Shortly after we returned from our trip to Disney World, my husband started feeling sick. It got worse and worse until he went to walk-in care. He left with a diagnosis of "unknown virus" (so basically, no diagnosis) but also some prescriptions for meds to manage his symptoms. He was out of commission for several days.
Then my 11-year-old started feeling ill. He spent two days at home without any real symptoms other than fatigue. He slept most of the day. Finally, I insisted that he go back to school – nervous, since he'd missed an entire week when we were on our trip. He came home that day crying, saying the day had been so hard. I felt terrible.
I also felt queasy myself. But I chugged orange juice and elderberry syrup and managed to stave off full-blown illness.
That Sunday, my oldest son informed me that he felt terrible. He looked terrible. And my six-year-old could barely keep her eyes open, her face telling me that she also didn't feel well.
By the next day, my son was so miserable that my husband took him to walk-in care. The doctor thought he had influenza, even though he had tested negative, and prescribed Tamiflu. We immediately took the 6-year-old to walk-in care, even though her symptoms were mild by comparison. But the doctor (a different doctor) took one look at her and ordered Tamiflu.
The week was rough. My husband and I traded off caring for the kids as best we could, but a lot of it still falls to me. He has meetings all day. He took one day entirely off of work as a sick day, but felt like he couldn't take more than that or he'd fall behind.
It's gotten easier with older kids. They're not as hard to manage with a sick toddler, for example. My oldest son slept most of the day and I barely saw him. But the 6-yera-old needed me to help her change DVDs or search in Disney Plus. I needed to make lunches, administer meds, and ensure they were drinking enough water.
By Friday, my 6-year-old was feeling well enough to go back to school.... and my 11-year-old was sick. Again.
Because the other two were being treated for influenza, we immediately took him to walk-in care. He tested positive for adenovirus. So who knows if we've been fighting one illness or two.
I'm exhausted. The most tired I've been in a long time.
I remember the days when my kids were young and they were sick all. the. time. One winter, we had someone sick or home from school every week for six weeks. Six weeks without a full week of work.
Then the pandemic started when my youngest was about two-and-a-half. She spent more than a year at home. My entire workday revolved around her and her two brothers, a time period that can only be described as "survival mode."
But even after they returned to school, they wore masks for another year. We didn't catch many illnesses.
This is the first season in a long time when I've really felt the stress of having sick kids. And it's not even winter yet!
It's compounded by my self-employment. I take on the responsibilities during the day, because I can. Because my days aren't filled with meetings. But I still have work to do and if I don't work, I don't get paid. It has meant some late evenings over the past few weeks as I lengthen my day to meet client deadlines. One project has gotten really behind (because it had no set due date) with my apologetic updates to the editor explaining the situation.
It's also been my fear since I struck out on my own a year ago: that I'll hit a patch of sickness and struggle to catch up. I assumed it would be my sickness. This is slightly better since at least I'm able to still deliver, even if it's a strain to do so.
I talk a lot, write a lot, about being gentle with ourselves. Saying no to hustle culture. Working at a sustainable pace. Yet I also have to consider the business risks of delivering client work late or asking for an extension.
This might be the first time as a self-employed person that I've been really impacted by circumstances outside of my control. But it certainly won't be the last.