The holidays are already hectic enough, but being a sick mom during the holidays sends you through a cacophony of emotion. You have to give yourself permission to acknowledge them.
I’ve lived with multiple chronic illnesses for about 15 years now, but I’m still blindsided whenever I am sick or if one of my chronic illnesses flares up during a holiday. Why is it that the time of year when expectations run at their highest happens to coincide with germageddon? Talk about a cruel joke!
When it comes to being a sick mom during the holidays, be it acute or chronic illness, there are many stages of grief. Below are some tips on coping with each stage.
Stage One Of Being A Sick Mom During The Holidays: Shock
I had it all figured out. This was going to be my first holiday season as a freelancer gifting myself and my daughter with the present of being 100% present.
We had plans to hunt down a ton of Santas, bedazzle every ornament in reach, shop ’til we dropped, see all the family we could, go to the theater and watch a bunch of movies, go sledding with my daughter’s friends, craft like crazy, eat amazing food, and turn external technology off, moving inwards like a cozy, little Christmas card.
Then life said, “hold my egg nog,” and I got sick.
Not just a cold. Really, really sick.
The added joy of chronic illness is that it takes something that isn’t horrible for most people, like a mild case of viral bronchitis, and turns it into A Thing. Even though I knew this, I wasn’t giving in, because stubborn. I probably made it worse by sliding right on into Stage Two.
Stage Two Of Being A Sick Mom During The Holidays: Denial
Welcome to the “tape the wrapping paper and platter of Christmas cookies to my hands, and I’ll be fine” phase of being a sick mom during the holidays.
I sought out my usual arsenal of juice shots, oils, and vitamins, in addition to my medication, because balance.
I also over-caffeinated, put off seeing the doctor, and ran myself into the ground preparing my work so that I could finish early for the year. The icing on the cake was the night I felt myself slipping and still crammed in a visit to see Santa, our annual mecca to Build-A-Bear for my daughter’s “waiting for Santa” buddy, the Christmas house light scavenger drive we always go on, and a ton of shopping I probably would’ve been better served doing on Amazon from my couch.
Stage Three Of Being A Sick Mom During The Holidays: Anger/ Guilt
A big part of the anger side of Stage Three of being a sick mom during the holidays is knowing that some of the discomfort is self-inflicted. If I hadn’t been trying so hard to deny being sick, and just rested a bit, I probably would’ve felt better quicker!
Guilt is something that comes hand-in-hand with motherhood, but for the chronically ill mama, it’s a little different. I’ve had heath problems for the extent of my daughter’s life. I’ve always worried that my issues would take away from her experiences.
If anything it has made her a compassionate and empathetic human. She never lacks for anything that she needs, and that includes most of her wants in life. She knows she is loved. But I still feel bad.
Whenever I ask her about her feelings about it, she tells me, “I just see you as my Mom, and you’re strong.”
In order to ensure that things always run smoothly when I’m sick or in a flare, I put a lot of planning in behind the scenes, since it is just the two of us. I always keep a fully stocked DIY Sick Kit, make sure that my “sick day section” of the freezer and pantry has the necessary supplies.
I work ahead as much as possible on my client projects, so that when I need the inevitable day or two to chill, I am ready for it. Starting next year, I am hoping to get a head start on my holiday to-do’s, just in case!
It makes me feel good to know that it all pays off and she is a happy little girl, but it doesn’t take away from the anger, guilt, or sadness that comes with being a sick mom during the holidays.
Stage Four Of Being A Sick Mom During The Holidays: Despair
I shed angry tears a few nights this week, after my daughter went to bed, disappointed that the plans I so carefully constructed for us were sabotaged by my traitorous body.
You know what? That’s okay, and it is necessary sometimes.
Moms have to put on happy faces all day long: at work, and at home. Once you’re alone, it’s actually helpful to fall apart, once in a while.
Feel it, acknowledge it, but then release it, for the good of your body, mind, and soul.
When I’m upset over my health issues, I just remind myself that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I have lessons to learn, and this is all part of it.
Some Christmases are quieter than others, and that’s okay. My biggest thing is trying to be a good example for my little one. Challenges make a person stronger and better, and we all have them. They teach patience and how to appreciate all of the little things in life that we sometimes overlook when we are healthy and things are going well.
Bad times allow us to be more open and appreciative of the good. I need to mirror that for her.
Stage Five Of Being A Sick Mom During The Holidays: Acceptance
Wave that white flag (a.k.a wad of tissues in your hand), grab a Medicine Ball from Starbucks, and flop yourself down on the couch, Mama!
90% of the pressure we deal with as moms during the holidays, we place on our own shoulders. Let that sink in, because I struggled with the realization.
That’s right, your tiny army doesn’t really care about the shiny details that we fret over. They just want you.
By the middle of this week, after I realized that Christmas break was halfway over, and that we weren’t going to be able to make it to the light show that we attend with friends every year, or the village tree lighting–and our gingerbread house?
…Let’s just go ahead and admit that it’s either going to be a President’s Day or Valentine’s Day House this year. Yay, to strange, new traditions!
I wrapped my arms around my daughter and apologized for ruining Christmas. She wriggled out and said, “Mom, you can’t really ruin Christmas. I don’t care where we go or what we do, as long as we’re together.”
The #1 Key To Coping With Being A Sick Mom During The Holidays: Cut Yourself Some Slack!
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Cindy Lou-Who was right. We modified our plans by dragging my daughter’s new Barbie DreamHouse over to the couch to play. We used this amazing slime book to make small batches of slime, and read books together.
There was some light cooking, as we made our Christmas dinner sides. Who cares if I ordered the turkey from Boston Market, because I wasn’t feeling well enough to make one? We worked on a no-sew blanket craft that she received for Christmas. She slayed me at MarioKart, and we watched Christmas movies. We ate cookies while we talked about life.
For New Year’s Eve, we will either dress up or we won’t, and binge-watch Harry Potter movies. We’ll eat our favorite foods and play all of her new board games. There may or may not be a terrible round of karaoke.
We’ll end the night reminiscing over the highs and lows of the year, and share our dreams for the future. I’m surprising my daughter with a fun Mother and Daughter journal for the new year. All of these things I can do, sick or healthy, and I am looking forward to it!
It was a good week. We absolutely used the time to reconnect as a family. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we are all trying to achieve during the holidays?
How do you deal with chronic illness or sickness during the holidays?