Birth order and sick kids

My life is so glamorous.  Liam has been sick so I’ve spent the past few days cleaning up the liquids that come out of my kid at high rates of speed from both ends.  (So fancy, this life in Europe.  Also, nothing makes me miss my big, fast American washing machine like a couple of days of kid illness.)

I’ve been a mom for 4 1/2 years now, so although no one is happy when the boys are sick, it doesn’t overwhelm me or freak me out like it once did.  In a few days, Liam will feel better.  Then maybe B will get sick, or I will, and then, at some point in the near future, we’ll all be well and we’ll get back to normal life.  Everything we own can be cleaned (or replaced).  And although middle of the night cleaning isn’t my most favorite thing, it doesn’t kill me (or even ruin my day).  So, armed with this knowledge, I face Liam’s illness — sleep deprived, sympathetic, patient, and full of coffee.

But I didn’t always feel this way.  I vividly remember past times, especially when B was little, when a stomach illness in B created panic in me.  Getting him cleaned up and taken care of on top of cleaning up the house and doing it on no sleep made me a little crazy.  I felt like THIS was now my existence.  I lived in a space where I lost all perspective and couldn’t keep myself mindful of the fact that it was temporary and that however unhappy I was, my little one was suffering more than me.  I was reduced to tears more than once — scrubbing carpets, washing sheets and blankets, cleaning the couch for the third time in a single day.  I always managed to keep it together while holding, comforting or cleaning B, but, often, everything else was too much for me.

And I’m just not like that anymore.  Sure, it can still be daunting to deal with the collateral damage from a sick kid, but, the vast majority of the time, I maintain reasonable stress levels and don’t fall apart.

The other night, when I was up at 1:30 a.m., cleaning everything in Liam’s room and not freaking out, I reflected on how lucky Liam is in this way.  His illnesses don’t happen alongside a breakdown from Mommy.  B has that experience now, but for his first few years, he didn’t.  And it’s not just when they’re sick — I take everything more in stride now than I did when I was new at this.

On the other hand, I’m so often aware of how much one-on-one time B had with me when he was little, and how much less of that there is for Liam.  B got more of me, but I was so much less together.  Liam gets less, but I’m probably traumatizing him less, on average.  I guess it works out.  And I really, really hope that B ends up with more memories of the mommy that I am now, rather than the basket case I once was.

Sick kids

It’s a good thing that it’s a Saturday.  It’s a good thing that we didn’t have any plans today:  none at all — Dan even went to the grocery store yesterday evening, which is our “every Saturday” thing.  It’s good that it was really cold outside (about 15 as a high) so we didn’t feel like we were missing out on park weather or anything.  All of these things are good because we spent the day inside with a vomiting preschooler.

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Undocumented sick time

Dan’s new job at the IAEA (he’s been there almost 8 months, so I don’t know if it counts as “new” anymore) has a lot of great benefits that we aren’t used to from home:  more vacation time, more sick leave (actually a nearly infinite amount, if he goes in and gets declared “sick” or “injured” by the IAEA nursing staff), use of the UN commissary, a housing stipend and a higher salary (plus cool things like paid paternity leave, which we don’t plan to take advantage of, but which I really, really, REALLY wish we’d had when the boys were born).  It also has “undocumented sick leave” which means taking sick time without going in to see the nurse — usually used when the spouse or children are sick.  I am so grateful for this kind of sick leave.

In our previous jobs (since we’ve had kids — before that it wasn’t an issue, because if I was sick, I used my own sick leave and just stayed home) we had to ration Dan’s limited sick leave across the entire family.  Because, frankly, it’s not like it’s realistic for me to have a restful sick day at home while I’m watching two healthy kids — and it’s worse if they’re sick, too.  Now, we don’t have to worry about “saving” sick leave in case Dan were to get sick — if he gets sick, he can just go in and get it approved and come home.  We only have to ration the sick leave between the days I might get sick and the days I and the kids might get sick at the same time.

I’m really appreciative of it today.  Last week, Liam was sick with croup, and Benjamin had a cough and a cold.  This week, Benjamin is nearly better, Liam is getting better and I’ve been getting sick.  Yesterday, I managed to get through the day just feeling run down, but today, I just couldn’t have done it.  I have a nasty sore throat and I’m completely worn out — one of those days where you sleep about 6 daylight hours and then sit at the dinner table, feeling miserable and trying not to fall asleep in your meal.

So, Dan stayed home.  Even though he knows it’s ok to use this documented sick time, he couldn’t help but stress about the things he’s leaving undone at work.  So, it was even better that his boss sent him an email today saying, “Stay home, take care of your family, do what you need to do”, which helped him to relax and focus on being here.  (Dan’s boss has sent such an email every time Dan has stayed home with us, which I think is infinitely cool of him.)

I am so glad Dan was able to be home today.  I am so grateful I was able to rest and work on getting better.  Other than feeling crappy, I’m feeling really lucky.

Getting better?

008I think we’re all nearly better.  I think so.  We had one of those days today where you kind of almost feel ok, and then you go out to walk the dog and come back sweating, with your pulse pounding, breathing hard and completely exhausted.  So, most of the symptoms are gone, but your body is obviously still working on something.

We spent our weekend on half-speed, trying to take good care of ourselves but starting to go a bit stir crazy and getting a little impatient with the state of the house.  Living at half-speed is actually a pretty nice way to spend a weekend.  We got some basic things done around the house:  some of the vacuuming, a little bit of laundry, straightened a little.  I made some chili, Dan went to the grocery store.  We all took naps at the same time (more or less) and tried to recuperate a little.  It wasn’t a very remarkable weekend, but it was really nice and quiet.

Hopefully, we will all sleep well tonight and wake up rested and ready to go in the morning.  I’m really ready to get back to “normal” (whatever that is).  I’m ready to get B back to school (for more than the hour he went for on Friday), to get Dan back to work and for Liam and I to start figuring out what it means to have B at school and Dan at work.  If there’s one good thing about being sick, it’s the appreciation it gives you for how nice things are when you’re not.