Tis the season to be croaking

It’s December – the busiest time on both the work and life front – and generally the time when parents are struggling with illness – their children’s and their own.

Tired woman pouring coffee


It’s December. Everyone in the house is either ill or has been ill. Almost every second person I talk to has been ill, including workingmums.co.uk colleagues. It’s that end of the year slump. Generally I get ill at Christmas. My ho, ho, hos as Father Christmas tend to be ho sniff, ho cough, ho splutters.

This year I am getting in early. Or maybe it will be one of those bugs that doesn’t shift or boomerangs back as soon as you close the computer down.

The problem is you don’t just succumb at this time of year [or, these days, at any other time of the year]. There is just too much to do  on every front. It doesn’t help that young people do not appear to be very resistant to illness. I woke up only son on Tuesday and he just groaned and whispered weakly ‘paracetamol’. He told me he was definitely too ill to go to school. I asked for a detailed description of his symptoms. It turned out they were basically a cold. Not even a sore throat. I regaled him with tales of going into work with a raging temperature. This was probably not the best way to get him onside and he probably had a point when he said that I would have been better off staying in bed. Maybe I wouldn’t get sick every Christmas if I’d have stayed at home instead of ploughing on through illnesses.

Nowadays, of course, there is a big focus on people blurring the lines between work and home and working through holidays and sickness. But I think I’ve always worked through seasonal illness and I know it was happening a long time before Covid, which seems to get blamed for all manner of things.

Only son wasn’t shifting. He is on a high bunk bed thing and he’s bigger than me. If words don’t work, there is no way I can physically get him down from up there. He had double PE that day. I took pity despite the likelihood of an email from the school telling me he would lose 3.2% off his GCSE results or some such for every day off school. He went back to sleep.

The next day he seemed to feel worse. He didn’t even reach for a paracetamol. He just croaked. But the next day he voluntarily decided he was better, so bored was he with being at home listening to me interviewing people about education policy and working flexibly. So this is my new tactic. Bore him into school.

Only son has always been very health conscious. He even takes a scratch very seriously. In this, he takes more after his dad than his mum. His dad was second in line for the bug and was feeling very sorry for himself all weekend. He described all his symptoms in great detail. They were the symptoms of your basic cold. He had multiple siestas. The worst thing was that he lost his sense of taste and smell, just like he did when he got Covid.  The same thing happened last year when he got a cold. He thought it was Covid, but he tested negative. For my partner, food is most definitely the main focus of his day. He spent the whole weekend looking extremely gloomy. He rang me excitedly at one point early in the week to inform me that he thought he could taste a digestive biscuit. The sense of taste came and went, but it’s back on track now. Meanwhile, my brother is suffering from tinnitus in Argentina.

Everyone – except my brother –  is blaming daughter three for giving them the bug. She had it last week and took a couple of days off. She must have been feeling quite rough because she is currently saving up for a trip with her sister at Christmas so needs to do as many hours as she can.

I feel that I have escaped relatively lightly from the December health dip so far – usually I have an unending cough at this time of year – but there are still a few more weeks to go…

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