I have three boys. My youngest son is now ten months old and is exclusively breastfed. I also breastfed his two older brothers till they were both 12 months old. If I did my math correctly, this means that I have been breastfeeding for nearly 3 years of my life. In all that time, I had managed to avoid getting mastitis – until recently. However unfortunate, I can now check that one off my list of accomplishments. I won’t go into details, but I have never been so sick. When I tried to describe it to my husband, all I could think to say was “I feel like I have been hit by a Mack truck.” I have since heard from many other mastitis survivors that this is a very typical description of mastitis. Solidarity sisters!
I was blind-sided by how suddenly the infection came on, and the wide range of symptoms was staggering. Eventually I started antibiotics and thankfully was feeling better within 48 hours… but it was a rough 48 hours at our house. I mean, I have been sick before but this completely incapacitated me. Effectively, Mom was out of commission. During those 48 hours, my husband had to step up to the plate in a big way. We learned a few good lessons that I hope will help all you other partners if mom ever gets hit by a truck at your house.
Tips for partners when mom literally can’t:
- Learn to read the signs. Moms are notorious for being selfless when it comes to meeting the needs of their families. So when mom gets sick, the internal struggle is real. Mom wants help, but may not be able to verbalize that she just isn’t physically able to do the normal things. Don’t be afraid to ask how she is feeling and what she is capable of doing. But be ready to take action because if her answer is, “I just can’t.” it is now your moment. Go get’em tiger!
- Advocate for mom. Moms are quick to suggest going to the doctor when others are sick. However, it can be difficult to decide when it is time to get seen themselves, because they tend to minimize the severity of their symptoms. Be an advocate, reassure her, and remind her that it is important to seek medical attention when needed.
- Be the drill sergeant. Moms, like doctors or nurses, sometimes make the worst patients. Because moms are so used to prioritizing everyone else’s needs, they may find it challenging to take care of themselves properly. If you are able, try to keep track of meds and encourage more as needed. Offer hot or cold beverages to help her stay hydrated. Small reminders can go a long way.
- Prioritize the list of tasks. Not everything is do-or-die. To make your job more manageable, organize your tasks in order of importance and eliminate ones that can wait until later. Not everything that mom usually does today, has to get done today.
- Don’t worry about meeting mom’s standards. Feel free to do everything your way. Don’t worry about doing it mom’s way. She will just be grateful you got it done. Also, try to avoid asking her tons of questions about how to do something. If you can’t get something done without step by step instructions, it might not be worth doing. As the old saying goes, ‘just do your best’.
- Be cautious of statements that place blame or make mom feel guilty. Moms are action-oriented people. We want to help! If we could help, we would help! So be very careful when making statements that could result in mom feeling guilty about being physically incapable of helping. I know life can get stressful, but making mom feel guilty doesn’t make her heal faster.
- Keep the kids occupied. You partners can be magic when it comes to entertaining kids. It seems like all you need is a cardboard box and some straws to make up a fun new game. Now is the time to use those powers for good. So get creative and let mom rest in peace as much as possible.
- Call in the tribe. We all have strengths. If cooking isn’t your strong suit, call in reinforcements… or a pizza. If getting the kids to bed is difficult for you to tackle alone, ask family or a close friend to stop by for some extra hands. Even moms ask for help when they need it.
- Don’t forget what if felt like to be mom. Once mom is finally feeling better, try to remember how it felt to be responsible for all that moms do. From this experience, learn how you can better help her in the future… Maybe even sometime when she doesn’t feel like she’s been hit by a truck.