Step one: Don’t. Do not get sick. Wipe runny noses and stinky bottoms and clean up vomit all the live long day but don’t even think about getting sick.
Step two: (not much of an advice follower, are you?) If you must, get sick on a Friday night, or on the evening of whatever day your partner-in-parenting-crime is about to enjoy off of work.
Step three: Lock the door. Stay in bed. Sleep. (I know you dream of doing that all the time anyway, but I mean it. Don’t catch up on emails or call the insurance company about that one thing or schedule the 18 month check-ups. SLEEP!)
Step four: Text/call your partner whenever you need to use the bathroom/request a water refill and ask him/her to herd the children into another room. You DO NOT want the minions to catch sight of you. If they know you’re snoozing away behind door number one they will bring a swift end to your peace.
Step five: Figure out if you’re going to make it to work the next day. If not, let your boss know earlier rather than later. Let your partner know as late as possible. Like, maybe at 2am when you wake up to make another urgent trip to the bathroom…they’ll be pretending not to hear you, hoping in vain not to have another day of solo-parenting ahead of them. Now is the perfect time – they are exhausted, their defenses are down, they’re half asleep…when you get back to bed, mutter something about your fever and body aches and how grateful you are that they’re taking care of you. Now quick, roll over and pop that grind-guard back in.
Step six: Sleep through the diaper/dress/breakfast routine the next morning. Wake whenever the kids go down for the nap, prop yourself up on pillows and sort of fold some laundry on the bed while you netflix. Watching your poor sick self slave away for the family just might make your partner resent you and that awful norovirus a little bit less.
Step seven: Assure your partner you will be ok with the kids while he attends/teaches afternoon classes. You will immediately regret this, but it is the right thing to do.
Step eight: Put the kids down for a nap. I don’t care that they don’t take two naps anymore. Just do it. Oh, and change into some different sweats. You stink.
Step nine: Text your partner subtle hints like “Oh man, I am struggling” or the more cheery, “If there’s any way you can skip or leave your seminar early, I would so appreciate it!”
Step ten: Daniel Tiger. He’s your last hope of making it to bedtime.
Tomorrow you will return to work with a new spring in your step. You have beat the barfs and survived the parental sick day. Of course, nobody expects you to clean up that dinner mess (but really. pasta sauce? what were you thinking!) or the disaster of toys in the living room, but I’m pretty sure your superhero partner wouldn’t mind a large glass of wine to help ease the re-entry.
And remember: next time, just don’t get sick. Unless of course your mom lives around the corner and will come watch your children and clean your house and make you chicken noodle soup. (And if she does and you live anywhere near me, can I borrow her?)