Lessons Learned from “Rainy Days” with the Flu

Almost two weeks ago, my daughter came home from school and went straight to bed.  I knew what was coming — illness, missed school, cranky kids — and sure enough, I was right.  By friday morning, my older son was extremely ill too, so we piled everyone into the car and took them to the doctor.  Sure enough, they both tested positive for influenza.

Forty-eight hours later, I got up and went to church, and when I got back home, I discovered that my youngest had flu symptoms.  At this point, I knew I was in trouble!

By Sunday night, I was starting to feel run down.  I had some body aches and a sore throat, but I figured that I’d be OK.  I’d just start taking Zicam, I’d have one rough day with the flu, and I’d be back in the saddle as a stay-at-home mom before the rest of the family would have time to notice.  When I woke up Monday morning though, I discovered that I couldn’t have been more wrong had I tried.

Suffice it to say, I’m still dealing with lingering flu symptoms on March 28 (11 days after my first symptoms), and I’m nowhere close to resolving the chaos that took over while I spent five days in bed.

Now, you folks might wonder why I’m sharing this story.  After all, every Mom gets sick sometime.  Every Mom gets sick when her children are sick.  Every Mom is knocked out of commission at least once (but usually more than once), and her home degrades into chaos.  Here’s the upshot of the whole story though.  We weren’t really “prepared” for me to be as sick as I was, so we found some major chinks in our armor.

Firstly, I think my husband got a decent taste of what it’s like to run his work week without help from me.  Fortunately, the kids were on spring break, so he didn’t have to get them up and around before work, but he still had to make some changes to his routine.  He had to get his own breakfast, he had to get his own work clothes, he had to tend to the chickens and cats, and he had to provide his own lunch.  While this doesn’t seem like a huge deal to us women who’re used to doing everything, I definitely bore in mind that men work a lot differently.  They’re not as good at keeping 12 pots cooking (without burning) as we women are; they’re more “go out and bring home the deer and THEN work on the fence” process thinkers.  Now, I’m not saying that men can’t multitask; I’m just saying that man’s mind works very differently from a woman’s mind, and it can be tough when a man has a lot of expectations that are added unexpectedly to his plate — especially when he’s used to just going to work outside the home while the rest of the “machine” essentially runs itself.

Something else I discovered — I don’t necessarily want people to take care of me while I’m sick, but it sure would have been nice if someone could have stepped in and cared for my family.  I was sicker than I can ever recall being in my life, but I was still worried about what was going on in the house.  My oldest child was a big help, but the boys mostly contributed to mess-making, and I’m still dealing with the aftermath.  It amazes me that things degraded into such chaos while I stayed in my bed.

On a related note, I’d ask that you all think about food.  I’m the one in our house who does the meal prep, and although we have a good deal of food in the house, people were hungry because they didn’t plan for meals by thawing meat or investigating the pantry stash.  In fact, I ended up having to toss chicken that didn’t get fixed that week.  There was food, but there wasn’t enough food that would be quickly and easily prepared by children or my husband.  I barely ate those first five days, so food wasn’t motivating me, but darn it if those children of mine didn’t still expect to be fed.  It’s not like I was going to count on them to thaw some steaks, grill them, and steak some veggies to go alongside.  Needless to say, we need some more “quick and easy” prep food even though that breaks one of the main rules of food storage (to eat what you store and store what you eat.) Canned soup and pasta, mac & cheese, and other kid-friendly foods (usually viewed as treats in my house) need to have a bigger place in our long-term food storage.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I consider the various scenarios for which we prepare, until last week, I hadn’t considered the scenario where Mom gets sick and stays in bed for a week.  That scenario isn’t glamorous; in fact it’s pretty mundane.  The fact of the matter is though, we all could have had an easier week if we’d planned for something like that.  I’m not invincible, and I can’t always give 100% to my family (despite the fact that it’s always required.) If we’d considered a situation like that beforehand, we likely would have come through a little less scathed than we did.  In some ways though, I’m glad it happened the way it did because it shows us where we could do better next time because to be honest, it’s a lot easier to prep for the eventuality of the main bread-winner getting sick and missing work.  Until you have a situation like we did last week, it’s easy to forget how much the family depends on me to hold things together.  That’s not me being arrogant; it’s just the way it is.

So I’d like to ask you folks to think about what you’d do if you found yourself in a situation similar to ours.  Just because it hasn’t happened before doesn’t mean that it can’t happen, and there’s a lot less stress on everyone concerned if you’ve given the possibility some forethought.

Stay healthy, and keep following that path to claim your own personal liberty!

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4 Responses to Lessons Learned from “Rainy Days” with the Flu

  1. I had that horrible flu the last 2 weeks of December so I know just what you’re talking about. My children are too young to help out much (they’re 6 and 3) and my husband has only basic cooking skills. While we try to eat a whole foods diet I do keep mac&cheese in a cup, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, and canned fruit to help out in situations like this. Hope you get feeling better soon!

    • My boys are 6 and 4, but my 9-yo daughter was really helpful. It was still tough though. And because 4 out of the 5 of us got the flu, we did NOT want anyone coming to our house. We try really hard to think about things like self-imposed isolation when we have something nasty. Praise God my husband didn’t get it; we would have been sunk!

      I think we usually count on at least one adult who’s functional enough to keep things going, and I think that was all that saved us this last time around. If my husband had been sick too, I likely would have had to call in favors through church or something. In fact, I guess I should think about that for future planning.

  2. Mil says:

    Never thought about it like that. Usually the crisis episode is more of an upheaval, like if it’s a personal crisis it’s job loss or a major sickness. Nothing like a flu to take you down. So what kind of system are you planning to put into place for next time?


    • Well, I’m already planning to stock our long-term storage pantry with some items that my kids can fix without help. The food/kitchen issue was huge when I was sick, and up to that point, I hadn’t really thought about what the family would do if I wasn’t the one preparing meals. In some ways, it would have been easier had my big kids been in school because they’d only have to worry about supper at home, but it was helpful to have my 9-year-old helping to look after her brothers and the animals.

      If it were my husband and all my kids who had gotten sick, it wouldn’t have been as big a deal. I could have called any of my local friends to help with driving (for meds or a trip to the doctor), but when the lady who’s in charge of the daily running of the house ends up out of commission, I think it’s a lot harder.

      Like I said though, I definitely learned that I have to rethink some of our food. Assuming that I’m always able to do food prep was a critical mistake (that I hadn’t realized I’d made.) I certainly hope to slowly fix that situation in the coming weeks.

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