The sick child and the parent forced into isolation
Tackling any day with little or interrupted sleep is difficult for pretty much any parent. Whether you're home with the kids, getting them to school or heading to work. Our ability to face the challenges of an upcoming day is greatly influenced by our quality of sleep the night before.
If your child has a severe temperature, they wake at least every 4 hours (often more). We all know that a temperature is a way for the body to naturally fend off infection, but it's very distressing for a parent to see their child feeling so unwell. A temperature is scary when you don't know what's causing it.
Being woken by a crying child that has thrown up on themselves in their sleep is not at all fun. You quickly realise that you need to console a child, clean them and their bedding even with one eye still closed. For those of you with girls, you also know that cleaning vomit from hair in the middle of the night when neither you or your child feel up to the task is not at all a pleasant experience.
If your child is sick for consecutive days, you have to deal with a break in your usual sleep pattern for days on end, and each day compounds on the last.
Then we have the dreaded 'they're dying' trip to emergency in the middle of the night. Where you'll spend at least 4 hours telling your child to sit nicely because now they seem totally fine - explaining to each doctor and nurse "They were really really sick before..."
Regardless of why your child is sick, sleep deprivation for parents is a real and crippling problem.
If you work, you now have to stay home with your little sicky (unless of course you have a friend or family member willing to brave the germs). If you're a WAHM/D (work at home mum/dad) you know you'll be getting very little work done, or if you manage to it'll be fraught with interruptions and mistakes. A direct result of a lack of sleep a little one that needs your attention. If you're a SAHM/D (stay at home mum/dad), you know this is going to be a day where you'll not only get very little done, you're going to have more mess to deal with as the day progresses. Unless of course by some miracle you can get them to lay on the couch for the entire day (HAHAHAHA!!).
Many people will know that Panadol and Nurofen can really help with making children feel like there's nothing wrong with them. This means that whilst they're treating your lounge suite like a playground, you spend the day telling them 'sit!', 'lay down!', 'you're sick!'. All the while thinking to yourself 'I should have just sent them to school'. Four hours after the given dose of Panadol or Nurofen, they slump back on the couch, their temperature spikes once again and they're all of a sudden not feeling too well. This is when the cuddles are plentiful, and you feel like you made the right decision.
This is the unspoken pain in having sick kids - No one wants you around. You don't want to take your kids to see anyone, or to public play spaces, because you don't want other parents to go through what you're experiencing. Every parent dreads viruses and germs because they know the impact it has on everything, so you find yourself flooded with messages of 'please stay away' which you totally understand.
So, why is this such a big deal?
This has the biggest impact on single parents and fifo mums. You are now facing 3-7 days of no adult contact or interaction. The only people you have to converse with are your kids, and much of the time that consists of your kids talking at you and asking for things. A parent can only stay sane for so long without interactions with another adult. It's possibly one of the most isolating feelings and events for a parent to go through. It also comes at a time when you're already dealing with sleep deprivation, which reduces your ability to cope and increases your need for support and respite.
Parent of sick child, I applaud you
When you think that life can't get any harder and you can't possibly handle any more, your child gets sick. You can handle more than you realise. You're more amazing than you realise. Taking care of a sick child is something you do without hesitation or consideration, but it's still worthy of recognition.
Well done, parents of sick children xx