Monday, February 7, 2011

When Mommy Gets Sick

When Mommy falls ill, the whole world slowly collapses.  The children eat plain bagels, plucked fresh from the grocery store plastic bag, for dinner while glued to a DVR'd episode of Super Why.  Piles of dirty laundry litter the living room floor, waiting in vain for someone to put them in the washing machine, and the kitchen sink overflows with pink acrylic dishes.  It will only take a few more meals for all clean dishes to be dirty, and the family will begin pouring milk directly into the cereal box.  Needless to say, no one has bathed in over three days and the kids are beginning to let off a pungent stench that cannot be camouflaged with a puff of aerosol deodorant.  Luckily, my nose is stuffed and I can ignore all odors in the air.

When another member of my family falls ill, I secretly love playing the role of nurse maid.  To me, the closer the patient is to death, the better.  However, I do not like caring for the slightly sick- Maisy when she is teething, Elana with croup, or Ted with an injured rotator cuff.  No, I like my patients nearly
unconscious, lying on the couch barely able to focus on the television screen, and with only enough energy to whimper for a glass of water.  That kind of invalid I'm all about!  I will eagerly fluff their pillows, make special trips to the grocery store for Ginger Ale and Saltines, and rent their favorite movies.  However, during my full five days of fever and immobilizing cough, not one member of my family asked me if I needed anything!

My husband truly wants to be able to step-up and play the role of super-hero father/husband, but whether it is nature or nurture, he has something missing (a maternal gene, maybe).  He attempted to take charge of the girls, fixing dinner, coordinating pajamas, reading stories, but they sensed his weakness and eagerly played up the tantrums.  Ted, not knowing any better, cave into demands for extra naked time, additional dessert, and longer story time. 

Elana, my four-year-old, tried to help by jamming her Fisher Price thermometer down my throat and sitting on my back while stroking my face and chanting "Poor Mommy!"  Maisy, who is not yet two, could not comprehend a day where Mommy didn't feel like reading stories and going to the park, so she just proceeded as normal.  

I quickly realized that when I am sick, I don't want a husband, nor children.  I want a mommy!

For the past week I have not been the model of perfect San Francisco parenting.  Here is a few of the mommy misdemeanors I committed in the past seven days:
  • On Sunday, after spending most of Saturday alone with the kids, Ted voiced that he needed a few hours to himself, so I decided to take both girls with me on a shopping trip to Michael's Craft Store and Target, while Ted napped.  Needless to say, I fed the kids chocolate goldfish crackers (yes, they come in chocolate) and juice boxes for lunch because I was too exhausted to fight with them over a piece of fruit. 
  • On Monday Elana's preschool teacher gave me the ultimate "Bad Mommy" look when Elana arrived wearing her over-sized pair of high heeled, pink, plastic, dress-up shoes, with no back up pair in sight.  I can't honestly say that I didn't try too hard to dissuade her choice of foot wear. My mind was preoccupied with making sure I had taken the authorized does of Tylenol and Ibuprofen.
  • On Tuesday the babysitter came and took charge of the kids while I napped and watched reruns of 90210 on Soap Net.  When he returned the kids at 5 o'clock that afternoon, I didn't move from the couch and inserted one video after the other until Ted made it home from work.  Eventually the kids complained that they were thirsty, and I pointed them to an old bottle of water that had been buried in the couch cushions.
By Wednesday, with the fever still lingering, I did what any reasonable person (with parents living in the nearby vicinity), would do, I convinced my stepmom to come and play over-indulgent Grandma for the day.  The consequence, I was finally able to be the sick patient lounging on the couch while watching reruns of Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy on Lifetime, while my stepmom did the laundry, made a delicious and nutritious homemade dinner, and asked me what I needed!  By my fourth hour of day-time TV, I was seriously contemplating buying PajamaJeans (they're pajamas that look like jeans!).
So, how do  moms do it?  What do we do when the one person who makes the world run (i.e. knows how each child likes her grilled cheese sandwich cut and where the favorite lovies are hidden), is laid-up?  Here is my list of tips to get you, and your family, through the worst of your illness:
  1. Ditch all rules about screen-time and television.  Utilize the electronic babysitter as frequently and for as long as you need.  Do not feel guilty after pressing play for the fifth time.  
  2. Don't worry about the kids nutrition.  If they eat left over, delivery, pizza with the occasional piece of fresh fruit (or not) for the next 72 hours, they will survive.   
  3. Call in the back-ups.  Do you have family/friends/babysitters nearby that can take the kids out of the house for a few hours so you can either sleep or lie on the couch watching bad, but oh so compelling, soap-operas?
  4. Find a way, any possible way, to rest.  If this means giving the kids a bag full of Halloween candy and locking yourself in your bedroom with a fan blowing a full speed to block out the sound of little footsteps, do it!  
  5. Voice your needs!   Chances are that your partner, and your children, do not have the mental capability to predict your needs, however obvious they truly are.  Be specific and be firm.  Learn to demand that nobody even think of knocking on your bedroom door for the next two hours.  Better yet, send them all out of the house until bedtime, and not a minute sooner!

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