I cried on the way to my daughters doctor’s appointment this morning. She is not seriously ill; I have friends who have been battling serious illness alongside their kids and I cannot imagine the toll that takes on a parent. Their experiences are far more life changing than the one I am about to share.
But I cried this morning because this winter has been brutal on our little family and I am tired.
I am tired of seeing my sweet kids sick and knowing there is not much I can do to ease their pain. I am tired of make up school work and juggling my work schedule with sick days throwing me into a perpetual state of playing catch up. I am tired of cleaning up vomit and boogers. I am physically tired from lack of sleep, and emotionally tired from worry.
It feels like we have caught it ALL this year, Strep. Flu. Stomach bugs. Respiratory viruses. Unknown viruses. And then we have caught some of them twice. This morning I started to go into a place of self doubt on our drive to the doctor.
Are we not feeding them enough vegetables? Do I need to buy them a new multi-vitamin? Am I doing something wrong?! Is it my fault somehow that they keep getting sick?”
Then came the tears. When I get overwhelmed I tend to blame myself and that is something I am always working on. I work as a marriage and family therapist who specializes in perinatal mental health. I see a lot of moms in my practice and as their therapist, I help them work on not blaming themselves when inevitably their kids get sick. I remind them that in reality, we have less control over our lives than we like to think. I have had clients suffering from postpartum anxiety so severe they refused to leave their homes for months on end to avoid their kids getting sick. COVID is partially to blame for some of the severe anxiety, but wellness culture is also to blame. Wellness culture gives the impression that we can avoid sickness altogether. Every time I open social media, I see some sort of ad or an influencer talking about the right oil regimen or herbal remedy or immune protocol or diet all parents should be doing to keep their kids healthy.
It is not bad for us as parents to be active in our children’s health, but at the end of the day remember:
We have no control over if our kids get sick or not and we are certainly not to blame if they do.
I had to remind myself of this today after we left our appointment. Getting sick and building immune systems is a part of childhood. I cannot shield my kids from every virus while allowing them to participate in social activities like sports and school. What I can control is not blaming myself for something that is not my fault—and if you are struggling with a loud inner critic, you can work on that as well. If you have had a hard winter this year with kids getting sick constantly, it is not your fault.
Spring is around the corner and we’ve got this. Some seasons are harder than others, but they are temporary. Now everyone go wash your hands and wash away that self doubt. Let’s all support one another, keep self care part of our lives and pray for an early spring.