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Mamas,

'Tis the season. The season for lost mittens and hats, frigid walks to the bus stop, and—oh, yes—mornings where you look at your partner and ask, “Who can stay home with her today?"

According to the CDC, adults will have two to three colds per year, and children will have even more. If those colds are bad enough to cause you to keep yourself or your child home one day each time, we're talking about up to eight sick days for a typical family of four – and we haven't even talked about stomach bugs and the dreaded flu.

Of course there are suggestions for avoiding colds and flu and also some good suggestions on when you keep your children home so they can adequately recover and you don't share it generously with all of the other families in town (please, please don't push the limits here). But even with all of these preventions, sick days are almost unavoidable.

Between handing out tissues, cleaning the toilet, and catching up on the emails you missed while you were gone, you might find yourself asking, “How the #$%@ do parents do this??"

I don't have all the answers. In fact, after seven years, I still ask the air (or my husband) that same question about a hundred times a year. But I have found a few strategies that help us cope.

Part 1: Prepare for it

Don't live in denial. You know that cold and flu season is coming. As with most things in life, an ounce of preparation can go a long way when it comes to sick days.

Be prepared when it comes to taking sick days at work

Know your leave policies and review them before the season starts.

How many days do you get? To whom do you need to report to let them know you're taking a day? Does your workplace have a “pool" for those dealing with extended illnesses who need to borrow sick days from others? (Yes, this actually exists in some places). Can you take a half-sick day and just report a few hours?

Consider talking to your boss or colleagues as cold and flu season begins to make sure you are on the same page. How will you fill in for each other?

If you have a parenting partner, discuss how you'll handle sick days

If you are both working parents, how do your sick time policies compare? Who has more flexibility? If equal, how will you make the decision each time? If you're a stay-at-home parent, what will happen when you get sick?

As soon as it looks like a child is getting sick, prepare your contingency plan. If you don't end up needing it, you'll be ready for next time. My husband and I have a routine of checking in on each other's schedules for the upcoming week and putting major commitments on shared calendars so we have an idea of what each of us is up to. If an illness comes up, a quick glance at the calendar can determine who will be staying home.

Prepare your house

Are you stocked up on tissues? Do you have tea and local honey in the house? Do you have a bucket to place by your kid's bed and an extra bed pad that can be thrown on at night? Do you have an emergency stash of chicken soup? A humidifier? Children's Tylenol?

Add anything that comforts your family during an illness to the list. If you don't have these items in the house, go shopping today. There's nothing worse than running to the pharmacy just before their 10 p.m. closing time in single-digit weather or snowfall because your child isn't sleeping well.

When you use these things, put them on the list to be replaced before the next round.

Part 2: Embrace it

You are home sick and bed-ridden, or your child was vomiting all night. If it's bad enough to stay home, then for goodness sake, stop pretending you can do everything. Let me repeat—you are taking a sick day. In the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Wherever you go, there you are." And right now, you are home sick or with a sick kid.

You are not taking a “work on that project for my boss between naps" day or a “get all my work done even though my child has diarrhea" day or even a “now I can do the laundry and clean the kitchen" day. You need rest and recover, or help your child rest and recover. Engage your away status, call in the reinforcements as needed (because you'd do it for them), and hit the pause button.

Part 3: Get a little strategic

One strategy for embracing a sick day with your children is to involve them in the plan. Go over a list of the things you want to “accomplish" that day (i.e. we need to sleep, read, watch a movie, go for a short walk, take a shower, and take our medicine). Then discuss the order in which they want to do things.

This helps avoid the “I want to watch TV all day" syndrome that convinces kids that every day should be a sick day – unless that's truly all they can manage.

You can also create a “menu" for the day (like the B.R.A.T. diet for diarrhea or the Chicken Soup-and-lots-of-fluids diet for a cold) so that they know that they have a choice of foods that will help them get better even though they might be restricted from some things.

Your child might be so sick that a plan is not necessary and they will spend all day in bed, but I find that phenomenon rare. A list they can check off will remind you all what today is all about and increase your chances that it won't repeat for too long.

Part 4: Remember, you can do it!

Here's the thing, mama—you're pretty awesome at juggling a million things at once. You work (at home or in an office), take care of your kids, balance your budget, clean your car, put food on the table, and somehow manage to clean yourself, too.

Your challenge with a sick day is to stop doing almost all of those things and just focus on getting you and your family back on track. That will be easier if you prepare for the inevitable sick days and even easier still if you embrace them when they come.

