The Five Stages of Being Ill When You’re a Parent

MedicationThis week I am laid low with acute pharyngitis and it’s grim. It’s made more annoying by the fact it’s the third time I’ve been pretty poorly in a month. The last time, I had a virus that left me with such a high temperature I felt quite delirious. It was a day when H was working away, so I had to collect Zee from nursery. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done as a mum so far. It was also probably quite scary for anyone who encountered me as I wandered the streets to nursery, aimlessly drifting with mad, fevered eyes, wearing my MC Hammer-esque trousers, a bomber jacket, beanie hat and flip-flops. Sorry. I got us home in one piece and let Peppa do the rest until H returned.

The reason for these repeated illnesses? I think it’s because when there is a small person added to the mix and you both work and have no help nearby, there is no time to be ill. No time to stop and recover, to stay off work and stay in bed and just be. So you keep going and going until your body says STOP (Hammer time) and that’s when you know you’ve pushed it too far. The symptoms of acute pharyngitis are an extremely painful sore throat, sore ears, cough and blocked nose. The Five Stages of Being Ill this week are . . .


Sunday afternoon: Throat feels a bit sore. It’s fine, some paracetamol will sort it.

Sunday night: Now it’s worse. But it’ll be FINE. Some more paracetamol will sort it.

3am: Awake with teething toddler and throat is really sore. Bugger.

Monday: H has an early meeting, my throat and ears hurt but Zee can’t toddle off to nursery by himself. Get him dressed (the usual wriggly battle), get him into his buggy (the usual wriggly battle) and get him to nursery. Next stop is the pharmacy to stock up on Lemsip Max, paracetamol and an anaesthetic throat spray. I am not ill, I just need some medicine. Nothing to see here. It’s FINE.

Monday afternoon: Ow ow ow. Notfinenotfinenotfine.

Monday night and into the early hours of Tuesday: Really not fine.


Tuesday morning: Okay, it hurts, there is a big lump on the side of my neck and I look like I’ve been fat-boothed. Excellent. Luckily, H takes Zee to nursery but there are So Many Other Things To Do! I have meetings and deadlines! My mum is visiting tomorrow, we’re going to lunch! I have evening plans and I hardly ever have evening plans! We’re taking Zee to Peppa Pig World with friends on Friday! And to a birthday party on Saturday! I hoped to see our NCT friends on Sunday! There’s just no time to be ill.

But WOW this hurts. And there is a lump on the side of my neck. Maybe it’s better to stop panicking about plans and panic about this instead. I’ll call the doctor.

Ninety-seven, yes, ninety-seven attempts to get through to the doctors later (almost falling asleep from the repetition of ‘Repeat’) and an appointment is made. Good. They can fix it and I’ll carry on. There will be no letting anyone down.


H is waiting outside the doctors surgery in the car. I get in, clutching my prescription. ‘Acute pharyngitis’ I tell him, quietly, because now talking hurts too. ‘I have to take antibiotics for ten days, so we’ll still be fine for the weekend. By Friday I’ll have been on them for three days and I have my painkillers . . .’

The look on his face says it all. I try and bargain but he is right. And I don’t know it then, but this is going to get worse before it gets better. What. Larks.

Misery (not Kathy Bates style)

Tuesday to Thursday

The pain gets worse despite my cocktail of soluble aspirin, paracetamol and penicillin every four hours. This is not my idea of a cocktail (hello Singapore Slings). Why is it not IMMEDIATELY helping? I contemplate posting on Facebook in capital letters that I am SO ILL and I want EVERYONE I know to know and I want all the sympathy and everyone to care. But I don’t. I moan (repeatedly) to a selection of friends on WhatsApp instead. Did I mention I was really ill? Like rilly rilly? Sorry.

I distract myself by binge-watching the entire first series of Friday Night Lights on Netflix. Tim Riggins is a sight for sore eyes. And a very sore throat. The misery reaches its peak at about 3am on Tuesday, when the teething Zee wakes up crying ‘Want Mummy’ over and over again. H takes him into the spare room, he’s screaming and I sit in bed, in too much pain to help, crying.

But in the midst of all this misery are three people who make it better. H just gets on with looking after us all brilliantly. I am so glad he’s here and not away with work. I observe that this is the ‘sickness’ and ‘worse’ part. He observes that I look ‘interesting’. He brings me tea. Lots of tea.
Zee is my spoonful of sugar. He makes me laugh (owch though). He loves to watch me gargling aspirin, peering at me and declaring ‘That funny!’ It’s bloody not, little man. He keeps me so entertained. I wish for the Calopl to take away his teething pain. At night. The nights are not fun here this week.

Then there is my lovely mum, who instead of postponing her visit on Wednesday, travels from the Midlands to London and arrives on our doorstep, soaking from the rain and I want to burst into tears as I open the door. I am so glad to see her. She does what she always does and just takes care of us, and soon it’s time for her to go and I am touched by her brief but very welcome visit.


In a parallel universe, we would be at Peppa Pig World right now and Zee would be having the best time of his short little life. But we are not. I am ill (not sure I’ve mentioned it already?) and only a lot more resting and taking the drugs will fix it. That’s that. I accept, too, that once these antibiotics have worked I will be fine and life will carry on in its own sweet way. There are people out there who are really ill, who must cope and carry on and can’t just take a week out and a course of penicillin to fix things. I’m holding that thought every time I get a bit too sorry for myself. No more whining now. But maybe another cup of tea. I’d shout for H but I can’t. Every cloud, for him.


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