Mention the word virus and I used to break out in a cold sweat. I could almost feel the germs crawling on my skin. Simply hearing someone talk about their upset tummy and I would spend days convinced that we were all right on the brink of the worst flu outbreak to ever hit us.
I hid from people who were coughing or sneezing and if I knew there had been illness in your house any time over the past three months I was afraid to come over.
I washed my hands constantly and was always pestering my kids to wash their hands, sending them back into the bathroom if I didn’t hear the water running long enough.
Guess what happened?
We still got sick.
We’ve had weeks where the stomach flu knocked each of us down, every day taking another one out. We’ve gone through colds, flus, hand foot and mouth, RSV, lung infections and sinus infections. We’ve medicated our way through fevers and nursed ourselves back to health with chicken soup and lots of love. We have gone through numerous ER visits and we’ve got a couple of hospital stays under our belt already.
Any time we get sick, be it one of us or all four of us, it’s never fun. No one wants to see their children sick and parenting while sick is awful! Not to mention our son tends to get hit a bit harder with coughs and colds due to a health condition from birth.
But we survived.
One day, as I furiously scrubbed surfaces clean with disinfectant wipes for the third time in a day, I took a step back and recognized just how much energy I was spending on trying to prevent illness from making its way into our home. It was exhausting and I started to worry a bit about how it was impacting my kids.
The last thing I want is for my kids to become as consumed as I am with germs.
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy; this is something that I have been battling for years, but I didn’t want to waste one more ounce of energy worrying about something that I really didn’t have much control over.
I was putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself to prevent my family from getting sick when, for the most part, it was something I couldn't really control.
So I just kind of stopped trying. I recognized that this was more about my own anxieties than anything else.
While I won’t be snuggling close to someone who is sniffling and sneezing any time soon, I don’t hide from them either.
I’m not sending my kids for play dates in a house where they are in the midst of a Norwalk outbreak, but I try my best not to think about it constantly.
We practice good hand washing, are diligent about getting enough sleep, try to eat healthy and take our vitamins, but even with all that I know that at certain times, my kids are going to get sick. We are going to get sick.
As we go about our daily grind we all come across germs. Sometimes our bodies fight them off and other times they win.
I’m beginning to understand that we have to get sick, it’s both inevitable and necessary. It’s how our body builds up its defences.
So far, I seem to be gaining some control over my germaphobic tendencies. Rather than panic at the first sign of a cold I stock up on fever reducing medications, chicken soup and apple juice and enjoy a little extra cuddle time with my kids, maybe even an unplanned day off work.
Rather than worry about them coming into contact with someone who is or has been sick recently, I focus my energy trying to decide if a visit to the doctor might be required.
I definitely don’t enjoy having our lives flipped upside down for a few days due to illness but at the end of the day we are healthy and strong and I am so thankful for that. I know too many parents who are managing life threatening illnesses with their children. Yes, it may mean I need to take a day or two off work and the kids will miss school. It almost always involves a lot of extra laundry; midnight washing of barf covered sheets anyone? And it always means a little extra mom worry. But in the grand scheme of things, is that really all that bad?