My baby is sick again. In fact, I’m not sure I can remember the last time he didn’t have a runny nose for one reason or another. My baby is always sick. In our defense, he is a daycare baby and I am a public school teacher. Germs run amuck in our home.
A few weeks ago I met a mom at a local park for a playdate. As we exchanged pleasantries my son started coughing and rubbing his nose. I saw the quick look of (fear? disgust? confusion? annoyance?) flash through her eyes as she quickly shifted her daughter a few feet further away from my son. Needless to say, our playdate did not last long.
I can’t blame her. Even my skin crawls when someone coughs or blows their nose in my house.
We’ve tried just about everything to keep ourselves healthy this sick season. We all take our vitamins & probiotics, stick to a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and run a humidifier around the clock. We have an essential oil diffuser and enough hand sanitizer to declare germ-genocide. We clean frequently and make sure all of the baby toys are cleaned too.
Yet we seem to be regulars in the pediatrician’s office with runny noses, ear infections, and the dreaded pink eye. Although I know our pediatrician is trying to add comic relief, to hear her say “You guys again?” is incredibly irritating. Perhaps I should request VIP parking.
It is exhausting and so frustrating to constantly be dealing with another cold or virus. My husband and I both work full-time and the anxiety that comes along with each sniffle can be taxing. It means negotiating who can take time off work at what are usually the most inconvenient of times. Those conversations that pass between us at 5 a.m. are guilt-ridden. Of course we both want to stay home but there is always a cost of missing important meetings, losing groundwork on a project, or putting in extra hours to make up for the lost time. Guilt, guilt, guilt!
One of his worst illnesses to date was when he was 4 months old and was admitted to the hospital with a nasty case of RSV and pneumonia. I cried for hours sitting at his bedside questioning everything my husband and I could have done to prevent his illness and what we could do to ensure that he didn’t get sick again. Should we pull him out of daycare and find in-home care? Should I stay at home with him until he’s older? How much would it cost to hire a regular cleaning crew to disinfect our home every week? And of course, the heart-wrenching question: Am I a bad mom?
It’s easy to beat myself up. My number one job is to keep him safe. Every mom wants to protect their child from bullies, even when those bullies are tiny microorganisms.
In reality, kids get sick.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that my son is probably going to be just fine, despite all of these runny noses and ear infections. He’s also going to get sick again despite my best efforts. To help ease the frustration I carry when he does get sick I have to constantly remind myself of three things:
First and foremost, his illness is not a reflection on our parenting. It does not mean we are bad parents. It does not mean he is growing up in an unclean home. And it does not mean he is lacking in love. I cannot judge my abilities as a mom based on the number of times we visit the pediatrician or the number of boogie wipes we go through in a week.
Secondly, if anyone is judging us based on his runny nose and cough, then that is their concern and should not be mine. PERIOD.
And lastly, it’s okay to take some time off. My son needs me. Sometimes cuddles and relaxing with mom is the best kind of medicine. One day my son will have the immune system of an indestructible superhero. Until then, momma needs to be the superhero.
If you’re at your wits end this sick season, hang in there!