mom sick in bed

And you thought dealing with your husband’s man-flu was bad. ๐Ÿ˜‚

It really is the worst nightmare for any family. Both parents are so sick and there is no one to take care of anyone. Worse still if you’re in a foreign country with absolutely no family, like me.

Mommas, we all try to power through whenever we can, because we’re survivors, we’re strong, we’re incredible. But sometimes you’re just so sick you can’t do shit. Then what?

This recently happened to me so I definitely had my lesson firmly served to me. What the flying flamingos do you do when both parents are sick but you need to keep the family from falling apart? Well, my friends, that is exactly why we need a Backup Support Plan.

When Both Parents Are Sick, and I Mean SICK

I knew it the instant it hit me. Sore throat, aches all over, weakness, a general sense of illness coming over me. I knew I was going to be sick; it was a matter of time.

Couple of days later the sickness overtook me. I couldn’t do anything but lie in the couch and cough like a madwoman.

I wouldn’t mind it so much if it was just coughing.

But coughing till you puke up your dinner, coughing that you can’t keep anything down, coughing till you barf on your favourite blankie while watching tv, and going to pee but ending up cough-puking all over yourself on the toilet… Yeah. Not fun.

My husband was the hero of the house – cooking dinner for us, doing laundry, loading and unloading the dishwasher, sweeping up dog fur, walking the mutt, keeping our four-year-old entertained…

It’s a good thing my husband is a good cook and not confused over how to follow a recipe to make a salad like this guy! LOL

…Until my husband fell sick too.

My fault, I suppose. #guiltygermspreader

Then I started to worry. Then my world started to break down. Then I snapped. I found myself starting to unravel from the stress of having no one to rely on.

That’s when I realised that I didn’t have a Backup Support Plan in place. My only backup was my husband. I didn’t have a Plan B in case he was incapacitated too.

So I started scrambling to get a Backup Support Plan in place. I can tell you, scrambling isn’t fun when you’re sick. Trying to call people on the phone and having to excuse yourself while they wait for you to finish your three-minute coughing fit solo isn’t a nice feeling at all.

But now I know, so I can plan for the next time in case this happens and we’re both out of action. Hopefully, you’re not currently sick and this will help you plan for such a situation, though I hope this on no one, not even my enemy!

Childcare

It’s a lot easier when it’s your child that’s sick. It’s a whole other kettle of fish when you’re the one that’s down. I’ve read a lot of articles with suggestions on how to parent horizontally, but they usually involve you being awake. Thing is, when I’m SO sick, I’m usually unconscious. Either my body simply cannot stay awake, or the medication has made me drowsy and I just couldn’t hold up any longer.

Either way, the only way for you to recover is for your body to take its time to heal, and healing can only be done through deep sleep… so there’s no two ways around it. You NEED to sleep.

What to do now:

  • Let that iPad become your child/children’s best friend. Really, it’s okay. Them watching way too much YouTube for the duration of you resting and recovering will not be the one thing that turns them into drugged-up alcoholic serial killers.
  • Ask friends or family if they’re okay with having your kids over for a day, or coming to your place to watch them for a bit while you just sleep and worry about absolutely nothing.
  • Join Facebook groups like Babysitters in (Your Area), or download an app where local service providers hang out so you can find a babysitter near you. I downloaded ListMinut which has been super helpful!
  • What I did because we have this avenue and because we happened to be sick during the summer holidays – Booked two days of ‘speelpleinwerking‘ which is basically a day camp, where kids from around the neighbourhood can go to (max 50 kids a day ala Covid-19 rules), where they organise art and craft, and games, for the kids in the morning, and let them play freely at the playground in the afternoon. We as parents just have to pack them a lunch, fruits and cookies, and pay a daily rate. I don’t know if you have such avenues open to you as well, but if you do, grasp these opportunities! Alas, this option also goes away for us in the non-holiday season.

What you can do to prepare ahead:

  • Work something out with other friends with kids, or with other parents from your kids’ classes, such that if anyone is ever in such a situation where both parents are sick, you can just ask for help in a dedicated WhatsApp group, and other parents can volunteer to take care of your kids for a while. It also gives you the opportunity to do the same for another parent.
  • Get in touch with your insurance company to see if they provide emergency childcare services. They sometimes can have someone come by for a couple of hours just to make sure everything is okay so you can take a little nap.
  • Look for child-friendly organisations that offer ad-hoc childcare services in your vicinity. Some of these accept walk-ins on a daily rate.
  • Contact your neighbourhood social services and get them to recommend some part-time or freelance carers you can add to your list on your Backup Support Plan.
This will not be her downfall, I promise. ๐Ÿ˜… It’s okay to let the iPad become your backup support.

Doctor

I’ve never understood this. How do you go to the doctor when you’re so sick? The very irony of this gets to me every single time. Like, if you could drag yourself to the doctor then you’re obviously not *THAT* sick.

What to do now:

  • Call your doctor and ask them to do a home visit (If they don’t, try the next nearest clinic)
  • Ask people (neighbours, friends, random people online) to help pick up your prescription, pick up your medication at the pharmacy, and bring it back to you at home. I’ve done this before. I didn’t even know them! Some people are really nice and willing to help out. If you’re too sick to even set foot outside your front door, you just have to have a little faith in humanity and rely on the goodness of people.

