What will happen to my children? This was my first thought after being diagnosed with an illness that one out of four dies from.  As the mother of five young children, it was only later that I thought of myself—like many busy moms.  

How could I care for my kids while I was resting and recovering?  How could I care for myself? 

Read on for my advice during this stressful time…

Ten Steps To Mothering During A Serious Illness  

1. Don’t keep silent 

As a mom, I felt shame that I was ill, although it’s illogical.  Don’t keep your illness a secret, and let others know what you’re going through so they can help.  Don’t underestimate the cheer that a friendly visit, phone call, e-mail or text can do to brighten your mood.  If your illness is serious, also let your child’s school know so they can offer support—both to you and your child.  

2. Ask for help / accept help 

Why is it so hard for moms to ask for and accept help from others?  During an illness, it’s essential to lean on family, friends, co-workers and your community at large.  Whether it’s babysitting, the offer of a home-cooked meal, or carpooling to hockey practice.  Accept offers of help, and let others know where help is most needed.  

3. Discuss grief 

Don’t sweep grief under the carpet, it’s important to acknowledge both your children’s grief and your own.  Let your children know that even if you’re ill, that they’re loved and will always have someone to look after them.  Discussing grief will help validate your children’s feelings, and let them know they’re not alone.    

4. Seek support

You don’t have to go it alone, and sometimes it’s good to have someone to talk to.  Whether it’s your best friend, your mom, a Facebook group, or a counsellor, do seek the support that you need during the illness.  Online or face-to-face support groups are there to help, and also have a network of people who have been in your shoes.  You’ll feel calmer, and your kids will feel it.    

5. Stick to a routine

Although being sick in bed has its challenges, try to stick to a modified routine for the kids’ sake.  For example, reading a bedtime story while cuddling into mom’s bed is very doable, as is doing light homework, or watching a movie together.  Having a routine your child can depend on is reassuring, and gives your child guaranteed access to mom.    

6. Allow a takeover 

During your illness, accept that your spouse may have to temporarily take over your regular duties.  Whether it’s getting the children to school, preparing meals, doing the laundry, or overseeing bath time, tell your spouse exactly what extra help you need with the kids.      

7. Sleepover party

There’s no shame in having your mom—or another close relative—come to live temporarily with your family to help out.  During the worst of my illness, my mom visited my home daily to assist with the kids and my own care.  It really helped tremendously and was great for morale all around.  It was also a special visit for the kids and contributed to the normalcy of their routine.  

8. Nanny or nurse 

Do you need extra care, for yourself or your children?  If you have an extended illness, be realistic and consider hiring a nanny for the kids or a caregiver for yourself.  Check your work benefits to see if a personal caregiver is covered and if the service will offset the associated costs.  Don’t be ashamed to accept a helping hand.    

9. Hospital visits

Allow your children to visit you while in hospital, but keep the visits short and pleasant.  It’s easy for kids to get bored, so have them bring activities with them like a colouring book and crayons, deck of cards, or sketchpad and pencil.  Also, packing snacks and water will ensure that they’re not running on empty.  Plan the visit for a time when you’re not resting or in extreme pain.

10. Think positive

A positive mom helps nurture a positive child.  And interestingly enough, a recent Harvard study revealed that optimistic women had a significantly reduced risk of dying from several major causes of death over an eight-year period, compared to less optimistic women!


Jenna Em is the mom of 5 great kids, ages 5- to 10-years old!  She’s a Huffington Post writer and popular Canadian blogger at www.snymed.com.