'Sick Season' Started Early This Year and I'm Just Trying To Keep It Together

Between everyday life, a lingering pandemic, and rising flu and RSV cases, I'm exhausted and anxious. I know I'm not alone.

Tired mother lying in bed with sick child.

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Does anyone know where this mythical unicorn parenting village is? Because I need a break from the nonstop avalanche of bad news right now. And if I were a betting person, I'd say you probably do too.

Before the era of COVID-19, a cold was a cold, and the flu was a cold with a fever and body aches. With three kids who seemed to have a predictable knack for catching every germ they could at school, I thought I had a handle on viruses coming through my house. I kept my medicine cabinet fully stocked with meds, boxes of tissues in the linen closet, and soups and crackers in the pantry.

But now it feels like we live in the Upside Down. As RSV rips across the nation and public health experts warn of spikes in COVID-19 garnished with a severe flu season on the side, I can't help but worry about every sniffle and cough that comes through my door. Because no longer is it fear about my kid puking in their bed—no one wants to clean that up—it's a worry that they won't be able to breathe because of a virus.

This morning before the sun rose, I was already wearing down the worry boards from pacing back and forth in my kitchen. My kindergartner had spent much of the night sweating out a nasty fever despite giving her medicine. And my seventh grader was coughing so hard in his sleep that he sounded like a lifelong smoker.

It's not just my house. My neighbor kept her son home yesterday with the same mystery fever my child is now wilting under, and my friends down the street recently learned that their daughter was diagnosed with pertussis. Whatever happened to a basic cold, I wondered?

Between trying to make ends meet while we face shortage after shortage and inflated price gouging for everything from groceries to gas, parenting has become more stressful than ever. My worry has leaped from concern about how much schooling my kids will miss from being sick to fearing a trip to the ER and the medical bills that may tip our financial house of cards.

But here's the thing; even though this entire season of bugs flying around has me stressed out, it also made me realize that the pressure and anxiety that parents are under in general these days is more significant than what should be considered normal. And while it's easy to complain in a misery-loves-company kind of way, it may be more meaningful and helpful to acknowledge that we're all exhausted; we're all trying our best, and we could all use a break.

In my small, rural town parents have begun banding together in group texts to offer each other that much-needed break. Think Katniss tossing out a peace sign just in the nick of time. For example, when one of us has a sick kiddo at home, the others drop food off on the porch so the parents don't have to worry about shopping, cooking, and cleaning up after meals. And when one of us is sick, the others offer to pick up kids after school or take them for a few hours so the parent who feels ill can get some real rest.

If there was ever a time for the village to show up, it is now. No one has to be magically creative or wealthy to help other parents. Simple gestures like picking up someone's groceries or creating text chains where parents can send hilarious memes to blow off steam all count toward making someone feel appreciated.

Parents swapping stories about their kids' symptoms and which remedies are working is hugely beneficial and makes me feel like I'm not parenting alone and in a vacuum. It feels like we're in this mess together, even if we have limited ways to save the day.

No one knows how this RSV, flu, COVID-19, (dubbed "tripledemic") virus season will ultimately play out, but we don't have to suffer it by the skin of our teeth. Reach out to the caregivers in your neighborhood and offer what you have.

I may not get the break I want (hello, Tahiti!), but with a bit of heart and effort from my community, I'm getting the small breaks I need and making sure the other parents around me are too.

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