Arthritis or not, every parent will have a day when they are home alone with their kiddo(s) and sick. It’s inevitable. Parents don’t get sick days. Your kids will demand to be fed, cared for, and played with no matter how awful you feel.
#1 Be kind to yourself. Remember this as you are making your way through the day. No one is going to accuse you of being a bad parent (if they do, you might need to reevaluate your relationship with them). This is the day to make things easy for yourself and conserve energy. To be a good parent, you have to take care of your self. When in doubt, remember rule #1.
#2 Make it a pajama party. There is no reason for anyone to put on real clothes today. Period. Save your energy. Plus, it makes it something special for your kids! This also means we’re not leaving the house. Staying in. Not going outside. Need I say more?
#3 Make your living room party central. Get yourself blankets and pillows, tissue boxes, whatever you need to be comfortable. Make a bed on the sofa. Have the kids gather their own blankets and pillows, and a few toys. Especially when your kids are very young, having everyone in one place to keep your eyes on them is important. When my kiddo was a baby, I’d section off a small area in the living room that was already baby-proofed and lay on the floor at the doorway- the only way out was to crawl over me, so even if I dozed off, she would wake me up when she inevitably crawled on top of me.
#4 Screen time is okay. I know, I know. Kids spend too much time watching TV and in iPads. Remember rule #1? A day or two of watching movies and children’s programming isn’t going to ruin your kids. But it will make it easy for you to conserve the energy you need so you can feel better. Screen time is limited in my house on days when I feel better, so it’s a special treat when it does get turned on. And I most certainly do not feel guilty when it has to happen.
#5 Make food easy. E-A-S-Y. Sandwiches and cold cereal are okay. Keep frozen meals for just this occasion. Delivery is most certainly an option.
#6 Keep some special toys just for these days. I have a bin of toys that are completely off limits on any day except for sick days. None of them are especially loud or flashy (just in case I have a migraine). But, they are really special toys that my daughter loves. When they come out, it’s a treat for her. And because they aren’t the usual toys she plays with every day, they hold her attention. You can cultivate this collection by confiscating presents at birthdays and Christmas (you know, when your kid gets way too many toys and won’t notice if one is missing anyway) or watching sales.
#7 Call in reinforcements if necessary. There is the occasional day where I am sick enough that I HAVE to call someone else in for help. Maybe I need to go to the doctor for an urgent appointment- this is when I call a babysitter or call in favors from friends and family. The last thing I can do when I’m feeling awful is keep her entertained in a doctor’s waiting room. Or, if I really shouldn’t be home alone, even without kids, that’s a day that having a family member to keep an eye on everyone is important. Just know what your limits are, and remember rule #1.
When you aren’t feeling well is the time to remember what we might ignore during the pre-flight airline safety discussion: You have to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others.
You have to take care of yourself to be a good parent. Your kids will thank you for it.