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Mommies don’t get sick

Categories: Bad Parenting


Last week I was sick. I lay shivering in my coffin, er, on my deathbed, er, on my couch and thought about the last time I was sick. It was nearly three years ago and I was a single mommy with three kids at home. They each went to different schools that began and ended at different times and had varying bus stop drop-off and pick ups. It was a logistics nightmare that afforded me 2.5 hours alone time, four days a week (not five!), to work from home. La di da.

It all went swimmingly until I got the Death Flu. No one else in the house had it. Just me. I was doomed.

For five days I dragged myself out of bed at 6-ish and croaked greetings to my cherubs while stuffing bagels in the toaster and hoping they had lunch money left over so I didn’t have to walk an extra four feet to get a $20 bill from wherever I was keeping extra cash. By 9-ish they were all gone and I collapsed in a heap on the unvacuumed floor. Three hours to be Dead Mommy. If I was lucky I fell near the remote so I could turn Curious George off, otherwise I’d be doomed to three hours of PBS Kids until Eric got home and I had to muster the strength to walk outside and collect him from his bus.

Eric, the littlest, arrived back at 12:30. You’d think that some snuggle time with a three-year-old would be possible for a Sick and Dying Mommy, but not this one. He had the will and the strength of a rhinoceros, a small boy capable of staying awake for days on end. And I had to keep an eagle eye on him — at three, Eric-with-Down-syndrome had the self-discipline skills of a baby crocodile. He could not be counted on to be entertained (and stay in one place without wreaking havoc somewhere) with a nice DVD. The other two, in 2nd grade and 6th, dribbled in by 4 pm and had the gall to want things like DINNER. And BEDTIME RITUALS. And CALLIGRAPHY PRACTICE.

Okay, so I lied about the calligraphy. And they understood about the bedtime thing (sort of). But dinner … well, the point is, mommies really can’t get sick. I thought about this last weekend as I lay in bed shivering for two days, knowing I had the luxury to lay in bed shivering for as many days as I needed. Some of you know that my kids aren’t living with me now, and I never realized until now that there’s an unexpected perk to this — I can actually be sick.

You can’t.

My mom was never sick. Not once. Oh, she had the sniffles from time to time. And once she tore a ligament in her ankle and couldn’t work for a few days. But she was never sick.

Was yours?

I know there are exceptions (there was a lovely mother to my kids’ classmates a few years ago whose long and graceful illness and eventual death was incredibly beautiful and touching for the entire school community), but culturally, there just isn’t the wiggle room for us to be sick. Work needs us, families need us, kids need us. Sure, daddies step in and do what needs to be done, but for Order to be Restored to the Universe, mommies have to be Well and Whole and Able to Read Bedtime Stories Without Coughing.

As kids get older, they can fend for themselves a little better, but what do you do when they’re too little to be on their own long enough for you to have a nice bout of Bubonic Plague? I’m sure you’ve faced this before. How do you cope? Or do you fight it off as best you can and pretend you’re not sick? (ha ha) And if we work outside the home and manage to drag ourselves to the office, how do we justify/balance/manage collapsing at home to recover, just when the second shift is starting and the cries of “Mommy’s home!” come from down the hall?

[Warning: rainbow unicorn bubble world alert.] I’m thinking of a time when we live in real community, where we step in for one another when needed like this. Wouldn’t it be great if there was always someone to care for our kids?  Without question?  I’d love it if as mothers (and fathers) we didn’t feel we had to suck it up and not get sick because there just isn’t anyone else. Extended families used to do this. So how do you make being sick work?

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6 comments so far...

  • I let my kids (and myself) get away with a lot more when I’m sick. And I generally have on hand a stash of foodstuffs that require little or no preparation. That’s pretty much the extent of my flexibility.

    What really sucks is when one or both of the girls decides to be sick along with me. Then there is no rest. And it takes a lot longer for Mom to feel better when she never gets a night’s sleep.

    SKL  |  September 30th, 2009 at 7:25 am

  • I can feel the pain in your words.. yes being sick is something which mothers dont do> It got me thinking, i dont remember my mum being ever sick, ever complain of aching backs or headaches. I remember the house being clean always, food on our plates, and loads of hugs and energy around the house. The post is incredible since it makes me wonder how she did it.

    As for me, i have fallen sick. And i was definitely not as courageous as her. But i would stil do the needful for my daughter, my family. The food luckily my husband would take care of.
    To manage while you are sick… Its okay to ask for help. Let go a bit. Let the kids get away with it. Keep yourself hydratedl.. and for next time, ensure you are not in a situation where you can fall sick!

    GNSD  |  September 30th, 2009 at 7:59 am

  • It is much easier to be sick now. I can say “mommy doesn’t feel well” and she’ll pat my head saying “poor mommy, can I watch the veggie tales pirates?” Her eyes will be gleefully shining knowing if she plays her cards right she can watch it over, and over, and….
    She checks in after every cycle, asking for a snack, I have to decide as some point in the day to force nutrition, but I think she sees me ill as freedom, no one making her exercise, go outside, leave the TV.

    Mich  |  October 1st, 2009 at 10:50 am

  • I’m sure my mother felt ill more than once, but the one she couldn’t hide was German measles (rubella).
    I was about 7 or 8 and I remember it was a weekend because all she would come down, prepare food, and go back to her room telling my sister to listen to me. My mother is a high-energy, go-getter, even now in her late 60’s so that was REALLY rare for her to stay in her room, my sister asked her if she was dying.
    My mom was a nurse so knew she’d be mostly well by Monday but it was weird to have mom be that sick.
    I found out years later, that she was frustrated by getting it, because she thought she was immune. I had it as an infant so she figured she would have gotten it then if she was susceptible. But apparently not!

    Mich  |  October 1st, 2009 at 11:04 am

  • I agree that it is very very hard when mom is sick. Luckily for me if my husband is also not sick, he does a fabulous job. I fall sick the least in our household, must be mommy magic! Am sure friends will step in and so will extended family(nearest of whom are 2 hrs plane ride away though).

    Lakshmi  |  October 1st, 2009 at 11:33 am

  • Could not agree more!, my mom once told me: Your dad gets sick and the world ends, i get sick and the world will not notice!, and is true. I dont get sick, i think our minds and body work together and make our immunity system really strong, couse i dont get sick. My husband talked and in the 9 years together, I got really sick once! was years ago. Since becoming a momy i have nott ben sick at all!. My husband gets sick, my son gets sick and I… well i take care of them!!

    Funny story: I wake up every day about 5 am and go to bed around 10:30 - 11:00 pm ( i wish the day could have more hours), thats my schedule, i am ok with it. My husbands wakes up around 6:30 and goes to bed sometime after 9 if there is nothing on TV. Few weeks ago, we were getting ready to leave for work and he says: I DONT FEEL GOOD!, two minutes later he called the office and said he was not coming to work today. I left for work and few hours later called home, he answered, he was feeling wayyyy better, he told me with a great voice as if he just did a major discovery: I WAS NOT SICK! IT WAS THE LACK OF SLEEP!, but i just slept all morning and feel SO MUCH BETTER!

    Mari  |  October 3rd, 2009 at 8:04 am