Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mom's Don't Take Sick Days...and Other Lies

I have a cold, or maybe an upper respiratory infection; it is one of those head and chest things that saps your strength and leaves you gasping for breath (and I am asthmatic so that complicates things), and I am a I don't have time to be sick.  But I am.  There.  I have admitted it.

Yesterday as a bit worse than today and, for once, I actually let myself rest.  I did cook meals (hey, the kids had to eat!), and I kept the dishes washed (because it is ant season in my neck of the woods, and I freakin' HATE ants).  But I ignored the laundry, and I overlooked the dust, and I even let the kids skip their baths.

I spent the better part of the day on the sofa.  I watched The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring with the kids piled around me, and I watched Eat Pray Love while the kids pretty much trashed their rooms, and I watched other things that I guess I must have dozed through (and which I now, apparently, have no recollection).

I never do this.  I don't take days off like that.  When I had my gallbladder out a couple of years ago, the day after surgery I resumed my routine of carrying my then-five-year-old middle child up the ladder to her top bunk each night after she fell asleep in the chair in the living room (as was then her custom).

But yesterday, I realized that I spent so much time making sure that everyone else was rested, fed, bathed, medicated, educated, and everything else, that I never took time to make sure that my needs were taken care of, and I secretly resented it when no one insisted that I take care of myself.  Then it dawned on me...I was not impressing anyone by being a martyr...I was merely created some unsatisfying ideal that my daughters would assume that they had to live up to.  Shit.  Who wants that?

I made myself homemade chicken noodle soup (with homemade gluten free noodles).  It was a bit ambitious, considering how I was feeling, but when I am really sick I really want chicken noodle soup.  I put it on early in the morning, when I first realized how bad I really felt, and I let it cook all morning.  When we all finally piled onto the crowded sofa with steaming bowls of soup, there was a collective silence as we all relished the restorative powers of the much-esteemed comfort food.  It truly did nourish more than my stomach.

So, there...I admit it: I took a day off.  I proclaimed to all the kids that I was not feeling well and that I needed to rest.  My son, the youngest, had been recently ill himself (with the same type of crud), so he relished playing the role of caretaker.  He brought me blankets, heating pads, and thermometers.  He brought me cold drinks and extra pillows.  He learned to be a caretaker...something he would not learn if there was never anyone who needed to be taken care of.  Hmmm...never thought of it quite that way.

Today, I felt moderately better.  I had more energy, and I got up and got the house pulled together.  We had the last of the soup for lunch today.  It still tasted good, but today it no longer seemed like a magic it was just soup.

This made me wonder what it is that makes an ordinary day feel like it is somehow more than ordinary.  I realized that there is a certain feel in the air some afternoons.  I tend to notice it on weekdays, around 2:45...when I should be at work but, for whatever appointments, or vacation days...I am not.  There is a certain sense of freedom.  The sun seems a bit brighter, the air a little fresher.  The perfect song seems to offer itself up on the radio...some song from high school that inevitably makes me feel young and free.  Now, I know that 2:45 in the afternoon rolls around every day, but I certainly don't feel this way every day...just those weekdays when I find myself in the car rather than at work, just those days when I normally shouldn't be out driving.  Perhaps it is the unexpectedness of it.  You see, 2:45 used to represent the end of the school day.  Now it represents nothing more than the time I tend to get hungry at work.  But, one upon a time, that time was magic...that time meant FREEDOM.

Days off are like that--now they are quite few and far between, now they are magical.  So to decide to grant myself one...well, that was something.  I felt a bit like I did when I was a kid and faked an illness to stay home and watch soap operas (ahhhh, Bo and Hope's wedding), or read all day, or mourn the loss of some boyfriend whose name I can no longer recall.

I felt slightly guilty but restored.  I felt a sense of freedom.


firespark said...

Your food *is* magic. I'm convinced.

And, by the way, what time were you born? I heard a theory once that we feel most vibrant at the time of day (or night) at which we were born... something that's supposed to explain why there's "night people" and "morning people" and so forth. Perhaps you're a "2:45 people?" Of course, I was born pretty close to midnight, and I'm usually asleep by then, so it may just be bunk. ;)

Feel better, hon. You need more enforced slack days.

GingerGirl said...

Trust me, if I had any sick days left at work, I would have taken one today (and tomorrow, too for that is my esophago-gastroduodenoscopy...and yes, I did just Google what to expect). But, alas, I used them all for sick children and meteorologically-confirmed blizzards...

So, I will stay here...long for more chicken noodle soup...and obsess over impending procedures.

It is going to be a long day.

GingerGirl said...

HA! The Blind Side! That was one of the other movies I watched!

Surviving the Journey of Life said...

It is so incredible how restorative the "mental health days" can be. Granted yours was illness induced which is never fun, but I recently found that when everything was going crazy I decided I needed a day off. I actually wrote a post about that Mental Health Day where I did only what I wanted to do and only things that made me feel better. I felt like a million bucks the next day. I've decided that every so often I just need one of those days.

Your comment about making sure everyone else was taken care of that you forget to take care of yourself really hit home for me. I do the exact same thing. I get frustrated that someone doesn't drop everything to take care of me but soon realize, oh I probably would need to ask for the help since no one reads minds. It is ADORABLE that your son took care of you! I lucked out the last time I was sick and one of my best friends cooked meals for me before she would go to work so I wouldn't have to mess with it.

I hope you can have a personal day for a date with yourself that doesn't involve being sick soon!

GingerGirl said...

I agree that mental health days are necessary, and yet we feel so guilty about taking if the world would crash in if we took a minute to breathe. I do plan on trying to work more of these days into my life...because the days we actually spend being truly ourselves (rather than just working to pay bills, or cleaning, or whatever else it is that "simply HAS to be done") are the days that we (and our kids) are likely to remember.

I told my dear friend once that while I did want to be healthy, that I did not think that my kids were much more likely to reminisce about "days spent baking with mom" rather than "mom's wash board abs." (Which was liberating, since I am not likely to ever have said abs.)

*Heading over to check out your words of wisdom now...

Martha (MM) said...

So glad you took the day for you. I can so relate to this post. We need to find ways to take time for us too somehow someway!

GingerGirl said...

Martha, you know, you are right! And the more I think about it, the less guilty I feel... I am thinking about taking one day a month and plan on doing things that I want to do (disclaimer: this "me" day cannot involve grocery shopping...unless it involves chocolate).