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My baby is sick. For the very first time. I have been dreading this since he was born. I had tried to prepare myself mentally for it but now that it has actually happened I feel like a fish out of water. The stress is enormous. The feelings you experience watching your little helpless baby suffering are beyond anything imaginable to anyone who is not a parent.
I have been watching those news we have lately of all those diseases that are crippling and paralyzing babies across the country and wondering how to make sure it does not happen to us. The stress is enormous. I thought I had prepared myself for it, but I can honestly say that nothing I envisioned was even remotely close to how stressed I feel now that he is sick.
Millennials are the most stressed out generation according to studies
In a way, it all makes sense. Our generation has so much more exposure to the real world and information that we are much more prone to worrying about it happening to us. No other generation has had such an easy access to knowledge and information as we do. Just get online and you can become a home-made expert at just about anything.
This really plays a trick on you when it comes to parenting and dealing with a sick child. Googling symptoms usually results in us pulling out our hair from stress and all the possible outcomes that freak us out even more.
Then there is the constant germ battle. We get industrial sized hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes and anything else we can get our hands on. This only seems to play into our fears and fester inside of us until we feel like we see germs everywhere that we cannot protect our children from.
After feeling like a complete failure as a parent, and driving my baby to the ER in the middle of the night only to learn that he has a common cold I realized I had to do something. There has got to be a better way to cope with him being sick. Hearing his wet coughing and listening to his cries from being all stuffy and sore has brought me to the brink of my sanity.
After reading a few articles and doing some research on the topic, I decided to share my findings with you, guys. There is a better way to deal with stress that we feel as parents when our children are sick.
Worrying solves nothing
Some people get so scared of the continuous cycle of being sick that they literally give themselves panic attacks. I have to admit, I struggled with that one. First, my baby was sick. Then I got sick. Same symptoms, same everything. Then my husband got sick with the same stuff. The continuous rolling ball just made me feel like it was going to last forever and we were just going to pass this sickness from one to the other forever.
I can’t describe the feeling. It is daunting and terrifying. Trying to breastfeed your baby when you are barely alive yourself is like asking a ghost to materialize in flesh and blood. You feel like you just might not be strong enough for any of it. The good news is that this will pass.
Going online makes us feel like we are doing something good and productive, but in reality we are only fueling our anxiety. One of the best ways to stop it is to just consult your doctor and not go online to sources that might not really be true or accurate.
Start planning the logistics now for later when you need it
The bottom line is that parenting is much more challenging now than it used to be. Some of the simple reasons are: both parents work now in most cases; costs are much higher; and most young parents do not live near by their extended family who would pitch in and help when needed.
We now carry most of the weight on our own. I remember talking with one of my friends a while back about what it was like for her mother and grandmother. She comes from Iran. She said there was a woman in the family for every chore back in the day. Meaning, the mom was only doing one job – breastfeeding and being a mom. That is it. There were other female family members who cleaned, cooked, washed, and took care of other chores.
In our day and age, we have to do everything ourselves. We do not have a house full of female relatives who will pitch in whenever we need them to. In lucky cases, grandparents can be there to help. In our case, we are just the two of us: my husband and I. No one else is in the area who could help.
Talk with your boss now about your options for when you need to take time off to care for your sick child
One of the best things you can do is to actually plan for what could happen. This means that if you are working, ask your boss today about the options you have for when your baby gets sick. You don’t want to leave it all up in the air and then be suffocating from anxiety when your baby is actually sick and you have no idea how to approach your boss about it.
Put a list of friends or family members who could come to visit and help you out when your baby is sick. If you are like us and have no one in the area, then try to plan for any family members who might be able to take a flight to you at a moment’s notice. This really comes in handy when you have family emergencies. Having to work while you have no one to take care of your child – especially if you are a single mom – constitutes as one of those emergencies.
Set some money aside for a baby sitter for when your child is sick. Many of us cannot afford child day care and babysitters because they just keep raising their prices. It is easier to buy a pair of designer boots than to find a good child care facility and/or babysitter. If you set aside some money now for that and keep building that emergency fund every month then when your baby is sick you will have some money set aside to afford it.
Start building and growing an emergency fund savings account now for when you need it. This will help you to pay for the expenses of having a sick child.
The problem of taking unpaid leave from work or loosing work all together because your baby was sick is a real problem. We can go into a full panic attack just thinking about it. I know, I have had panic attacks. If you start planning now for those times this will not be so difficult both emotionally and financially.
Try to realize that this too, shall pass. If you are one of the anxious people, then your chances of having a full blown panic attack are much higher. The problem with anxiety is that it makes us feel like we are doing something productive. In reality, we are just fueling our imaginations and making life harder on ourselves.
Try to realize that your baby won’t be sick forever. The chances of your baby having something extreme that will paralyze him or her are rare. In most cases, the pediatricians really do know what they are talking about. This means that you have a little less to worry about. Plus, stressing yourself out will not help your baby. It will only make things harder for you and for your baby.
Take care of business and let go of things that are out of your control
Try to take it one step at a time. When it is really hard, just breathe in and out. Take it one second at a time. Then when you can take it one minute at a time. In no time, you will be taking it a few minutes to a few hours at a time. Trust me, before you know it, you will grow your strength. Parenting is also learned. It is not intuitive like so many people want us to believe. Love is intuitive, but not parenting.
In addition, knowing that you have that extra financial reserve set aside will help you with the logistics. It will make you feel like you have everything under control again. Just remember one thing: none of us really has that much control over external environments. We can only control what is directly coming from us. And for the most part, that is enough to keep us living healthy and happy lives.
Do not forget to take care of yourself
It is really easy to forget to take care of yourself when your baby is sick. It can downright feel impossible. Sometimes you can even become depressed and feel absolutely hopeless which was the case with me. Watching my little son suffer made me feel like a horrible parent. I kept holding myself responsible for the fact that he was sick – as if I could have prevented or stopped it from happening.
Realize that you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. That includes your baby. If you are falling apart and are having panic attacks left and right, your baby won’t benefit from that. You will be stuck in the infinite loop of your own fears and anxieties that you will be little to no help to your child.
You need to realize that prioritizing self care into the routine is also a way of caring for your baby. It is true. When you feel that you are on top of the world then your baby will feel it, too, and respond by being happy. However, if you are feeling depressed and are constantly sad, then the child will feel your attitude, pick it up and, God forbid, think it is his fault.
Don't confuse selflessness with self neglect. They are two different things that women confuse as one and the same.
You want your kids to pick up the positive vibes from you. This will teach them more about the good things in life than any words ever could. Start taking care of yourself, and you will notice that caring for your sick baby is not so difficult after all. You just needed help in setting your priorities straight. Sometimes when we do not care for ourselves, we women start feeling angry from the neglect.
We might not be able to put it into words, but many times it is neglect that we are suffering from that is making us miserable. Worst of all, it is the neglect that we self inflict. Our spouses and children are not stopping us from caring for ourselves. We just get this nonsensical notion that we are being selfless. Well, a little selfishness is a good thing.
That is a topic for a different post at a later time. For now, just try to make sure you care for yourself, your sick baby, and know that things will be alright.