No one likes having to take sick days. However, there’s a certain cruelty involved when you feel like death warmed over yet still have to do all the things.
When I was a kid, I remember sick days as time spent lying on the couch in my pajamas watching daytime TV while sipping 7-Up and munching saltines. My mom would periodically check my temperature, dispense medicine, and basically cater to my every need.
What I don’t remember are sick days for my mom. She’s clearly a superhero (love you, Mom!), but surely she must have been ill at some point during my childhood. The reason I can’t remember is that regardless of how she felt, she soldiered on and continued to care for her family. Moms don’t get sick days.
I know it sucks because I’ve been there. For me, part of it is a pride thing (I don’t get sick) and part of it is straight-up denial. If I don’t act sick, then clearly I’m not sick. Mind over matter, you know. But earlier this fall, I was out for the count. I was 30+ weeks pregnant at this point and summer was refusing to end, so I already didn’t feel great. But then I caught a stomach bug from my youngest daughter. (Literally. I don’t know why I thought I could catch her puke in my hands.)
I found myself on the couch pretty much incapable of doing anything but be on that couch. This put me in the perfect position to essentially spy on my family while they went about their business. I could hear everything yet do nothing. My husband took care of the kids, took care of dinner, and took care of me. If I hadn’t felt like crap, I would have really enjoyed the break.
Every so often, he would come and ask about what I’d planned for dinner or what went in the girls’ lunches, but he mostly kept our children from bothering me. As I lay in agony, I heard the evening routine unfold. Dinner, homework, bedtime…check, check, check.
Was it how I would have done it? Of course not. Did it get done? You bet.
Fortunately the bug passed quickly, and I recognized that it could have been much worse. After another day of feeling a little weak, I was back in business. And I did learn something from this whole experience, besides the fact that it is impossible to catch vomit and escape unscathed.
First of all, I learned that good ol’ Daniel Tiger knows what he’s talking about: “When you’re sick, rest is best” (just try getting that out of your head for the rest of the day). I also got a glimpse of what life would be like in those early days after Baby’s arrival. Minus the sickness, it was great practice for everyone to adjust to a slightly different routine.
But most importantly, I learned that I don’t have to always be the one in charge. My husband will probably scoff at that, and while he does a lot around here, like a lot of moms, I consider myself to be the household manager. But that’s just it. It’s humbling to realize that someone else can take over, and the world will not end.
It doesn’t have to be my way, and often, it’s better if it’s not. Sometimes done is better than “right” because what I think is the right way to do a task is just another way of doing it. I actually first learned that lesson many, many years ago after witnessing an interaction between my parents.
One night after dinner, my dad was in the kitchen happily doing the dishes. Except on that particular evening, “doing the dishes” meant filling one glass with water (no soap), transferring the water to another glass, dumping it out, shaking both glasses, and returning them to the cupboard. When my mom entered the kitchen, she was appalled and basically yelled at my dad that he was doing it all wrong. If my memory serves me correctly, my dad calmly set the dishes down, shook his hands in a motion that said “I’m done,” and strolled out of the kitchen. My mom finished the dishes the “right way,” and I’m pretty sure I never saw my dad wash dishes again.
To be fair, he really should have been using soap–gross–but that moment taught me and continues to teach me that in order for someone to feel motivated to do a job, s/he has to feel ownership over it. Being micromanaged at every turn is a sure-fire way to discourage a person from doing, and subsequently taking pride in, a task.
This applies to our spouses, our children, our students, our co-workers, and anyone we have the pleasure of working with. I can complain all I want about not getting help, but if I don’t let anyone help (or don’t ask for what I want or need), then it’s my fault if I’m stuck doing everything myself. This is much easier said than done. It is much easier to be the martyr. But it is also much more frustrating.
While I hope it is a long time before I succumb to any more illnesses, I know it’s inevitable. I just hope that on my next sick day, I can at least find comfort in relinquishing control.