Sometimes I like to pretend that I have this parenting thing all figured out and I write parenting advice posts.
I have written a handful of them since birthing my demon into this world, posts like:
- Lies They Tell You About Infant Sleep
- Parenting Into the Abyss
- How to Design Your Home to Support Self-Reliance
- How to Avoid Toy Store Tantrums
- Why We Marched
- and Things I’ve Done Right, in which I allow myself a bit of self-congratulatory basking
But this post, the one you’re reading right now, is the best parenting post I’ll ever write because it explains how to parent from bed.
Um, because you can parent from bed. I don’t know about you, but my bed is awesome. Crisp sheets, cozy duvet, colourful quilt, pillows the perfect height and density…I mean come on. Why not?
No, but seriously, why?
OK, well the actual reasons will vary for each person, but for me, I end up parenting from bed 1-2 days a month (more if my body is extra fucked) because I have a chronic illness and also get migraines on a regular basis.
When my kidney condition acts up it means my levels of potassium, magnesium, and sodium are severely depleted and I end up exhausted, mentally fuzzy, and physically weak. Feeble, even. Juuuust basically decrepit on many levels. When I get migraines I have an intense headache, can’t deal with light or sound and I end up nauseous and puking. Yay?
Both are bullshit states of existence. Both involve me lying in bed in the fetal position for hours on end, waiting for various pills to kick in. Neither one is at all conducive to working or parenting a super active, super talkative four-year-old and this is a problem because I do both of these things on a daily basis. My editors are usually understanding if I need to push a deadline due to a migraine, but kids can’t just be put on hold. They need to be taken care of and fed and played with like every day.
And as for you, you might be parenting from bed because of the cold or flu, pregnancy exhaustion or morning sickness, different terrible chronic illnesses, broken legs, hangovers, etc. Our bodies can fuck with us in a myriad of ways, but parenting is a 24/7 job so just not doing it really isn’t an option.
So! Here’s my best advice to get through these times:
Have a Plan
This advice comes from my mom and she’s laughing/screaming at her computer screen right now because I have not yet taken this advice I am now giving to you – I don’t have a plan despite her telling me many, many times to have a plan.
So, do better than I do! Learn from my mistakes! The best way to deal with unexpected bedridden days is to have someone on standby that you can call for help. If you have a partner this should be fairly easy, but if you don’t then you’ll need to enlist a kind friend, relative, or fellow parent. Make sure they’re aware of your medical issues (if you have a chronic illness) and know exactly what they’ll need to do to help you and your child while you’re under the weather.
I try to plan for migraines and kidney fuckery like I prepared for Olive’s birth. Freezer meals, easy food for Olive like soups and pasta, and I try to keep my migraine prescriptions filled and electrolyte drinks stocked up.
It doesn’t always happen and sometimes these days catch me with a bare fridge and an empty medicine cabinet and I end up praying for someone to go to the grocery store for me while I assemble meals for O consisting of raw fruits and veggies and deli meat. Nonetheless, the goal is to be prepared, mmkay?
Here We Are Now, Entertain Us
This is the worst part. The actual parenting part. The figuring out what to do with your child while you suffer, part.
I’ve come up with a few winners during the days I’ve found myself parenting from bed- maybe they’ll work for you, too!
- Go outside. In the summer months, it’s just as easy to convalesce whilst lying on a blanket in the backyard as it is to do so on your bed, plus this way your kid is getting some fresh air! Let them make mud pies, jump on the trampoline (if you have one, obvs), run around, explore nature, cut the grass with nail scissors, make obscure pine needle potions, play in a turtle pool, etc. Whatever occupies them.
- Become a patron of the arts. I love Olive’s drawings. They make me inordinately happy and when she gets super into their creation, one drawing can take her upwards of ten minutes. TEN MINUTES! I mean, hell. That’s a whole lot of silence.So, when I’m parenting from bed, I ask her to draw me pictures. Sometimes she does so willingly, sometimes I need to grease the wheels a little.
Last week the temperatures here were ricocheting all over the place – from -28 to +4 almost overnight – and while this was lovely because it wasn’t fucking minus twenty-eight anymore, it also meant almost a full week of daily migraines from the pressure changes.At one point I got so desperate that I began paying Olive a dollar a drawing.
I think I spent like $12 that day – her piggy bank has never been more full. Still, she earned that $12, look at the detail on this parrot in the jungle! Plus, it’s still cheaper than a babysitter.
- Picture Scavenger Hunt. My mom gave Olive her old digital camera and it’s been quite cool to go through the pictures she takes and see the world through her eyes. It’s also useful for occupying her with something fun when I can’t stand upright.On parenting from bed days I send her around the house with the camera on scavenger hunts: Take a picture of something red, take a picture of a living thing, take a picture of something we brought back from far away, take a picture of something wet, etc.
She stays interested and occupied, she uses critical thinking skills, you get a brief interlude from talking while she hunts. Win-win.
- Captive audience. Kids love you to watch them. Watch them do what? It doesn’t matter.75% of Olive’s sentences begin with some form of “Mummy come see…”, “Mummy watch me…”, “Mummy, look at this…”.Honestly, all she wants is for my eyes to be on her all the goddamn time forever.
If you’re feeling sick but not sensitive to light or sound, dance parties are a great way to pass the time. You’re the DJ, they’re the tiny dancer. They perform, you clap, and you can do all of this while remaining in the fetal position!
- Movies. Goddamn movies. They’re an easy choice and they often feel like a lazy one, too, but letting your kid watch a movie is sometimes the absolute best option, especially if what you desperately need is silence so your drugs can kick in and your brain-smashing migraine can recede a bit.Cut yourself some slack while you’re feeling like shit, and make it up to them with an extra-long playground visit or park day when you’re back to your regular self.
If you have additional tips, I would absolutely love to hear them in the comments. Share the wealth!