It’s no mystery that moms rarely get a break. So when we mommies get sick, it’s a real drag for the family. But is it really so bad for mama? Of course, no one likes getting sick. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: being a little under the weather can have its benefits too.
In the majority of households, moms are the major players in the home. We are usually the ones planning and prepping meals. We are typically the ones emailing our kiddos’ teachers when they have everything from a missing assignment to a dentist’s appointment. We are typically the coin-free laundromats, the dog walker, the vet taker, and the office supply reordering service. We make sure pencils are plentiful while ensuring all the favorite snacks and lunch options are fully stocked in our cupboards. And if we work on top of that, then all that we do in the home gets penciled in somewhere with the No. 2’s we just sharpened. So what happens when we are forced to take a timeout from all of that? What is a mama supposed to do?
The Beast of Being a Sick Mama
Life on the farm as we know it stops when us mamas get sick. You know, self-isolating is not a new term. Even before the endless Covid-positive protocols, when parents get sick, we typically shut ourselves off from the kids as much as we can so that they stay healthy. And this is HARD for a mama and her little human ducklings. The morning mom snuggles, the nighttime prayers and lullabies and the calendar organizer of everyone’s life is suddenly a void in the home. And everyone feels it. As a mom, this is a horrible feeling, as we watch our children peeking around the corner to check in on us, make sure we are doing okay, and secretly (desperately) hoping we will feel good enough to get up and make them their favorite grilled cheese sandwich. It doesn’t matter whether kids have a close relationship with their mom or not, everyone wants their mommy.
Since kids are typically around their moms more, they rely more heavily on them for support. Dads are (again, typically) usually considered the fun parent. That is 100 percent true in my home. Everyone wants Dad to pick them up from school because they love his big truck and usually (eh-hem, always) get ice cream, a smoothie, or some fun little treat. I, on the other hand, am the parent who packs snacks everywhere we go (making sure there is a mixture of healthy foods in there). I am the parent who goes directly home after school, unless I have boring errands I need to run or if we are headed to extracurricular activities. And even then, I have snacks prepared. I am also the parent who drives a very boring minivan (although I object to my minivan being called boring!), so getting picked up in my mom’s black bucket on wheels is not nearly as cool.
But when one of my kids wakes up in the middle of the night or is sick, scared, or just needing a little extra TLC, they come to Mommy. They want their mommy because the day-ins and day-outs of their littles lives usually have me in them. Now don’t get me wrong, I hands down have one of the best co-parenting partners anyone could ever ask for. My husband is a truly amazing father. But my children have been with me since the beginning. Like the beginning of the beginning. I began nurturing them in utero, so it’s no wonder that they would default to me when they need some love and attention. So when this mama can’t give it to them in fear of giving them my sickness, the world as they know it feels very different.
The other beastly bummer about when mama gets sick is that the home that we work tirelessly to not look like a typhoon went through it gets a little, you might say, destroyed. The laundry piles up, or my favorite, the clothes get washed and dried but then stay in a heap in the laundry basket for days on end. I mean, were moms the only ones who learned how to fold clothes and put them away? Shoes scatter about the house instead of being put in their closets (where they belong, I might add) and the endless mismatched sock collection that peppers the hallway floor is enough to send us mamas straight into therapy.
And let’s not talk about mealtime. I think when moms get sick, all of a sudden the rest of the house falls prey to food amnesia, because the vegetables that are always a staple on the dinnerplate suddenly becomes a refrigerator section that is both untouched and unopened.
The Beauty of Being Under the Weather and Under the Covers
Let’s talk about the secret that us mamas don’t like to discuss out in the open when we get sick. Although no woman loves to be down and out with a head cold, there is this brilliant little piece of time that we moms need to treasure: alone time. Now I know that we all love our families to pieces. I mean, I LOVE my family and I love my life. But dang ladies, isn’t it kind of amazing to have an excuse to stay in bed drinking hot tea and reading our favorite book? Or for just a small moment of time to feel guilt-free about binge watching all those rom-coms that your husband will never sit through and watch with you?
When us moms get sick enough, it is one of the only times we give ourselves permission to stop. I have pushed through many small colds, ailments, and bouts of exhaustion. But when a cold or flu flatlines me to my bedsheets, I finally give in. I withdraw into my bedroom with my favorite wellness elixirs, the books that I have not finished, and my laptop. And then, I rest. I try (sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much) not to worry about what’s for dinner, what the kids are doing, and how much TV they’ve watched. I let their dad (or whomever is helping me) take the reins and for a very short time in my life, I let go of control.
I’m not quite sure if actually stopping to rest and recuperate is what makes the healing process go quickly or if maybe, just maybe, giving up the control is what allows me to get well. I think it is a combination of both.
I’d like to say that every time I am on the upswing of being sick, I remember to take time out of my busy life to rest and recuperate when I’m well also. However, I’m afraid it’s a lesson I am destined to learn over and over again. But for all of us mamas, when we do get sick, we can relish in the beauty—the blessing—that we are being given. We are handed, for a short time, the get-out-of-jail-free card, the pause button, or whatever metaphor you want to see it as. I wish sickness on no one, but I do wish for all of us mamas to really nourish and nurture ourselves when we are not feeling quite well. Remember that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take very good care of anyone else. Be well.