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 mom...so 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 elixir...today 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 reason...doctor 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.