My son is four years old and while he doesn’t understand that his mom is always sick; he does seem to understand that there are many activities that I cannot do. Fortunately, he also seems to understand that there are certain things I can engage in and joyfully does them with me.
If you are a mom with a chronic illness, or if you have been sick as a mom, you know how difficult it is to spend time with a child when the illness is demanding your attention. The optimal way to handle this is to have help until you are better. But sometimes is it not always possible to arrange for care, or in the case of a chronically ill mom, there is no getting better.
So what can you do when there are dual demands on your body? Here are some activities that I have learned are great options for me and my son:
- Arts & Crafts: when I’m feeling awful, I put out markers and either a sketch pad or a dry erase board and let him draw whatever he wants. When he gets a little bored, I will throw some ideas at him and this will usually get him going longer. Depending on his passion at the time, this could get him going for awhile. On days when I’m feeling a little better, we will do more interactive arts and crafts involving play dough or cutting/glueing. I also have a set of craft activities as backup.
- Play dates: play dates with friends are great since he will be preoccupied for a few hours. I would usually have the play date at my or a friend’s house, or in an enclosed play area. Usually museums or big playgrounds are impossible for me. I would also set up a play date with a caregiver (friend or nanny) who is aware of my condition and that I feel comfortable with.
- Baking: this involves a bit more energy but it is a great activity if your child likes it (and surprisingly, most kids do). You can prepare everything sitting down and take it slow with measuring out the ingredients. There is very little standing time and you can pop it in the oven and rest. I try sticking with very simple, foolproof recipes. When done, you can enjoy your creation with your kid — double plus!
- Water play: this is a great way to shoot two birds with one stone. I fill the tub with water and bunch of toys and let him play for as long as he wants. This gives me time to really rest. Then when he is ready, it’s a quick soap, rinse and dry. We usually both have some downtime on the couch or on the bed while he dries. Sometimes when I am in pain but have the energy, I’ll just join him in the water. Fun for all.
- Movies: when I absolutely cannot move or feel ill, I turn to movies. I have a few favorites that he loves and know will keep him occupied. We pop some popcorn, and cuddle up on the couch. It’s a special treat for him and a much needed respite for me.
- Interactive electronic games: in short, IPads. I know screen time should be limited but it’s a life saver for someone like me. As much as I like to play a game of Sorry with him, I don’t have the energy to do so on most days. Having him play games on his iPad is a good way to have him engaged when I can’t participate 100%. For example, his favorite game of Snakes and Ladders moves the characters for me after I roll the electronic dice. Just that shortcut is enough to save me!
- Storytime: I play this game when I need to lie down and rest. I usually lay down with him in bed and we tell stories, sometimes made up and sometimes a retelling of a book we read. This usually involves minimal thinking and energy on my part. Ideally, he’ll nap with me but if not, we got some downtime, resting in bed.
Depending on your level of energy and illness, you can engage in a more involved or a less involved versions of these activities. I have yet to have had a full day that I can spend fully engaged with my son. But I am glad to have found some ways to meaningly spend time with him!
What are some things you like to do with your kid(s)?