Friday, June 4, 2010

Maternal Sick Leave

I’ve been racked up for the last 2 days with a horrible cold, but since a) my kids are all in high school or older and b) my husband is home all the time, I’ve been able to enjoy the comparative luxury of being miserable by myself in my room. For a stay-at-home mom, this is definitely a benefit that only comes with a lot of seniority.

For a SAHM with little kids, getting sick merely means adding “cough, puke and feel sorry for yourself” to an already lengthy to-do list. If you have another job outside the house, you may be able to get the kids to the babysitter so you can collapse; if your husband can take family leave, he may be able to watch the little ones while you burn with fever. However, for the occasional bout of cold or flu (or morning sickness) you’re usually on your own.

Obviously chronic illness is a different matter, as our Mollie (who has more super-powers than Wonder Woman) can attest; and if you’re pregnant and on bed-rest with little people already under foot, you will have to make arrangements for someone to help you keep them from playing in the oven when you can’t jump up and pull them out of it. What to do, though, if you’re the primary caregiver and what you’d really like is YOUR mommy?

Give up. Lower your standards. By trying to carry on Business as Usual, you will only make yourself feel martyred and your children uneasy (because they’ll know Mom is mad but have no idea why). You’ll still have to diaper and feed and mediate, yes; but this is no time for your Martha Stewart impersonation.

Set up Base Camp on the couch with pillows and blankets, put ginger ale and crackers within easy reach (not your meds, though – you don’t want to doze off and have somebody decide to run a taste-test), and announce that Mommy Is Sick. Kids are usually very sweet when they know you’re not feeling well, tiptoeing and speaking in hushed voices for up to 15 minutes before the novelty wears off.

Little kids won’t care if you have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs (or whatever your household equivalent is) for every meal, so for now forget the Food Pyramid and serve what they’ll eat and you can make without much effort. If the kids are old enough to work in the kitchen without too much supervision, let THEM make the sandwiches or nuke the macaroni and cheese. Have a Bugs Bunny marathon. Let them play video games all day. As long as they’re where you can see them and they’re not playing with knives, it won’t hurt them, and even the smallest child will understand that the rules haven’t changed – people get special privileges when they’re sick, and Moms are no exception.

Something you may not have considered is how much your child might welcome the chance to take care of YOU for once. It’s good for them to see you asking for their help – that’s what families are for, right? – so let them bring you a damp washrag to put on your forehead, or a trash basket for your used Kleenex; Dad can empty it when he gets home. There’s no better medicine than a slobbery toddler kiss when you’re not feeling quite yourself.

I’m distinctly lacking in toddlers around the house these days, which is probably why this cold is hanging around for so long. This is Millie, blowing her nose and going back to bed – over and out.


  1. This is a good time to put yer feet up and reeeeeeeeeelax! Me, I got a French Manicure (more later) and am getting a pedicure today.

  2. You can borrow my toddlers next time you need a kiss, dear friend.

  3. Would that we lived closer - I'd be on that offer like rice on Velcro!

  4. *grins* Or rice stuck to carpet that won't bloody well come off already?!


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