Tuesday, April 21, 2015

7 Ways to Keep Things Running When Mom is Sick or Plan B

Today I want to share with you a simple system for keeping the house running and clean when mom is sick, exhausted or otherwise unable to maintain her regular routine.

These simple steps have gotten me through and helped us not slide into utter chaos more times than I can count. Read to the end and pick up your free printables to help you implement this system!

I have a history of health issues that have created special challenges for me. If you suffer from constant migraines, fibromyalgia, new baby exhaustion, or if you have ever caught the flu or had your whole family catch the flu, you know how hard it is to keep everything in the house from becoming absolutely insane until you can get back on your feet and catch up. I also have found these steps to be helpful during especially busy work weeks or on days after my brilliant Mr. Dede has stayed up until 3 a.m. writing music.

Once (many, many years ago) when my oldest child was only 4 years old, I had my back go out. I mean seriously go out. Like the pain was searing and I could not even move without crying. I had a brand new 3 week old baby. My husband had returned to work and I was the only adult around. I contrived a way to get from one room to another by crawling and dragging myself to the stroller and then gently laying across it. I pushed myself with one foot. Yes, I looked like an idiot ... but I managed to take care of the baby and the four year old. The part I want to point out is how I adapted our routine for a while. I followed the list below and I also learned to nurse the baby while she was in the car seat. Her big brother could pull her seat from place to place for me and we survived.

If your children are all young (under 5), you may need to adapt some of these ideas, but if you have older children you can probably do all of these.

Let me tell you, I have to admit that there have been a few seasons of my life when every. single.day. is Plan B...for months. That's the truth, ya'll.  Sometimes my mother (who is the world's best housekeeper btw) makes sweet comments like "Wow! you are so relaxed! That's good!" Haha! I tell her I wish things could be different, but learning to adapt is a great skill to have. So with that, let me tell you how I have adapted (or coped)  might be a better word.

Before I give you the list; The most important part of the system is knowing the guiding principal, which is this: Do not let anything get worse. {AKA Secure the Perimeter!}
You can always pick up where you left off after you are feeling better, as long as everything has not gone, you know...somewhere in a handbasket.

1. Rely on paper plates, cups and bowls (maybe even plastic spoons, too) for a few of the worst days. If possible, it's good to keep a supply in the back of a cabinet for emergency days. For some of you, this may seem expensive or wasteful because you are on a tight budget, but let me encourage you to invest in yourself. There are times when recognizing your own hourly worth is helpful. How much do you think you would have to pay someone to do the dishes that stack up when you are sick? The cost would be way more than the cost of a few disposable items. If you just can't bring yourself to do this, then my other suggestion is to purchase one of those dish soap dispenser-scrubby things and keep it ready for each person to handwash their own dishes after every meal. The dispenser-scrubbers require less supervision than sinks full of water when used and make it super easy for anyone. (If some of your children are too young, you might utilize the Buddy System) That way, you won't have any back ups of large loads from the dishwasher needing to be put away.

2. Try to make it clear to the family that no toys or other personal items should be in the main living areas until mom gets better. Basically, insist (or have dad or an older sibling insist) that if anyone is in the main areas of the house they should only be watching movies or reading books (hopefully you have a basket or shelf for reading materials in the living area). This policy helps keep the main areas free of too much toy clutter, which, as you know, can escalate very quickly into a nightmare of tornado proportions.

3. Do one load of laundry every day. Unless laundry is not an issue for you, ever, in which case you may blithely skip to number four. If laundry is ever an issue for you then sick time is no time to let it multiply and conquer you. The best way I have found to keep it under control is to only wash what we wore THAT DAY. Nothing else. Ignore ALL the other piles for a day or two until you are back to your normal routine. The way I usually do this is to assign one person to be in charge of the wash. At the end of the day that person reminds everyone to bring their clothes to the washing machine. The washing machine is started immediately. Remember, you are only trying to keep anything from getting worse.

4. Do not be afraid of videos or video schooling (if you are a homeschooler). There are lots of great educational videos available if you are not comfy with mindless movie watching during the day. Besides DVD's, we rely on Netflix, Youtube and Amazon often. Sometimes we can create a full school day from simply choosing videos from each subject. There are even Facebook groups that can help with this.

5. Keeping extra clutter form the main living areas is already covered in number 2, but sometimes (lots of times) I will find socks, papers, magazines, hair elastics, blankets and all kinds of other random things scattered around the living room after the kids watch a video. My way of handling that on Plan B days is to have a basket for clutter. You may only need a small basket, but we need a laundry basket. Assign one person to be the Clutter Control Officer and ask them to pile all the random stuff into the clutter basket a couple of times each day (before lunch and before supper are easy to remember times). After you get better, you can oversee the return of all the stuff to the right places.

6. Rely on frozen microwaveable type meals or sandwiches. Try to keep a stash in the back of the freezer of easy foods that your family likes. These need to be foods that do not require lots of prep time or additional dishes. We love frozen burritos and pizza pockets. For sandwiches, you will want to avoid high prep things like tuna salad and go for lunch meats or peanut butter instead.

7. You will want to assign each person in the household specific duties to oversee until you get better. My typical assignments are Nurse, Cook, Clutter Control, Laundry Supervisor. You can create whatever titles you want for your own categories. I divide the responsibilities up like this:

Nurse: brings mom food and drinks and comfort items. Basically checks on mom and communicates for her to the others (eg: "Please be quieter, mom needs a nap").

Cook: responsible to choose and heat the meals in the microwave and also to make sure that the kitchen is not filling with dirty dishes. This should be easy if you use numbers one and six from the list above.

Clutter Control: responsible to pick up all clutter from main living areas and put them into a basket 2x day.

Laundry Supervisor: responsible to make sure everyone brings their dirty clothes to the washing machine every night and also to start the machine. They will also move clothes into the dryer and into baskets as needed.

If you have fewer than four kids or if your kids are too young you may need to assign each child more than one job or have dad step in. If you use the Badges printable (below) you can give each child more than one.

Feel free to use any of the printables below. I have to warn you that I am NOT in any way, an artist or graphic designer. These little printable are actually a lot nicer than the stuff I usually print out for myself. I am just sharing these in case you need something easy to grab.  I made a couple different versions. All you have to do is pop one of these into a frame that has a stand on the back and set it on the table or kitchen counter. Or, simply hang the paper on the fridge with a magnet. Hopefully the list will help your helpers know what to do. The badges are for younger kids who would enjoy feeling special for the jobs they are doing. A few safety pins should work to pin them on.
Click on the pics to grab the printable.





  1. Now that my kids are older, they do pretty well on the occasional day I'm sick. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the idea of assigning a child to put all the cutter in a basket. I think I'll do this over the summer. They might even need to do a chore or pay a crystal to get the item back. :-)

    1. Yes! The basket routine has saved me from the pit of despair more than once. Lol!
      Great idea about requiring payment. When my grown kids were younger I used to make them earn their toys back with extra chores. ;-)

  2. Such great advice for a situation that can be overwhelming, especially for moms who have no family nearby to help!


I am so glad you visited me!
Please leave me a comment so I'll know you were here!
(I reserve the right to delete mean comments, and/or block mean people).