I recently had the mother of all stomach flus. I will spare you the details; however, suffice it to say, it was really nasty. While I was lying on the bathroom floor, in the throes of this illness, I had a thought that I know many moms will understand and appreciate—thank goodness I no longer have young children to take care of.
I have finally reached the point in my life where no one is counting on me for minute-to-minute survival. There is no one who could get into the cleaning products under the sink and ingest poison and no one who might tumble off the couch or swallow a Lego piece while I lie in bed shaking feverishly or have to run to the bathroom. There isn’t even anyone asking me for food or drink. With my two older sons no longer living at home and my youngest in high school, I have arrived at the point where I can be sick as a dog in peace. This is a huge milestone.
Twenty-three years ago my appendix burst while I was home caring for my toddler and my husband was at work and couldn’t get home in time for me to go to the doctor. Not realizing the severity of the situation, I figured I could wait another day before seeking medical care; however, I figured wrong and spent eleven days in the hospital with peritonitis. After that incident, I learned not to let things get to that point when it came to my health and my husband learned that sometimes he needed to come home to help when called.
My ruptured appendix was an extreme example of juggling illness and motherhood but it was far from the only time I had to figure out how to deal with being sick while simultaneously keeping my young ones safe from harm.
There was another time when, as a fairly new parent, I came down with the seasonal flu while my husband was away on a business trip. If you have ever had the flu, you understand how debilitating it can be. With no family in the area who could help care for my baby, I resorted to calling a home care agency that offered hourly sitters. The agency sent me a lovely grandmotherly type woman whose last name I never even asked. As she put my baby in his stroller and took him out for a walk, I realized that if she disappeared with him, I would have to file a report and tell the police officer that I had given my infant over to a complete stranger whose full name I didn’t know. (I actually had the entire conversation with the officer imagined in my head.) But I was that sick, and, as we all know, desperate times call for desperate measures. Fortunately, the woman returned with my son a few hours later and was even kind enough to make me some soup.
Often, the children and I were sick at the same time. On those occasions, I remember going to the pediatrician and praying he would swab my throat as well as my kid’s and possibly phone in a prescription for me too. I also remember being knee deep in kid vomit while feeling nauseated myself. My mother-in-law once remarked that I seemed to get sick a lot–she made this observation as my child was wiping his runny nose on my shirt.
My stomach flu made me realize how far I have come. As the worst of my symptoms began to subside, I dozed on and off, watched a little daytime television and even looked at some pictures in a fashion magazine. My son checked on me when he got home from school, asked me if I needed anything, and retreated to his room, presumably to do homework.
While not feeling well is always terrible and no one wants to be sick, being able to suffer without the additional burden of all-encompassing parental responsibility is truly a luxury which can be appreciated only after you have had small children. It is certainly a luxury I will never take for granted.