Mom, I owe you many apologies, I’m sure! But this one keeps coming back to me every time I fall sick now.
You probably don’t even remember or know it, but I hated seeing you tinkering around the house, cooking, cleaning, clearing up the clutter, and irritated with everyone when it was crystal clear to anyone looking at you that you were, in fact, too sick to be doing any of it!
I would get irritated. I would demand you rest. But you would be up and doing your thing no matter what! I wondered why. What difference would it make if, for a day, you just lay down?
I promised myself I wouldn’t do that when I had a family. I would rest.
When I Became a Sick Mother
Cut to today. I have a house to maintain. Two kids. A husband. To care for and feed. In short, real life responsibilities.
And like most mothers, I’ve developed the innate need to keep going on and on.
Whether it’s that time of the month (when I’m in excruciating pain) or sick with cold or flu or both or worse, I keep the house clutter free, the kids’ routines maintained as best as I can, and the work that needs to be done to keep all the plates in the daily juggle up in the air.
It’s partly me. I need to be sick in a clean house. Somehow the cleanliness outside makes me feel better inside—like dressing myself up when I’m in a bad mood.
I wish someone would be there to pick up the slack to help my husband. Knowing it’s just us here, like you were with dad in a country far from family, I do what I can in spite of the sickness and his protests. After all, it’s hard for one person, especially the secondary caregiver, to all of a sudden keep track of the multitude of working parts in the schedules and the likes and dislikes and needs of two little ones. When I’m sick, I realize how many things are getting left undone. The list grows inside my head and I worry—more about them than myself.
My friends who are moms get it.
They completely get when they call, gasp at how horribly sick I sound, and still nod in understanding about why I’m busy cleaning my bedroom or putting away the dishes. They encourage me to rest but empathize that it’s hard for a mother to get those naps in, especially if the kids are young and the house mess grows exponentially in your sleep-induced absence.
I wish I knew then what I know now, Mom!
The clutter actually grows in every direction. The laundry piles up high. And each day you’re off means a week of work when you come back—not to mention the work at work that needs to be done. The work-life tightrope that we so precariously walk daily gets loose and close to impossible to navigate.
The fear of the loss of that fine balance makes us momentarily frenzied, and we get to work as soon as the fever subsides or the painkillers take effect.
Now, I get it, Mom. And I feel sorry. I feel sorry for being so hard on you. For pestering you. For making those days harder on you in a way.
I wish now I had pitched in more. I wish now I had cleared and cleaned the clutter instead. Did the laundry instead. Vacuumed. I wish I had acted instead of “just insisting” you rest. In spite of my best intentions, my young self could never have possibly understood the simple thing: that there is a LOT that needs to done before a mother is able to get a restful sleep.