So, you've got this.

Take those sick days in stride knowing you can handle anything that comes your way. Who knows, maybe you even need those sick days to give yourself an excuse to slow down.

Sincerely,

One Who Has Been There

(And is in fact there again today, but I promise, I'm just editing during nap time!)

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Mealtime can be one of the most stressful times for parents and kids, especially when there's a picky eater in the house. Your little might get anxious about their food touching, requesting a completely new meal. Or, they might avoid the foods altogether, leaving you concerned about their nutrition. While helping your child develop healthy eating habits is the ultimate goal, you can also incorporate products that will make mealtime more fun for everyone involved.

Here are our favorite products that help picky eaters be, well, less picky (or at least enjoy mealtime enough to not worry about certain foods!).

1. Food cubby

These silicone separates suction to the plate to keep separate foods from touching, or to keep runny foods from spreading. Say goodbye to tantrums from peas and corn touching, mama.

Food Cubby Plate Divider, Amazon, $14.99

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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[Trigger warning: This essay describes a woman's emotional journey with postpartum anxiety.]

I see you, mama.

I know you don't want to feel this way. I know you're terrified of everything in the world right now. I know you want to wrap your baby in a bubble and keep them safely in your arms forever. I know you can't "sleep when the baby sleeps" because you are too nervous to drift off in case they stop breathing. I know you don't want to let anyone near your little one because they could be carrying an illness. I know you've cried in the bathroom and begged for the voice to stop. And I know you love your child more than anything in the world.

I know because I was you.

I was in the 10% of estimated women who are affected by Postpartum Anxiety (PPA) but had no idea what I was experiencing. I worried about EVERY little thing but just brushed the fears aside, thinking this was just normal of first-time motherhood. But it was something more.

I lived in constant fear that my son was either going to get hurt or he was going to die.

It started the first week of being home from the hospital. I was so scared of SIDS that I actually googled "How much sleep do I need in order to survive?" I would only get two to three hours, not because my child was keeping me up, but because I was scared he would stop breathing and I wouldn't be awake to save him.

I would religiously wash all of his clothes with baby detergent and if I thought I mistakenly used regular detergent, I would rewash everything. I was afraid he would get a skin rash if I didn't. If my husband had the slightest hint of a cold, I would banish him to the guest room and handle all of the baby duties on my own until he was fully recovered.

I would wash and rewash bottles because I was afraid they weren't clean enough and convinced myself if I didn't then he would catch a rare illness. When we supplemented with formula, I wasted multiple cans because I was so scared I didn't measure it correctly, so I would dump it and start over.

I didn't want to be this way. I didn't want to let PPA be the thief of my joy, but anxiety doesn't care who you are or what you've been through. I knew my previous miscarriages attributed to my PTSD, which manifested into anxiety.

I knew I needed help.

I cried so many nights as my husband and baby boy slept because I just wanted to feel "normal." I didn't want to overanalyze every bump or rash or cough, I wanted to enjoy being a first time mom, but I felt like I was drowning.

On top of the anxiety was guilt. I had wanted this baby so badly—I wanted to feel joy, happiness, and gratitude, and yet I felt overwhelmed, sad, and miserable. What was happening?

I would tell myself not to worry, I'd try to convince myself a regular cold was just a cold. But then a voice would come into my head and make me second guess myself. What if it was a serious infection and became fatal if I ignored it? So I rushed my baby boy to the doctor every time I thought something was wrong.

I went to the pediatrician over 20 times in my son's first year of life. One time I went because I thought he had a cancerous mole, which turned out to be a piece of lint stuck to his hair. I felt like I was losing control of myself.

Eventually, when my son was 3 months old, I went to a therapist for help. I needed someone to hear me and give me the tools to overcome this. I am not without daily anxiety, I still have many fears and I have to bring myself back to reality, but I work on it every day. I cope and I make an effort to continue with my therapist so I can beat this.

Even though this topic is hard to write about, I have no shame in my story. Carrying a child is hard, giving birth is harder, and jumping onto the roller coaster of motherhood is one hormonal, wild ride.

Mamas, we are allowed to not be okay and we have every right to make that known. I wasn't okay and it took every ounce of strength I had to get myself out of the darkness.

If I could tell you anything about struggling with this, it is this: PPA is real, it is not normal, and getting help is okay. Do not feel ashamed, do not feel embarrassed, and don't for one second think you owe anyone an explanation.

