Over the course of our parenthood lifetime, it's inevitable that there will be episodes of childhood illness or injury that you must get through. Caring for children with colds and flu might not be pleasant, but it's easier to have a sense of perspective about these common experiences than the "bigger" stuff.
My friend Renee's son Scott recently underwent his second knee surgery - the results of the first one were less than satisfactory. My friend's busy work schedule was thrown on its ear as she accommodated the medical appointments before and after the surgery itself. Plus, her stress level went sky high due to concern about her boy's emotional and physical wellbeing. I noticed that Renee completely stopped answering my emails and phone calls, even though she had asked me to regularly check in with her. I never took it personally, of course, but I became suspicious about her own health, since this wasn't like her.
When I finally reached Renee, I asked her straight, "Are you sleeping, eating well, and getting breaks from the caretaking?" She paused, so I had my answer. She was apparently so depleted and burned out that she was mildly depressed, even though Scott was on the mend and doing well. Renee intellectually knew all about the importance of self care during these trying experiences, but she was amazed how difficult it had been for her to put it into action. She promised herself (and me) that she'd start putting herself on the to-do list to replenish herself.
Although it's often easier said than done, it's essential for the caretaker to recharge on a regular basis. The tougher the situation - as in times of childhood disease or injury - the more draining it potentially can be, and therefore the more necessary it becomes for you to take the time. This feels counter-intuitive, I know, so practicing is the key.