So I thought I'd do a post on how to survive such a time from several different angles.
- How to prepare. (Because you know your time WILL come!)
- How to cope when you're in the thick of it.
- How to help someone else when THEY are in the thick of it.
There is only so much that you can do, but a few things do help. Having a well-stocked pantry is a big one, and I've talked about that a lot lately. I was very thankful for the cans of ready made chicken soup in the pantry. Homemade is best, of course, but there are times that mama just can't even stand up, let alone stand around the stove to cook! Crackers and cans of ginger ale, Sprite or lemon-lime seltzer are helpful also. I try to always keep a little stash, because when illness hits, it often hits without warning, and sometimes it is hard to get out to the store. For the children in the family who are not sick, or are in recovery mode, fast and easy is the way to go, worry about nutrition later. Cheese or peanut butter and crackers is fine. Add some fruit if you have it. Serve these on the bare table and you won't even have to worry about dishes!
My husband came up with a brilliant plan AFTER we ruined two pillows... Use a kitchen size trashbag over each child's pillow and cover with a pillowcase. It will be a little crinkly, but it will be a good waterproof cover in a pinch. This is useful for little ones who get sick in the night and are too young to use a bucket.
How to cope:
Let things go. Let the kids watch (wholesome) movies, let them eat ice cream for dinner, let the floors go unswept, let the dishes pile up, etc... Prioritize and let the rest go, then take care of yourself and your family. You can get it back under control one step at a time once everything is over. And remember that it will be over. Someday. :)
Don't be afraid to call for help. Ask someone to pick up some groceries for you if no one can get out. I am INCREDIBLY blessed that Preacher Man works from home and has a flexible schedule. Very few women I know have this luxury. If you are alone and need help, try to think of a relative, someone from church, a teenage homeschool girl, someone who can come over and help you out. If you are like me, you would do this as a last resort, but hopefully you can swallow your pride and realize that you are giving someone else the blessing of serving. And DON'T try to clean the house before that person arrives! Stay on the couch! Yes, that's an order!
How to help someone else:
It's a fine line, but I've learned to be a lot more pushy when it comes to offering my help in this way. I don't want to annoy, but try to push past all of the "Oh no, you really don't have to do that..." kind of niceties. (And I know because I always say those things myself!) Fix some homemade chicken soup and some nice bread. Stop by the store and get some tempting fruit that is in season, some Sprite and ginger ale, some frozen fruit bars, some crackers, etc... Call before you go please, but simply say, "I'll be out later this afternoon and I'd like to stop by to bring you some soup." (Notice that I did not ask this as a question, but rather phrased it as a statement.) Before you go, grab a bucket, a bottle of vinegar, rubber gloves, and a roll of paper towels. I always recommend bringing cleaning supplies with you so you don't have to ask where the family's are kept and bother them any further. Bring the soup, but say that you would like to please help out while you are there. You might have to fight their protests, but insist as much as you can and show that you have cleaning supplies in hand. Cheerfully go to work and give the bathroom(s?) a good cleaning and wash their dishes. If you see anything else you can take care of while you are there, by all means do it, but really, taking care of those two rooms will be a tremendous help. If your sick host(ess) is trying to follow you around and help clean, insist that they sit or lie down and brew them a cup of tea if that will help.
Offering this kind of help was something that I was regularly able to do as a single woman and as a married woman without children. Now that I have young children of my own, I find myself on the receiving end more often than I am the one able to give the help, but this is ok. Just remember that there are different seasons of life and make the most of each one. There are occasions where Preacher Man can watch the Littles and I can still go clean someone's home for them. I just hope that where I cannot do something, there are others that can and will, and I continue to do what I can. I find that I can still take over a meal fairly easily or if I can't deliver it, send it with Preacher Man. I just double the recipe and we eat half and share half, so it isn't too much trouble. I try to do this when there is an illness (especially long term), a new baby, surgery, or even for the elderly.
Now a special note on the elderly or those with a long-term illness. When my grandmother was very, very ill, I started going over to her house once a week and doing the heavy cleaning - scrubbing out the bathtub and toilet, mopping and vacuuming, and any other little jobs I saw. While bent over double, cleaning around the base of the toilet, I realized that there was no way in the world anyone with an aging body could accomplish such a task. I resolved then and there to try to do this for an elderly person when I could... even if just once a month, it will be a great help. Be active in the lives of your brothers and sisters in Christ. Open your eyes to their needs. Especially look for those without family close by and take it upon yourself to show love and care.
Matthew 25: 37-40 - Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'