I actually liked being sick when I was little. My mom would pull out the bed from the convertible couch (normally only reserved for sleep-overs, so sleeping with that metal bar in your back on a flimsy mattress was actually very exciting). She would make macaroni and Jell-O and give me Sprite to sip on, and I would spend the day lying on the couch-bed and watching all the cartoons that I normally missed when I was in school. Being sick was the best. I missed fifteen days of school in fifth grade and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t truly sick for any of those.
Then when junior high and high school came around, suddenly being sick wasn’t so fun. The mere thought of all the work I would miss and having to get make-up assignments for half a dozen different classes was enough to make me shake it off and drag myself in. I think I missed one school day in six years. But at least I could still sleep the afternoon away, and Mom was still there to cook chicken soup, and bring me drinks and medicine.
By college it wasn’t really an option to stay home sick. I had several times where I crawled to class in pajamas, with red-rimmed eyes and a hacking cough, and sat slumped and half-conscious through a lecture that couldn’t be missed. But I could still crawl into bed and sleep most of the day, buried under blankets, and there were always dorm mates on hand to grab me food from the cafeteria. It was all doable.
So what happens when you get sick when you’re a Mommy? I remember my mom being extremely ill exactly once when I was a kid and it scared me to death. Mom is the rock in the family, Mom cooks and cleans and makes sure everyone is taken care of. If she’s sick, who’s going to keep the house running? I’ve been ill three times since my 15 month old was born, and let me tell you (if you haven’t been sick with kids yet) – it sucks. Like, big time. All the things you’re supposed to do to get better? Yeah you can’t do those anymore. Sitting on the couch and watching TV, or sleeping for hours on end until you feel better, or even scheduling a simple doctor appointment are all nearly impossible without help.
I just spent almost two weeks with a virus – sinuses blocked, headache, rattling cough, fever, room spinning, complete exhaustion. And I have a toddler. When I felt the “body aches” coming on and knew I was getting sick, I just about had a panic attack. The previous two times I had been sick with my baby, my mom still lived here and was able to take him to her house for part of the day (which – that’s the easiest way to go, get a friend or family member to help out). Now with my mom across the country and all my friends having little ones of their own that they wouldn’t want to risk exposing, how was I supposed to keep the house going when I could barely sit up?
For starters, The moment I felt myself getting sick I knew I had a few hours until it really started hitting me, so I immediately went to the store and stocked up on a week’s worth of no-prep meals, anything that I could throw in the oven or microwave, along with juices, fruits, and a variety of medicines. For some reason I was the most worried about getting everyone fed and wanted to not have to think about meals.
At home, once I was really starting to feel sick, I removed any trace of guilt over all-day Elmo marathons and had Sesame Street running in a loop in the background. I set up a blanket and pillow bed on the carpet and from there discovered there was quite a bit I could do to entertain my toddler with little effort – block towers, books, zooming his little cars down make-shift ramps, throwing his plastic balls into the clothes hamper. I momentarily excused myself from non-essentials like laundry and picking up the house. I napped along with my son, and some days wanted to cry when I heard him waking up from his nap because my body was telling me to SLEEP and REST and I just couldn’t. I knew that if things ever got really unmanageable that I could call my husband, and just knowing that was an option made things not so bad.
Getting into the doctor was harder. There was no way I was going to drag my toddler into the doctor’s office with the potential for a 30-60 minute wait, and nobody wanted to watch him due to the valid fear that he could be incubating whatever I had. So, I had to wait a few days, but I found a doctor who was open on the weekend and went to get antibiotics then.
In the end, nothing catastrophic happened. We all got fed in some form, my son didn’t go bonkers from being cooped inside for several days (he was actually a real trooper). I was probably sick for a lot longer than I would have been had I been able to rest all day, but I eventually got better and next time it won’t seem nearly as daunting when I get sick. I learned to have someone, anyone, you can call for help, eliminate non-essential chores, and give yourself a break on not cooking meals or cleaning the house for a bit. So what if your kid has watched cartoons all day and eaten nothing but macaroni and Jell-O. They probably actually had a pretty good time.
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