How do you cope if you’re having a ‘bad’ day? If you are part of the ‘crip community’ a “bad day” has different connotations to those with ‘able’ bodies. In my world, a bad day is a day where I am feeling betrayed by my body. My body isn’t doing what I want it to, despite my best efforts. This may be because my mental health has taken a turn. My pain could be flaring. The fatigue has hit my like a train and every movement is as if I am walking through tar. Or on lucky days, all three at once.
In those prechildren days the response would be to stay in bed, or at least my pyjamas and do very little until it passed. But, clearly, I can’t call in sick with my small ones like I could with my work. With these things I find barrelling onwards with a “bad-but-not-too-bad day” leads to more worse days and longer recovery. So what’s a crip with kids to do? Or a parent with the flu, or a hangover?
How to Cope with a Bad Day Using Mantras
Firstly, I mentally chant two mantras
Just Get Through the Day
My focus is on everyone having their basic needs met throughout the day. If everyone is fed, healthy (relatively), hygienic (relatively) and sleeping roughly when they need to be, then it’s a win. More on how to achieve this later.
This too shall pass
This is the mantra I discovered in a La Leche Group for when your breastfed child is going through a particularly trying time. Yes, you may feel awful right now. Your condition my be chronic and slowly degenerative. However, there are always days that feel better than others and those days will come round again . Sometimes you just have to practice patience.
Getting Through the ‘Bad’ Day
So we’ve got your mental mantras to remind yourself of throughout the day. Now, how do you ‘just get through the day’ and cope when you’re having a ‘bad day’? There are a couple of elements to this, which involve some preplanned elements and some not requiring as much preplanning. So let’s recap the things we need to get through the day: food, hygiene, sleep, and play. These are the four elements I focus on on a bad day.
So the preplanned version is when you are well to make a couple of premade meals and freeze them for days like this. However, if like me you have a slight aversion to frozen meals, an alternative is to ensure your freezer is stocked with easy meals (chicken and chips anyone?) Or your fridge and cupboards have grab snacks.
However, sometimes this isn’t possible. Maybe you never freeze anything? Or like we are during quarantine, you can’t get hold of your usual go to groceries. In that case, I embrace the takeaway. Yes there is an expense involved. We tend to find if we go big, then we can get 3 meals from one takeaway which outweighs the monetary cost for me.
So the preplanned version is a relative or loved one agrees to come over and do bath time on these days. Or, you have a stash of baby wipes/flannels/wash cloths that can be used to clean you all.
However, there are times when getting someone to help, or a flanel wash cannot be achieved for any of you. On those days, IT IS OKAY if no one is washed. IT IS OKAY if teeth are only brushed once. IT IS OKAY if hair is pulled into a quick ponytail rather than styled. Remember mantra two? This too shall pass. This isn’t your new normal. This is about trying to cope with a bad day.
A caveat. I know that on some days, even brushing teeth seems like an unclimbable mountain. For me one of my anxieties runs to dental hygiene, and so I have to have everyone’s teeth clean more than any flare of symptoms I have had (so far). But I can’t see how one missed brush is going to have long term effects on your oral health, as long as a schedule is returned to quickly. Disclaimer: I am not a dental health professional.
Sleep for the Kids
The preplanned version might be the old grandparent sleepover, or staying at friend. But that is not possible at all in these Covid-19 times, and there are many reasons it could not happen even when we aren’t all quarantined.
So, what if you have children like mine, who don’t sleep. Who won’t sleep. Who need endless hours of me sat on the floor in their bedrooms to sleep. How do you cope with this on a bad day? In my case it is three things. Firstly, my husband is banished to the bottom bunk of 6ers bunk bed. Secondly, the children are in the bed with me. Thirdly, the tablet or screen. There are arguments against screen time close to bed time. However, both my wiggly-bottomed-small-people, need tthe screen to force them to sit still long enough to get sleepy.
I abandon my idea that they need to be asleep by a certain time. I abandon any idea of having an ‘evening’ I might have. Thank God for smart phones. I can scroll endlessly while they gradually drift off. It’s a very imperfect plan, but sleep is a big issue for us, and we definitely follow the needs must. Having them in my bed, means any bedtime waking can be dealt with without me having to even sit up. So, everyone goes back to sleep quicker. And more sleep is the quickest route out of a bad day, it is the clear winner in our house.
