I feel like the old lady at the start of Titanic…’it’s been 84 years…’
It’s actually only been four days, but it’s surprising how slowly time can go when you’re confined to the house. Our outings so far this week have been to the school bus stop and back, and to the playgroup and back. On Monday the poorly child vomited on the way to playgroup and on the way back, so we’ve avoided any other non-essential trips. Now this isn’t all a sob story, because I did actually get out of the house yesterday for a quick meeting and emergency food supply top up, and a cheeky meal out for Liam’s birthday (big shout out to the brave Aunty we left here to man the ship!). The meal was bracketed by the second poorly child being sick on our bed and all over me before we left, and us returning home to change aforementioned bed. By midnight we had two small people in our bed with us.
There are times when weeks like this have occurred, that it has felt devastating. I have sulked at cancelled plans, been jealous of Liam getting out of the house, and got increasingly annoyed at the universe and it’s injustice.
Over time I have become more accustomed to these episodes. The maths seems to say that the more children you have = the longer viruses live in the house for. I’ve worked out that if the pattern of first child getting ill on Sunday, followed by second child ill on Wednesday continues, then we’ll be at home for roughly a month. I wonder how many hours of Octonauts could be watched in a month? I guess we need to settle in and ride this wave.
I dart off in between clingy children, and do the essential jobs. I work out the budget. I send emails. I make phone calls. I’m itching to paint the landing, but the length of time between Calpol doses or the sad ‘mum I need a cuddle/drink/snack/telly’ calls isn’t very long and I fear that would be a foolish dream to try and achieve. But already my brain is starting to go a bit mushy. When I left the house yesterday, and we drove to the big city, with the big car park, and fancy restaurants, I was genuinely in awe of how many people were out! At night! Did they not know this isn’t normal?! It felt like a surreal experience of walking into a movie, I’m out in this world but don’t feel like I belong. I’m starting to forget how to hold a conversation or whether I brushed my hair.
I would be lying if I didn’t say the monotony or the challenge of juggling lots of small ill people doesn’t get to me at times, but I think there are definitely things that I can do to help my attitude. I’d seen last week that someone on Instagram was running a challenge about looking for joy in parenting. It seemed ironic timing, but actually it was helpful to be going into this week with that mindset, consciously looking for the good moments. Obviously the danger with too much time on social media is the tendency toward jealousy of all the people who I think are having more fun, but as long as I keep the perspective that we only show what we choose to show of our lives and no-one’s lives are glamorous all of the time, then I find some parts of it can be fun and even helpful. A reminder and challenge to look for the good, and to find things to be grateful for is always helpful to me.
I try not to have too many expectations – over how long the illness will go on for, how much sleep I’ll get, or what I might get done today. Roll with it, we’ll all get through somehow. If I’m stuck to the sofa under a feverish child with Paw Patrol on repeat I can probably manage to hold a book in the other hand and keep my brain alive. The key is to making sure I stop to make myself a cup of tea before committing to the cuddle.
There are times I might have to ask for help. This is my weakest area. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years trying to hide my vulnerabilities. I’d much prefer to think I can manage alone, but why? There are people out there, if they don’t know I might need something how can they help? We aren’t made to do it alone, we’re made for community. I put a quick shout out on Facebook this morning to see if someone local would mind picking up some Calpol for us – the thought of dragging three poorly little ones to the shop wasn’t appealing. Some kind mum friends quickly got in touch and offered, and it wasn’t long before someone dropped some off. But I’d also reminded myself that if no-one did, that isn’t personal either. People don’t always see the message. Other people are in the same – or harder – position, and can’t help this time. That’s okay, if I have to do it anyway it might not be easy, but we’ll be home again in half an hour.
And then there’s that quote, ‘the days are long but the years are short’. Perspective can be helpful. I definitely struggled more with times like this earlier on in my parenting journey. Suddenly the little girl who was driving me crazy with her tantrums and sleeplessness and naughtiness is the same height as me, with a hilarious sense of humour, stealing my make up, and likes to hide in her bedroom. And now I’ve got to the days where she isn’t clinging on to my side, I’d quite like her back here, where I can know who she’s talking to, what she’s listening to, and what choices she’s going to make.
So here we are, washing all the bedding, one small person cuddled to sleep in my bed because he had a strop about the cot. There have been fights, refusals to eat, and more biscuits than is probably nutritionally wise. But outside the sun is shining, inside the small people are safe and getting well again, and there will be a day when we get to go out. Only by then I might have forgotten how to speak to grown ups, and there’s a chance I’ll still be wearing pyjamas. If you see me, I’ll be the one in sunglasses getting used to all the fresh air.