This past week has seen me laid up with a pretty awful virus. It always seems to happen that way. I don’t get sick often but when I do, I tend to do a good job of it. And I tend to manage to coincide it with either a family vacation or when hubby is away from home, an airplane flight away.
On Monday morning, I kissed my hubby goodbye – he’d be back on Thursday evening. I was confident that we’d manage a good week, despite missing him. But, the day rapidly deteriorated. It began with me feeling off colour in the morning. It ended with me crawling into bed that night, after wrangling the littlies through the bath-supper-bed routine, shivering so much that my teeth clattered about in a frantic tap dance routine. The day had not been great. We managed our school morning just fine, but after dragging myself through the extra mural run, the cold horror of discovering I’d left my wallet at home when I reached the till with a full trolley just about did me in. I had to fight through traffic four times before I finally got home with groceries, wallet and something resembling a quick supper for the kids, all the while shivering with fever. It was awful! I figured an early night would be all I need. Well, a 1am wake up with a 39.2 degree temp, more quaking shivers, vomiting, then awful hot sweats gauranteed that I needed more than a good night’s sleep. I was dreading the mommy-being-sick gig that lay ahead of me.
In the past, when I’ve been laid up like this, I have felt burdened to soldier on. I’ve got a homeschool schedule to stick to! My kids education is at stake! What about all the other appointments I have? The calls I need to make? The people I need to see? I need to rise above this! So many other people manage to, so I should too!
But the truth is that I’m not a patient sick person. And, since the kids were very little, I’ve found the best way to cope with my being sick is to try get me well the best way possible. Usually I feel horribly guilty about it. I feel guilty about crawling back into bed! Sometimes, I’d do school on the couch with the kids, cos then at least I was doing something. Sometimes sheer necessity kept me moving. Little babies needing a breast feed. Little kids needing lunch. I’d drag myself around, trying to get it all done. This time around I didn’t have the strength for that.
But I did have a few things I don’t always have or never had before:
…two older daughters who are quite capable of being little mommy stand ins if necessary. They got on with their seatwork independent of me. Both of them, believe it or not! They sorted out breakfast, bedrooms and the boys.
…Parents who were in town and could do the extra mural runs for me. They came and did a whole lot more too – shopping, feeding, bathing kids. Looking after me. This mommy had a mommy to look after her! What a blessing indeed!
…A less uptight view of things. That’ll be me. In my half awake state I realized that we weren’t going to collapse like a house of cards. My kids’ education was not going to flounder. In the moments I felt better we did school. I corrected some work, read aloud some stuff. But mostly I let them watch DVDs until the cows came home. Irony of ironies, that lasted for the first two mornings only, and soon the novelty wore off. The next couple days saw the kids running outside, creating stories and playing together. They churned out get well drawings. They read stories to themselves and to each other. They survived. And me? I slept. And slept. And slept.
It’s been a week and while I’m on the mend I’m still feeling under the weather. It’s tempting to feel like this week was a waste, but it wasn’t. My kids got to see mom in a different light. They got to grow a little taller as they each helped mommy in their own way. They got to practice self control and deal with disappointment in a safe environment. They enjoyed some bonus grandparents’ time and learned that even when things don’t go as expected, there are ways and means of working around them. And that’s okay.
Perhaps the most moving moment in the week was seeing my eldest daughter stand at the end of my bed one evening, tears glistening in her eyes. She’s my sometimes stoic child. The one who feels deeply, will respond with heart and be fired up with enthusiasm. But also the one who views tears with disdain and will fight them tooth and nail if needs be. Seeing tears slip past her eyelashes means that she’s certainly deeply hurt. Standing there in my room, she impatiently brushed at her tears. When I asked why she looked so sad, her little voice sounded so vulnerable and wobbly, “It’s just that you’ve never been this sick before mommy!”
“Oh, but I have. This is just the first time you guys have all been old enough for me not to have to stand up and look after changing or feeding or bathing kids. Plus your grandparents were here to help. It meant that I really could rest and try get better.”
“Oh!” her expression changed in that moment from one of tearful sadness to surprised realization. “I never thought about that before! Being sick when your mom looks after you is kind of fun. But, it must be horrible to be a mom and be sick because you’ve still got to look after everyone else!”
Bingo my dear!
If anything, this week taught me to lighten up a bit. I’ve forgotten to return a gazillion calls, straighten out a misunderstanding, pay bills, think about others, string really coherent thoughts together in such a fashion so as to even read a good book. So I’ve fluttered around Facebook, spoken in snatches, slept a whole lot, given my kids permission to enjoy some of our home DVDs and cut myself an awful lot of slack. And that’s ok. Because a sick momma is reality. And, as I realized on Thursday when I tried to get going with a normal day, only to get home and collapse again with nausea, the runs and extreme tiredness, it’s no use pushing myself to meet other people’s expectations or even my ideals. If getting better means a missed week of sports or school or whatever, that’s ok. The house, the kids, the family can cope when push comes to shove. And if I want to be well enough to love them and look after them the way I desire, then it makes sense to help the healing process rather than hinder it.
So, when I could barely keep my eyes open today, I headed back to bed for an afternoon nap – without that pesky mommy guilt – knowing that it’s actually okay.