Play for the kids
The preplanned version involves a box for each child, full of secreted away toys, and activities. It is important they only come out to help cope on bad days. They need to feel special. In ours there are pencil crayons, a little notebook, a couple of toys that they like but won’t miss on a day to day basis, a book and some play dough. I recently bought some little plastic eggs which I can put some of the things in. Bonus surprise toy excitement. The novelty of the box usually gives a couple of hours of play with very little interaction from me. Intersperseplay with Netflix and most of the day is done.
However, sometimes these things hit us unexpectedly. Maybe you haven’t got the time or resources to put a box like this together, or maybe it just hasn’t worked for them this time. This is the point where you enter full on crisis mode. Chant “just get through the day” over and over. Screen time. I know there are people averse to too much screen time but at one point they thought too much reading would “addle” people’s brains too.
I read the research summarised here. I decided that if we are allowing our children to self regulate their food, drink, play, sleep then why am I not doing it with screen time? The thing is we just don’t know what the long term affects are but that doesn’t automatically mean bad. Some of the longer term studies equal good. But, if you just can’t bring yourself to break your screen time rules … I get it and that’s your choice as a parent to make. Here are some other things you can do that are low energy on your part but high energy on theirs.
Games and Activities
Go count the windows
This game came into being in my mum’s three storey town house. There were no grown ups with the energy to ‘exercise’ the small folk. As a joke, I told my 6er that I needed them to go up to the third floor and count how many windows there were. To my surprise they ran up to do it. And the 4er followed his sibling! We were able to repeat the running up to the top of the house a further four times, before both children were “too knackered” to continue. Obviously, it doesn’t have to be windows, but think of something as far away from where you’ve sat that you desperately need them to inspect. Most children under 7/8 want to ‘help’ and so you can help them burn some energy this way. You have to act very grateful though or they will quickly get on to the ruse.
These games involve you lying on the sofa under a blanket while the children either ‘treat’ you or bury you under a mound of cushions. The suitability of these is totally based on your personal circumstances, pain etc. I tend to find they are games that require very little interaction from me by way of talking. And, personally, when I’m coping with a bad day not talking is only a good thing.
Lego Challenges. Google lego challenges and you will find a plethora of challenges that your small folk can use to occupy them with building for a while.
Colouring. Get the kids to select some of their favourite characters to colour in. I find my kids are more engaged with the colouring process when they have picked the ones they want.
Chalk On the Ground Outside. This one is great for getting some fresh air. Don’t worry about mess because the rain will eventually just wash it away. The kids love it though because they feel like ‘rule breakers’. We have used activated charcoal mixed with water and a little vinegar when we didn’t have chalk to hand.
Sometimes I can sit with a pile of books, and just read through them with my two littles. It doesn’t feel like too much but sometimes I don’t have the concentration. We recently invested in a few kids audiobooks (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Several Paddington books, How to Train Your Dragon and Fortunately the Milk if you’re interested). We play this on our speaker and it keeps 6er occupied for an hour and 4er half an hour.
I have spoken in past posts about my use of presentation software to make simple point and click games for my children. I have a few of these ‘spare’ that I can load up keep them occupied for a few minutes.
Leave the House
It’s not as possible now with quarantine, but I find sometimes the energy or effort I put into a change of scene makes the rest of the day easier. Soft play or grandma’s house in days of old. Nowadays its getting the mobility scooter out and taking them for a yomp in the woodlet near our house. I emphasise using the car and/or mobility scooter because I am not worrying about fitness here. I am worrying about getting through the day.
Resting for you
Some of the things I’ve already mentioned are in order to optimise rest for yourself when you are feeling grim. And the only thing I am really going to do is give you permission. You only have to cope with a bad day. You just need to get through it.
It is okay to leave the cleaning and tidying until you feel up to it. Hire someone to help if you never feel up to it.
It is okay to eat the same meal for a several days in a row – even if it isn’t particularly nutritious.
It is okay to not shower for a couple of days.
IT IS OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP (and to keep asking until you get the help you need and to accept state social security to give you financial assistant).
You are not ‘less than’ for needing help. Everyone needs help.
If you’ve found this helpful, I am really glad, and I hope you’d considering signing up to my mailing list. I won’t spam you, I swear. I will send you the occasional email with some ideas about things to do with the kids. And I have a FREE ‘paper games template’ which will get delivered to you whn you sign up … I hope. If not, contact me and I will check what is going on.