What you can do to prepare ahead:

  • Find out which clinics near you do home visits and have a list of their numbers
  • Find out from your health insurance how much you have to pay or how much you’ll get back from them (Knowing this helps give you peace of mind to actually make the call instead of worrying how much a home visit is going to cost)
  • If it’s a “usual” kind of illness, look for online doctor services that you trust and can make use of in future. If you’re in the EU, I’ve heard that Mobidoctor or Telemedi are worth a shot. (Note: I have no personal experience with them.)
  • Have a favourite online pharmacy on hand where you know you can order your medication from without a prescription that is reliable, affordable, and ships fast.
A doctor might be able to help you over the phone or through a video call.

Food

I didn’t truly recognise the importance of this until I hadn’t had any food the entire day, and the only food we had left was some leftovers from a couple of days ago, fries and maybe two onion rings, a chicken wing.

I wanted to toss them in the airfryer to heat it up… but because I was just too weak, I couldn’t even hold the tray up, and everything fell to the ground and into the dark crevices of the kitchen. I picked it all up, heated it up anyways, and ate it all up, dog hair and dirt and all. ๐Ÿ˜ญ (Duh, too sick to clean the kitchen!)

What choice do you have when you’re SO sick you can’t stand in front of a stove to cook and you’ve got NO frozen pizza at home?

What to do now:

  • If you’re lucky enough to have Takeaway, Uber Eats, Grab Food, Deliveroo, any of those, do it! Yes it will be expensive as f***, but there is way less chance it comes with dog hair on it.
  • Order your groceries online. Thankfully we have Carrefour home deliveries (+9,50 euro for delivery). Strategically put TV-dinners and pre-packed meals into your cart. We might be too sick to toil at the stove for an hour, but I’m pretty sure we can handle 5 minutes in a microwave.
  • Look for people who might be happy to come help cook you a meal. You can make a post in Facebook groups in your area, or check out a local services app. One of the very nice ladies in the Expats in Gent FB group I posted in offered to make a big pot of soup and deliver it to our home! See, nice people do exist! We’re even going to get coffee when I’m feeling better!

What you can do to prepare:

  • We have ‘huishoudhulp‘ (household help) in Belgium, which is a service many companies offer, where someone comes to your home to help with cleaning, laundry, ironing, grocery shopping or cooking a meal for you. Thing is, getting one of these services needs to be done way ahead of time. You’re never going to know when you’ll fall sick, so planning for one of these is practically impossible. However, if you’ve ever hired such help before, having the contact information of these helpers can be useful, especially if they’re willing to help in emergency situations.
Never feel guilty for ordering in! You’re not being lazy, you’re being sick. There’s a difference! By the way, this is a backdrop of my city, Ghent, Belgium! And with my favourite delivery service (It’s my favourite because it’s the only one that delivers to where we live, we have like 5 food options lol) Photo by Edouard Gilles

Cleaning

Man, I wish I had a real solution to this one, I really do. But short of having someone come by and do it for you, there isn’t really any “shortcut” to cleaning.

I’ve had people advise, “Just don’t clean until you get well,” which trust me, I totally would follow. But we have a dog, the kitchen is a complete mess, and somebody’s toys are laying around EVERYWHERE.

I need some cleaning help, even if it’s not for immediate physical reasons, but for mental reasons! Because seeing the house in a terrible condition just adds to my own stress, knowing I’m too sick to do anything to help.

Sometimes a clean home will even help you recover faster. It just does.

What to do now:

  • Look for cleaning services that you can hire ASAP. The minute you feel like you’re coming down with something, try to engage someone already, because you’ll usually have to wait a couple of days before finding someone available. You’ll thank yourself when you’re even sicker and unable to lift a finger.
  • Buy a robot vacuum. No, really, just get one and let it clean the floor for you. It’s one less thing to stress about. Many thumbs up for that!
  • Find a service that does home pick-up and drop-off for laundry. That will take care of another house chore!

What you can do to prepare:

  • Find a good cleaning service that will come to your house and do the job for you. And try to find one that accepts last-minute bookings and emergency situations.
  • Get together a list of service providers that are happy to help in one chore or another – these people might have offered in Facebook groups, or you might have spoken to them in the local services app. Having this list on hand will be a huge lifesaver whenever you really need help.
Just knowing somebody’s got your back when it comes to your home’s dust bunnies can give you peace of mind.

I was not prepared in the least for such a situation where both of us might not be able to function. I wasn’t prepared for the shakes, the trembling, the overall weakness that accompanied the usual nose-blowing, or chest-rattling cough.

But now (when you’re not sick) is really the best time to create your Backup Support Plan! It takes a village to raise a child, isn’t that what they say? And if you don’t have family around like we don’t, then it makes even more sense to start a backup support system so you can raise your kids without worry – even when you’re both sick!

What other tips and suggestions do you have on what to do when both parents are sick? Do you have your own Backup Support Plan? Please do share in the comments below, I’d love to add your pointers to this article! ๐Ÿ™‚

Non-germy flying kiss,

Michelle