Breaking the Rules – Parenting Solo When You’re Sick


It was a Saturday.

And I was sick.

I’m talking knocked-on-my-rear, antibiotics, flat-out, sick.

And Big Man had to work that day.

And it was Little Man’s birthday dinner that night.  Not a house-full-of-screaming-kids kind of dinner, but some of our adult friends who’ve known Little Man since he was born – more like family than anything.

Parenting when you’re sick is hard enough.  Parenting solo when you’re sick is H-A-R-D, hard.  My mom raised my sister and me through everything, all by herself – and there had to have been days where the thought of even putting her feet on the floor was enough to make her want to cry.  I have so much respect for single parents who have to do this every day.  I raise my mug of Neo-Citran to you.

The whole weekend is really a blur of fever, coughing and overall yuck, but I learned a few things about parenting solo while sick; mostly, I learned that there are times where rules need to be broken. Here’s what I mean, specifically:

Little Man’s “screen time” is heavily restricted (more on that another time). Let’s just say that as a kid with a bit of a speech delay, he needs to talk, not be talked at/to. He gets 25 minutes per weekday, with a bit longer on weekends.  He can choose – iPad, computer or TV, but only for the prescribed time.

(Please note here that I am in no way making judgments on anyone who gives their kids more or less screen time – this is our formula, and ours alone. It works for us. I hope you don’t judge me, either.)

Not that day.  The rule had to go out the window if I was going to survive.

So, against my screaming Mommy Guilt (“you’ll wreck him,” “this goes against everything you stand for,” “what are you doing, crazy woman?!”), the rules were gone – this day, it was all about the video games, iPads and movies.

I carefully, and strategically set him up in the basement, toy cars and ramps on a mat near the television, bowl of popcorn, snacks, and water bottle ready to go. I put up an indoor pup tent.  I put in a DVD and watched his eyes light up at his new environs.

I explained that , just for today, this was his special place and that he should only leave if he had to use the bathroom.

This way, he was ensconced in his own world and I could run upstairs to get the birthday dinner preparations ready and when my strength zapped, I could go downstairs and hang with him – me lying on the couch, him happily playing in his “Little Man World”.  I could revitalize a little, go back upstairs and resume what I was doing.

Yes, it took me way longer to get things done.  But I was able to work at my own pace and not have to worry about Little Man being entertained.

Yes, I was still sick and miserable.  But, I had a place for Little Man to go, so he wasn’t underfoot, and I had a place for me to go, to just be with him, even if his attention wasn’t completely on me.

He loved his “me” day – I think he thought it was a present for his birthday.  It was, in a way.  Nobody likes Sick Mommy.  Grumpy Sick Mommy is even worse. This allowed us both to play it cool and relaxed.

And we got through it.  As soon as Big Man came home and our friends showed up, I ‘checked out’.  That was when I allowed myself to fully experience my illness.  I was grateful to have them there to take off the load.

The next day, Big Man and Little Man left me alone all day.  I slept (between coughing jags) until 2 p.m.  And I got back on the path to wellness.  Almost there now… (Cue the “Rocky” theme).

It’s nice, though, to know that in a pinch, I can rely on my imagination to find something for Little Man to do.

It’s also nice to know that sometimes, it’s okay to break the rules. I think I always knew that, but it was nice for this confirmation to come when I needed it most.


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

Mommy Hen
Mommy Hen (Lisa) is a mommy to 4-year old “Little Man” and has been married to “Big Man” for 8 years. She also serves as Manager of Communications for Chicken Farmers of Canada, as well as being a Certified Crisis Management Consultant. She is deeply rooted in both professional and community theatre, as well, working as a theatre and music director for various theatre companies across Ottawa and having recently served as Chair of the Ottawa Fringe Festival. Mommy Hen is passionate about giving her family healthy, nutritious meals – quite a feat with a fussy son and a husband whose tastes have historically been pretty narrow. She’s also passionate about being an involved mom – meaning a constant struggle not to helicopter, but to be available, accessible and supportive of the village of teachers, daycare providers and other professionals that help her son be the best Little Man he can be.

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  1. Oh, I’ve so been there. Mommy sick days toss everything out the window. Unlimited screen time and peanut butter sandwiches for everyone!

  2. I have been there! Nothing worse than being sick and having to take care of others with no time to take care of yourself! Somehow you get through – those emergency break-the-rules measures really help, especially TV!

  3. There has only been a few times when I have had to give up and go to bed no matter who or what was going on…usually I sort of ‘fake’ it till someone can step in and help. But yes movies and pizza are big bribers and so lucky to have school age kids that can in a pinch fend for themselves….and probably better than their own dad can 🙂

  4. Wow glad to see you are on the mend. I hate getting sick because I live with all boys with no direction never leaving me alone to wallow in my sickness or just sleep. Ahhhh a mom can dream though 🙂

  5. Parents beat themselves up too much sometimes. In this case, you have to do what you have to do. If extra support is not available (ie Grandma) then a few extra TV shows or a movie will not leave lasting damage. This coming from a strict screen time home!

  6. I totally understand,I am on my own too and just a little bit of time off will not change their outlook,I think it makes our children appreciate us more.

  7. My husband is gone 98% of the time; works out of town and only gets home 1.5 days a month if that. We are always on our own so my girls are used to Mommy being in the role of Mom and Dad….but when I’m sick it’s terrible…I’ve had days where they have had to cater to ME in my bed and I feel so guilty but they are so good, they take care of me….thank goodness they realize it when Mommy is down for the count and try to help!

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