Do not let a single person make you feel like you are less of a mother. You are a magnificent human being, a loving mama bear, and you will get through this.

I see you, and I'm holding space for you.

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Ready to bring a baby on board? Feelings of excitement can often be met with those of financial concern as you prep for this milestone. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of 2015, the cost of raising a child is $233,610—a number that can make anyone's jaw drop to the floor.

But before you start to worry, here are ways you can become more financially savvy before the baby is born:

1. Budget for healthcare costs

The cost of delivering a baby can vary by state, but suffice it to say it can be thousands of dollars. Castlight Health found that the lowest average cost of delivery was $6,075 in Kansas City, MO and the highest average cost $15,420 in Sacramento, CA. Costs are even higher for a Cesarean delivery.

The first thing you want to do is check your insurance and see what they will cover so what you will be responsible for. Then create a separate savings account so that you can cover any costs that you're on the hook for. You can set up automatic savings after each payday up until the baby is born to help assist with any healthcare costs associated with delivery.

2. Cut your expenses

Before the baby arrives, do a spending audit and see where you can slash some expenses. Free up any leftover money to help cover the increased costs that will come, such as food, clothes, and formula.

If you're struggling with how to do that, take a look at all of your expenses and write next to each either"want" or "need." Look at your "want" list and see which expenses are ones you can either eliminate or cut back on. If it doesn't bring you joy or add value, ditch it! You might even find subscriptions that you didn't know you had.

3. Go for second-hand goods

Of course, there are some things you definitely want to buy new for baby, but things like clothes and toys you can get second hand and save a lot of money. Your baby will grow so fast and buying new clothes every few months can add up. If your family members or friends have old baby clothes or toys they're willing to part with, it will save money and you can pay it forward down the line.

4. Look for sales or coupons

Clothes and toys are items that you can buy second hand, but products, like a car seat and crib are best new. You want to be up-to-date with safety and know what you're getting. Before going shopping, search for sales or coupons before you head out. A little research online can go a long way and save you hundreds.

5. Have a garage sale

If you need to make room for baby, it's time to get rid of items that you no longer use or need. Take all of the stuff you are planning to get rid of and have a garage sale to make extra money. You can also try selling online on Craigslist, Poshmark and OfferUp too.

Take the money you earn from selling your stuff and put it in your savings account earmarked for your baby.

6. Get a 529 plan

It's never too early to save for your baby's college. You can open a state-sponsored 529 plan which is a tax-advantaged savings account for education-related costs. Instead of asking for gifts or toys from family and friends, you can request money to go toward a 529 plan. It will be an impactful gift that will help your child in the future and help lessen the financial burden on you.

7. Prep now instead of later

Your whole world will change when your baby arrives, so in order to save money, time and stress, create a plan now. Is there a family or friend close by who can babysit if you need some rest or have to run an errand? Ask them now if they can help out.

Start preparing meals in bulk that can be in the freezer and easily made so you don't have to think about food. Put your bills on autopay so that you don't miss any payments and get hit with late fees. Know how long you can get maternity or paternity leave and understand how that will affect your income and budget. Getting all of this ready ahead of time can help you in the long run.

8. Purchase life insurance

While thinking about why you need life insurance can be a bit stressful, preparation is essential, especially when you're adding another member to your family. Life insurance will provide financial support if you had a loss of income due to something happening to either you or your partner.

9. Understand any tax benefits

The birth of your baby will affect your taxes, which can actually end up putting more money back into your pocket. Do some research online and see how a dependent will change your taxes in your state, such as new exemptions available. Or, find a trusted accountant or tax specialist in your area who can walk you through your options.

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We've had some struggles, you and me. In my teens, we were just getting to know each other. It was a rocky road at times, like when people referred to you as "big boned." I was learning how to properly fuel you by giving you the right foods. How to be active, to keep you strong and in good shape. I wish I knew then what I do now about you and what a true blessing you are. But that's something that has come with the gift of motherhood.

In my 20's, we became more well-acquainted. I knew how to care for you. After I got engaged, we worked so hard together to get into "wedding shape." And, looking back now, I totally took that six pack—okay, four pack—for granted. (But I have the pictures to prove it.)

Now that I'm in my 30's (how did my 30's happen so fast, btw?) with two kids, I'm coming to terms with my new postpartum body.

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