6 Things Moms Need to Stop Doing RN to Avoid Getting Sick

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All fall and winter long, you can't help but think about safeguarding your kid from getting sick. But taking certain steps to keep yourself healthy is imperative, too, and often, those steps require saying no, even when we feel like we have no choice but to say yes.


"During cold and flu season, boundary setting not only preserves your sanity, but your health and your family's health as well," says Rachel Carlton Abrams, MD, a board-certified family medicine and integrative medicine doctor and author of the forthcoming book Bodywise: Discovering Your Body's Intelligence for Lifelong Health and Healing.

Here, six things you should feel free to say "no" to this season, in order to take care of yourself and keep illness at bay.

1. Snuggling with a sick kid. This is, of course, dependent on how young your child is. "If you have a baby or toddler, it really is difficult to avoid getting exposed, because we are still managing their runny noses, or heaven forbid, diarrhea," says Dr. Abrams. "And they're not able to keep from coughing or sneezing in our faces."

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But you can avoid getting so close with a bigger kid. "Although it may be tempting to touch a sick child, the germ factor has to be weighed against a sick child's need for the comfort that comes from cuddling," says Jill Whitney, a licensed family and marriage therapist. "Don't give up touch altogether. Focus on stroking his or her head or back [which are] less germy places -- and wash your hands afterward."

2. Sharing food. At snack time, it may be habit to finish off your child's half-eaten yogurt cup. But since sharing food is a fast way to pass germs, put the kibosh on that habit when your kid is sick. "Your child may want a bite of what you're eating, but that doesn't mean you have to share it, unless you can break off a piece easily," says Whitney.

3. Pushing yourself when you're feeling burnt out. Sure, sometimes you need to just have that cup of coffee and power through your long list of errands. Or you push yourself to take your baby to the park, because it's beautiful out, and you've been cooped up for the past couple of rainy days. But if you're feeling rundown, listen to your body and take a break -- even if it's a quickie.

"[Your child] may want to play with you right now, but if you're running out of energy and craving 10 minutes to sit and chill, you're allowed to sit and chill," says Whitney.

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Keep an eye on your calendar and don't overcommit yourself or the kids. "Limiting the number of activities during the winter season so that everyone, including mom, is rested is the best insurance we have against the viral onslaught," advises Dr. Abrams.

4. Spending time with friends' or family members' sick kids. Sure, your kid is going to come in contact with viruses at school, but when it comes to playdates or babysitting others' kids when they're sick, you can opt out, says Dr. Abrams.

"There's an important camaraderie among parents who help each other out by sharing the burden of childcare, but if you know that the sweet child you typically happily care for is not well, it is actually fine to say no," says Dr. Abrams. "We feel guilty, but just consider for a moment how much work and school might be missed, and how might it affect the emotional and financial bottom line of your family? It's not a little thing."

5. Skipping a good night's rest. When you have a baby, you're obviously going to end up sleep-deprived. But doing everything you can to prioritize your Zs is a must. "Getting your sleep on a consistent basis will do wonders for your immune system," says Terry Cralle, RN and certified clinical sleep educator. "Without it, it will be a challenge to stay healthy."

Cralle recommends scheduling your 24-hour agenda around the proper amount of shut-eye, which is ideally eight hours. "Also, avoid putting off your bedtime and your children's bedtimes, making them a non-negotiable part of the day," she recommends. "Approach bedtime and sleep with positivity. Never make going to bed early a punishment or staying up late a reward."

6. Doing it all. We all want to feel like we can do it all, and we might find it tough to ask for help, but a support system can be your greatest defense against getting sick.

"If your own family or your in-laws are nearby, engage them as much as they're willing in childcare and family life, even if they don't always do things the way you want," suggests Whitney. "If you don't have family around, find friends to swap childcare with or have playdates. The moms need the social opportunity as much as the kids do! You don't have to parent alone, and you don't have to do it perfectly."

In general, struggling to say no is a symptom of perfectionism. "We sometimes have this idea that the perfect mother would sacrifice everything for her child," says Whitney. "Outside of truly dire circumstances, that kind of 'perfect' is too much to expect of ourselves. We need to take care of our children and take care of ourselves." Not only will it keep you happy and healthy but also model a crucial life skill for your little ones.


Image via iStock.com/szefei

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