A Tale of Two Sick Days: Before and After Kids

Disclaimer: A couple of f-bombs in this one. I’m sorry for that. It was a bloody rough few days.

So I was sick again this week. I miss the good old days of being sick when I was single and child-free. Everything seems better before kids, even illness. This is how my sick days have changed.

Sick Days Before Children

You sleep in until 9am. Get up, go to the toilet, have a drink of water, pop a couple of Panadol and go back to bed. Surround yourself with essentials. Tissues. Snacks. Remote control. Spend the day sleeping or watching TV. Lounge around in a disaffected kind of way feeling rather put upon and harrumphing loudly at your feelings of malaise.

You have nothing to do but rest, relax and recover.


Sick Days After Children

You are up for the day at 4:30am after being up half the night because the kids are sick too. You go to the toilet, have a drink of water, throw down a handful of the strongest shit you have and start the official countdown in your head. Thirteen and a half hours until the kids’ bedtime, when you can finally rest. Or collapse. Whichever comes first.

You drag the queen mattress into the lounge room so you can supervise from a fully-reclined position, huddled under the doona and sweating it out with fever and chills. You know you are going to be up and down most of the day but you do it anyway, because at least it is softer than the floor.

You are forced into the kitchen at regular intervals because your kids keep asking for food, then barely eat any of it. Half an hour later they ask for more food because they are “still hungry”, only to leave most of it untouched. This goes on all day. It is punctuated by multiple requests for drinks of water, milk, cordial, freshly-squeezed orange juice. The kids aren’t old enough to prepare their own food so the only other option is to starve them. That seems a bit harsh, even to your fever-addled brain.

You spend so much time going back and forth to the kitchen for your kids that you don’t have the energy to feed yourself, other than to nibble on some dry toast crust that’s been sitting on the kitchen sink for a few hours. You will regret the lack of food when you spend the rest of the day viciously dry-retching and vomiting up chunks of your stomach lining.

You have to answer the landline phone because you are waiting for an important call from the paediatrician’s office. You’ve been trying to make an appointment with them for a week but they won’t return your messages, so you and your husband are tag-teaming it until you get results.

You finally snatch a few minutes to lie down and the snot pours freely out of your nose and straight onto the mattress because you aren’t able to keep a box of tissues nearby because of the one year old, who thinks it is a toy.

You dehydrate during the course of the day because you can’t keep a bottle of water at arms reach because of the one year old, who thinks it is a toy.

You spend the day watching ABC for Kids because you are trying to stop your kids from using you as a toy. The remote is stashed away only-god-knows-where because of the one year old, who thinks it is a toy. It’s no use to you anyway, but it would be nice to be able to mute the higher frequency shrieks of Jimmy Giggle from time to time.

The phone rings. Your husband wants you to check your email, urgently. It contains a picture of a secondhand playground helicopter he wants to buy for the kids. You curse under your breath, tell him not to pay any more than $50 and crawl back to your spot on the floor. You could care less.

You finally settle down again while the kids are watching Play School when the one year old fills his nappy with something resembling the peat bog man, and it smells even worse than a dead human body that has been decomposing in a sulphuric swamp for thousands of years. He deposits several more of them as the day goes on, because he is sick too and something is clearly not agreeing with him. It must be all that lovingly-prepared food he is not eating.

The phone rings. It is someone from the Department of Health. You sigh in relief, thinking it is finally the paediatrician’s office until the operator launches into a mono-tonal script and asks you to participate in a survey about health services in your area. You are tempted to unload on Random Survey Person about the assholes at the paediatrician’s office not returning your calls but you simply cannot summons the energy and so you crawl back to your spot on the floor.

Your kids are sick and tired and cranky but they still keep pestering you to do craft, go outside, ride skateboards, play cars and read books, despite the fact that you can barely lift your head to sneeze. You wearily nix them all. Mr 3.5 settles on watching the new series of The Octonauts on You Tube, except he can’t use the mouse properly so you have to get up every 10 minutes and 24 seconds to do it for him.

The phone rings. It is your husband. He haggled the helicopter down from $100 to $50 but is not sure how he is going to get it home because it is a massive piece of playground equipment. You could give a fuck. He still hasn’t heard from the doctor.

You lie down at any stage during the day only to have to fend off all kinds of incidental physical abuse. Your hair gets pulled, your head gets sat on, you get elbowed in the face, you get climbed on, stood on, stepped on, you get bitten on the shoulder by the teething toddler, you get smacked on the ankle with a metal pot, you get bludgeoned on the head with “That’s not my car” and every other goddamn book in the series. They are hardcovers. They hurt. It’s hardly worth lying down at all.

The phone rings again. You finally have an appointment for the paediatrician. You can stop answering the fucking phone.

You have to make dinner. You pull out half a kilo of beef mince and a jar of pasta sauce. You hope you still have the strength to open the jar, otherwise the kids are having stir-fry mince for dinner. You ask Mr 3.5 if he wants to eat plain spaghetti and he will nod and say “Yes…. But I don’t want any spaghetti”. You want to throttle him.

Sixty minutes.

Sixty… more… freaking… minutes…

You just want to go to bed. You just want to curl up and die. But you can’t. You have kids. You are the walking dead.

It’s not about recovery. It’s about survival.