Saturday, January 19, 2013

Celebrating Sick Days

"Well, it is going around,” replies my boss when I call to tell her I won't be at work today because I’ve kept my child home from school. Apparently this week has been particularly full of reports of folks falling ill. I'm thankful I don't get any flack for taking the day off.

I hang up the phone, pass out crackers, administer acetaminophen, start the second load of laundry, pour my third cup of coffee and then, when no one is looking, do a happy dance.

I'm staying home!

Not that I would ever want my kids to be sick. Please don't think I'm implying I wish them a poor fortune. No, I'm embarrassingly and selfishly admitting that I am making this sick day about me. Sure it's the number on the thermometer that forces my hand and makes me keep my child home, but it's me who could use a day in. And if the price I must pay is extra laundry, intermittent sprays of disinfectant and extra snuggles while wearing my pajamas - well it's sad to admit that this day is, in fact, a luxury for me.

At least I say that now. Karma will no doubt hunt me down and make me rue the moment I welcomed a sick day. As of now there is none of the yucky stuff: vomiting, diarrhea or dehydration. That would, of course take this sick day to a whole 'nother level. No, the bug we have requires nothing more than a box of tissues, cherry flavored fever reducer and a nap.

Oh napping! It’s the one thing mothers never get but always need. Stay home and lie on the couch in the name of comforting my child? Yes! Yes, I could do that. Because I'm not sure who really needs it more, her or me.

Now lest you think of me as a lesser person for celebrating an infirmity let me assure you of that I already feel so guilty about it that nothing you could say would make my conscious feel any worse.

In my head I'm supposed to be super mom, able to do all and be all to everyone who counts on me. The expectations I have on myself are, like every other mother's, high. Never run late, always remember my kids schedules and cheerfully drive them everywhere, put my family first, keep the house clean and the bills paid, refuse to let the laundry get out of control and do my job with such fluid efficiency that they entrust me to do more. I also try to exercise, cook healthy foods, be a good friend, have time for a hobby and write awesomely.

Some days I run myself ragged keeping up with my own image of what I think is required in order to be happy. I have no time to keep up with the Kardashians. Heck, I can't even keep up with myself. And that's beneficial to anyone how? It’s not of course. I fully admit I'm no good to anyone if I'm stretched so thin that it takes a sick child to make me sit down and decompress.

So yes of course I feel terrible but sadly I'm also desperately relieved. I'm mortified for allowing myself to be in this position and deeply regret stooping so low as to think that a fever was just the break I needed.

I'm just being honest.

Moms have a tough road. We think we need to be superhuman and the pressure we feel from our families and jobs is stressful. But if I've learned anything in my seventeen years as a mother it's this; the world will continue spinning on it's axis if lunchboxes forget to be packed, pants can be worn two days in a row and a crystal clean toilet bowl is not mandatory in order to do your business.

Take care of yourself moms. Manage your schedule with precision but understand perfection is not a part of your job description. I hope it never takes a sick day to get your attention. I hope that your family stays healthy and you stay on track. But in the case that you, like me, experience the conflicting joy of a sick day I certainly hope it's nothing a little extra TLC can't handle. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so. That's why.

This article appears in The Monmouth Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series.


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