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Health & Nutrition

Taking Care Of Yourself When You’re Taking Care Of Others

As cruel and unfair as it seems, parents sometimes get sick. I have a hard time deciding which is more exhausting- when my children are sick, or when I am. (Or when my husband is- now there’s an even worse option!) As mothers, taking care of others is part of our skill set, and for some of us, it may even come naturally. When my daughters are ill, it is not difficult for me to nurture them, fuss over them, cuddle them, and try to nurse them back to health.

On the unfortunate occasion that I am ill, I would very much love the opportunity to devote the necessary time to nurturing myself. But add two young children and a household that needs running into the mix, and things become challenging. For the past three weeks, that has been my life.

I had an ear infection that lasted over two weeks, and before it was healed, I contracted food poisoning and was ill for nearly five days. To say that I felt sorry for myself would be a gross understatement. With this kind of illness, it is essential to rest and care for yourself as much as possible.

But as a parent, how are you supposed to do this? It helps to have a supportive partner, doesn’t it? I am fortunate to have a hands-on husband who is comfortable cooking, cleaning, and taking care of our children. He was very good-natured during the days that he was the full-time parent and I was laid up in bed, but I’m certain as the non-sick parent he experienced his share of resentment.

We’ve all been there- it’s not fun to be the parent who is doing all the work while the other one rests. But I think it is a necessary part of being married, and being co-parents. Irritating as it may be, our best bet of healing is to do as little as possible and rely on our partner to pick up the slack.

That is why it’s important for each parent to participate as fully as possible during normal circumstances– when your spouse has been taken down by the flu or even a back injury, the kids can cope fine knowing that their other parent has everything under control. One of my close friends is a single parent, and she does not have the luxury of passing things off on her husband. Being aware of this makes me even more grateful for having a partner- single parents need to be even more creative about securing help for circumstances such as these.

As guilty as I may have felt for slacking off around the house this past week, I am finally on the mend, and I know the time I spent sleeping and resting was crucial for my recovery. It is very difficult for parents, especially controlling ones, to let things go and focus on ourselves, even for a few days. It is a necessary skill. If we are not able to function as our best selves, what good are we to our families?

I know my turn to do “everything” will come again soon enough. The next time my husband is ill, I will gratefully remember all the hard work he put in so that I could recuperate, and I will happily return the favour.

Stephanie Sprenger is the mother of two young daughters, and lives in Colorado. As a board certified music therapist, she works part time teaching early childhood music classes. She is also a freelance writer and blogs at Mommy, for Real.