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I am every woman. I can bring home the bacon and I can fry it up in a pan. I can work in the home, out of the home and on my mobile device. I am a perfect blend of post-modern thinking and traditionalist values. I can dress it up or down and sauté shrimp scampi and deep fry chicken nuggets. But there is one simple thing I cannot do. I cannot get sick.
Despite the fact that it is cold and flu season.
I am sure that doctors, nurses, pharmacists and teachers feel that this is certainly the most unfortunate time of the year but no one dreads cold and flu season more than one single solitary individual; the mother, especially this mother of five children.
Nursing our sick children back to health requires professional strength disinfectant, a functioning 24/7 laundromat, all night vomit festivals and nerves of steel. Our days become consumed with germs, toilet bowl cleaning and carpet cleaner. It's a terrible, terrible thing for a person to endure. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.
But as we all know even despite the proper precautions sickness is a wickedly fast vagabond looking to set up shop in whatever available body it can find. And God help the woman who falls ill because if you're a mother you know your family is not going to help you out one iota.
Even though my family has never seen a cape they live as if I am the superwoman of impenetrable, walking health. Our families literally cannot comprehend that it is possible for us to get sick. Or rather become so sick we cannot help them. We could be bent over the toilet yakking our intestines out while our children ask us what's for dinner.
So rather than deal with the unsympathetic attitudes hoisted on us, it's simply easier to treat our symptoms as best as we can and trudge on through our day. And that's what I did recently. Until I could trudge no more.
It felt like poison had saturated the lining of my stomach. If I had the capacity I would have pulled my own stomach out with my bare hands. Surely, I thought in my mid-vomit delirium, having no stomach would feel better than keeping the one I had. Retching uncontrollable my twins stood outside the bathroom door and said, "Hey Mom? Are you going to be done soon so we can finish our game?"
Just minutes before my kids mistook my fetal position on the couch as a sign that I wasn't, and I quote, "doing anything" so they propped up a game on the coffee table. Three rolls of the die later I was running to the bathroom.
I decided then and there to put myself to bed. But here's the problem when you go to bed before the rest of your family. They don't know what to do. Moms are always the last ones to go to bed. So my family floundered about, barging into my bedroom-turned-ICU to ask me questions and relay the boring details of their day to me (really, honey now is not a good time to tell me about your school lunch). Because laying there under piles of blankets, alternatingly shaking from chills and breaking out in a sweat must have communicated to them I wanted to be their personal, captive audience.
It was just wrong.
That's why the next morning I cleaned myself up, got dressed and did my best to stay vertical which mistakenly gave the impression I had been miraculously healed overnight. Which of course means their life can return as normal.
And life did need to get back to normal. That's why eight anti-diarrhea caplets later I felt it safe to attend an all day basketball tournament. Being gone from home for twelve hours also meant we had to eat out because there was no food at home to pack along as the kids had been left to fend themselves for two days. I had no choice but to give into their demands for burgers and fries.
So my first meal after a nasty 48 hour flu bug? A big juicy all beef patty with special sauce lettuce and cheese (with a Pepto-Bismol® chaser of course). And you know what? I kept it all in. Which at the time felt extremely foolish but today makes me wonder - maybe I am a super woman after all.
You can get your flu shots. You can bathe in antibacterial hand gel. You can even quarantine the kids but when the angry flu bug does find you don’t expect any sympathy from your children. Do your best to get well and when you pick yourself up off your bathroom floor go out and get yourself a cape. Because any woman who survives the flu and parenthood simultaneously deserves superhero status in my book. Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so! That’s why!
This article appears in the 1/10/12 edition of The Review Atlas a GateHouse Media company. Stephanie is a Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District. She will use the five pounds she dropped with her recent bout of the flu to jump start a diet she’s been meaning to get to. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org