Moms everywhere can appreciate that we are just not allowed to get sick. Our families are counting on us. But when it’s just you to handle everything in the running of the household and caring for the family, how do you make it work?

I came down with quite the bug this week–sore throat, achy, headache, exhaustion, and it hit fast. Oh no. I do NOT have time for this, was my first thought. I somehow felt stupid for allowing myself to get sick. As if I could control the wild temperature swings that come with September in South Dakota. Sunny and 95 one day and rainy and 52 the next might have something to do with tissues and cold meds showing up prominently placed in every store.

When my husband was alive, I knew that his level of help wasn’t what a girlfriend would offer. We used to joke that a if you were sick, a girlfriend would say, “Let me do that for you” while a husband would say, “That can wait til you feel better.”  But he was still there to help and I miss that a lot.

If I was sick, he could care for morning routines and help with after-school pick ups. He could handle making dinner and run to the store for that one thing we needed or the comfort item I wanted. Now, all that falls to me. Moms who have traveling or deployed husbands get a glimpse of this, too. Sometimes you just want to take a sick day and really rest. And when it’s just you, that can feel like a pipe dream.

So how do you handle it when sickness barges unbidden into your world? In the immortal words of the fashion guru Tim Gunn, you “make it work.”

Be gentle with yourself. Sickness befalls us all. I didn’t choose to get all yucky-feeling. It just is what it is. So finding ways to take it easy, go to bed early, rest between appointments and so on is a necessity. Your body needs care to fight off illness and your kids need you healthy. So instead of beating yourself up, give yourself a break.

Take your own medicine. You most likely make sure your kids eat healthy (for the most part), take their vitamins, and get in bed on time. Are you doing the same for you? It’s easy to get so focused on caring for their needs that you forget to care for yours. Get a healthy amount of sleep. Eat good things and not just quick junk. Drink lots of water. Take vitamins and minerals and exercise regularly to keep yourself in fighting form. All these pieces of healthy advice are easier to dole out sometimes than to take. Taking care of yourself is a necessity.

Enlist your minions. Those kids of yours are often more capable of helping care for you than you realize. When I started to feel abysmal, I laid out the ingredients for my kiddos to make dinner–one they knew how to make. And then we realized one crucial ingredient was missing. I groaned as I reached for my shoes. Suddenly the clouds parted, angels sang, and my teen daughter said, “I can drive to the store to get it.” It was beautiful. My nine-year-old tucked me back in on the couch and her brother started setting the table.  Asking your kids for help when you are sick teaches them empathy and responsibility. It reinforces that a family is a unit that needs each other, not just people who benefit from all mom does.

Ask for help from your tribe. We are better when we function in community. I casually posted that I didn’t feel well on Facebook. Soon offers of help were pouring in. I didn’t need anything on this particular day, but I have had times since Kraig died when I needed my community. Swallowing your pride and asking for help can be hard. We want to seem like we can do it all. But if you are curled up in a ball in bed, you might need to text a friend to see if your kids can get a ride to school or ask if someone can bring you soup. I have been the recipient of just such offers and they have helped me immeasurably to keep going. And, when my friends need it, I offer the same to them. We are better together.

Sickness happens. It’s just a fact of life. But with a little help and a little grace, we can get through to the other side of cold and flu season relatively sane, even as single parents.

So how do you make it work as a single parent when you are sick? I’d love to hear in the comments.

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