One ‘Flu’ Over the Cuckoo’s Nest


For my first five years of motherhood, I managed to avoid getting seriously sick. Sure, I got colds and coughs, but nothing I couldn’t soldier through. Then, when my kids were ages two and five, I got the flu. The full-on, real-deal, knock-you-out flu. We’re talking achiness, chills, fever, coughing, sneezing, headache, and congestion. If “soaking several sets of pyjamas in my own sweat” had been on my bucket list, I’d have earned a big checkmark. Any effort to get up and do anything was completely flu-tile.

It would have made a compelling commercial for the flu shot campaign: a close-up of grey-faced me, teeth chattering under three comforters, with a deep-voiced announcer intoning: “This mom didn’t think she needed the flu shot. She. Was. Wrong. Don’t end up like her. Get the flu shot.”

Although my case of the flu was straightforward, the real complication was that my husband was already down and out with pneumonia at the time.

The two of us had never been simultaneously sick to this degree. The doctor advised him to stay home from work for a week. Our cars sat unused in the garage (no driving under the in-flu-ence). We loosened our TV rules and let the kids watch plenty of movies, but it became clear that we needed reinforcements. My parents were out of the country at the time, but when my husband’s parents heard of our predicament, they dropped everything and came to help. With them at the helm, all our worries flu out the window.

My father-in-law took my husband to the doctor, delivered our car to the mechanic, and brought in pizza from our favourite place. My mother-in-law swooped in like a superhero and saved the day. Three days, actually. While my husband coughed up a storm and I lay there in feverish con-flu-sion, she took care of everything. She looked after our boys, cooked meals, cleaned the house, and did at least a dozen loads of laundry. She kept our toddler on his nap schedule and taught our kindergartener how to print lower case letters properly. Seriously, she deserved a red cape.

Aside from the physical discomfort, the time in quarantine was hard on me emotionally. As a wife and mom, that’s my purpose – to look after my guys. To be unable to do that was both frustrating and upsetting. I felt helpless when I heard my younger son at the bottom of the stairs calling, “Mom? Mom?” I got teary-eyed when I overheard his big brother using the DVD remote to skip to a favourite movie scene, explaining to Grandma that “this is what Mom always does.” I found myself eagerly anticipating the chance to get back to tasks that had previously seemed mundane – prepping their snacks, zipping their hoodies, picking up their toy cars and hockey cards.

The experience taught me a few basics about coping with the flu, such as:

  • Drink lots of water. There’s no “i” in team, but there is “flu” in fluids.
  • Use over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, according to the directions on the label.
  • Assign specific blankets and pillows to family members (this is the one time when sharing is not encouraged).
  • Stay home, get the rest you need and accept help from others (especially if you have a superhero for a mother-in-law).

In addition, our household learned a lot about trying to prevent the spread of the flu and his other germy counterparts:

  • Practice diligent hand-washing. Remind kids to count to 10 or sing a song to ensure they are scrubbing for long enough.
  • Keep your immune system topped up by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and getting enough sleep.
  • Grab some disposable wipes and walk around swiping at common surfaces like phones, remote controls, doorknobs, light switches, the computer keyboard, fridge handle, and so on.
  • Learn more about flu prevention, flu symptoms and the flu vaccine by visiting Or, if you choose not to, at least be warned that you might be starring in their next commercial.
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Author: Kristi York

Kristi York is a freelance writer and mom of two sports-loving boys. Her work has been published by ParentsCanada, Running Room, ParticipACTION and The Costco Connection.

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