Each and every time I dare to get sick, I’m plagued with a recurring dream.
I’m in bed with an extremely sore throat or a painful stomach bug. I can barely lift my head up. Yet I keep trying to reach my office to let them know I won’t be in today. But whatever I do, I can’t seem to get through to a single person who can help me.
I’m in a full-blown panic because I’m sick as a dog and desperately need to go back to bed, but responsibility calls. I have to contact my office to let them know I need a sick day, and I can’t rest until I do.
Then I wake up, relieved to realize that I am a stay-at-home-mom and have no office to check in with. Nobody I have to answer to.
The relief is very short-lived.
I’m a mom. Even if I still worked in an office and took a sick day there, I wouldn’t catch a break at home.
I distinctly remember a Saturday, about five years ago, when my throat was so sore that I could barely breathe, never mind talk, without pain. I woke up to find my youngest, Peter, standing over me.
It was 6:30 in the morning.
“Mommy, I want sushi.”
“Peter,” I croak in a voice that is better-suited for a 1-900 number and not a mom of three. “Mommy is sick, go downstairs, and put on a movie.”
“Mommy, I want breakfast.”
“Mommy, I need food.”
“Go into the cabinet… and get some cereal. Daddy will… get some muffins in a minute.” Each word hurt more than the last. I was in agony.
I turn to my husband, my best friend, my parenting partner, the man who sleeps right next to me. I sense that he’s pretending to be asleep, and I am less than pleased.
“Joe… Please… muffins… for… kids. I’m sick.”
“Mommy, I don’t want daddy’s breakfast. I want yours.”
I hear Joe’s muffled laughter and part of me wants to join in. The other, very sick part, wants to just cry. Since words are agony for me, I just sigh. The sigh that means I’m seriously considering single parenthood.
I slip into the abyss once again.
But not for long.
“What… is… it… Peter.”
“Can I hold your hand?”
“I love you mommy.”
“I love you too.”
Now I’m feeling guilty. He is only six-years-old. The poor thing just wants his mother. He is also probably scared that my voice sounds so strange, and it’s obvious I’m in pain.
I remember feeling the same way when I was little, and my mom was sick. Moms are superhuman. They can’t get sick. My heart melts a bit, and I make a mental note to call and thank my own mother for not eating her young. I know my sisters and I tortured her when she was sick, just as my son was torturing me now.
“Yes baby.” I now use the sweetest mommy voice I can croak out for my child, who only wants reassurance and a cuddle from his mother.
“Come walk with me to the kitchen, and get me something to eat”
“Joe. Get… up…now… and take him with you before… I sell him.” I croak out before I pass out and go back to sleep.
I faced the hard truth that day. There is a reason why I’ve had the same dream for as long as I’ve had kids. Even now, when they are older and able to do most things for themselves, I’m still needed, if only to remind them foil doesn’t go in the microwave or to mediate whatever battle they may get into when I’m down for the count.
Let’s face it, there’s no such thing as a sick day when you’re a mom.
This piece is an updated version of an essay that ran on the Dishwasher under the name, There are No Sick Days for Mommies, May 16, 2014
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