort to make up for such unkind and impolite thoughts toward my husband, I thought I might try and help my fellow parents out by providing you with some valuable advice that will prevent you from killing your spouse when the kids are sick. It might at least make you put down the phone before looking up that divorce attorney’s number.
Come up with a Game Plan
Do this now; I don’t even care if your kids are sick at the moment or not (though I do hope they’re not). If we’d had a game plan before our four were sick, perhaps I would not have used all my Criminal Minds and CSI knowledge to plan the perfect murder of my husband in my mind as a way of pacifying myself every time he ticked me off while the kids were sick (not that I think I was alone in those thoughts). A game plan is a good idea, because everyone knows where they stand when sickness occurs. For example, if the kids are sick, someone needs to go to the doctor. The game plan is this; one stays home with the healthy kids, one takes the sick kids. Then they switch and conquer so that the healthy kids can get out of the house to run errands, pick up medication and stay away from the general sick. Take turns. Have a plan. Make sure that you both know your duties when this happens.
Be a Team
Remember – even if you have to repeat this a thousand times in the midst of illness – that you are team. If your wife has been holding a sick baby for an hour without moving off the couch, take the baby from her and ask her if she’d like to grab a shower or take a few minutes to herself. She should do the same for you. If a sick child is up all night, work together to make it better. Take turns sleeping and caring for the baby. At least his handles some of the resentment one feels toward the sleeping parent or the parent who doesn’t seem to have to do as much to make the kids feel better.
Divide the Duties
I do not do well with vomit. The mere sound of someone gagging makes me gag and vomit myself. My husband knows this, but he conveniently forgot when the kids got sick. I was gagging, attempting not to add to the vomit mess every 15 minutes and he was so frustrated with me and so annoyed with me he had no patience. I was annoyed with myself, to be quite honest. I’m a mother; these things should not affect me when the comfort and health of my kids are in question. But…I hate vomit and I can’t even deal with children’s vomit (what? It’s gross). Upon having a ‘discussion’ teeth clamped together, lips pursed and serious attitude included, my husband finally relented and apologized for forgetting that I don’t really handle vomit well. He then agreed to clean up the vomit while I handled laundry and the mopping and the things that did not involve getting too close to vomit. I held sick babies, forced medicine down their throats just to watch it come back up again, and he cleaned the messes. It made the entire day a little bit easier on us.
Take a Moment to Yourself
The moment I began blaming my husband for getting the kids sick after insisting we take them to this indoor public playground place I was totally against, I knew I was crossing the line. He wanted to take the kids out to do something fun on a rainy day. I wanted to stay home. He insisted we take the kids out for some fun. He was right; the kids needed to get out of the house and it was raining, after all. And here I was calling his attentiveness to his kids, his good parenting and his desire to spend time with his kids a bad thing – blaming him for exposing them to God even knows what. I was out of line and we both knew it. Fortunately, I’m a hot mess, but my husband is the Patron Saint of Patience and Fairness. He suggested I take some time to myself to calm down and collect my thoughts (looking back I’m almost positive he put me in grown up time out). He was right. Now we do this pretty regularly.
Schedule a Post-Illness Celebration
This, too, shall pass. Even when it feels like you will be cleaning up vomit every single day for the rest of your life, your kids will get better. No, it doesn’t seem as if that will happen. No, the time will not suddenly speed up. But your kids will get better. You will stop hating each other for having to do this whole parenting a sick kid thing, and you will call your parents, ask them to babysit for a few hours one night and you will celebrate. It’s how we’ve decided we will get through all illness from this point forward. Remember we are a team, take a break from the moment and focus on the fact that later in the week we get to go somewhere without kids, imbibe and look back with relief that this is over.
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