In Sickness and in Health

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I’ve been sick for over three weeks. What started as a simple sinus infection and sore throat quickly blossomed into a double ear infection that had me in tears all throughout the night. After ten days of antibiotics, I still can’t fully hear and can still feel the fluid sloshing around inside my ears. It’s been miserable to say the least.

This virus has made the rounds through all four of us in the house but it seems to have stuck around with me the longest. I’m so lucky.

But, at the height of this virus, when it felt like my head was going to explode, or that my ears would never stop radiating pain down to the rest of my body, I really struggled. I struggled because I’m the mom, I’m the caretaker. I am the one that’s supposed to help everyone else through their sickness. As Henry built up his immune system through daycare, so did I, and, like him, I rarely get sick anymore. But this time was different and it took me down to my knees on more than one occasion.

I remember a night about a week in, and just a couple of days after being diagnosed with the double ear infection. Brandon had put the baby to sleep which meant it was my turn to put Henry to sleep. Every single part of my body was exhausted and I started to fall asleep in our recliner, something I never do. But I kept waking up with excruciating pain in my ears. Brandon finally told me to just go to bed, that he could take care of Henry, and I burst into sobs because I was in pain, because I couldn’t do what I was supposed to do as a mom, because I wasn’t going to be able to play with my kids the way I like to, because, because, because…

The feeling I was feeling inside? Guilt. Pure and simple.

I felt guilt that I wasn’t being a good mom because I felt so miserable. I felt guilt that Brandon had to take on more responsibilities because I felt so miserable. I felt guilt that I wasn’t able to work the way I need to because I felt so miserable.

Guilt had snuck in along with the ear infection and taken over.

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The next day I talked with one of my best friends who had also been going through a drop-to-her-knees sickness. She told me how guilty she felt that she had to lay in bed while her husband fed the kids dinner. I commiserated with her and told her that Brandon had to put both of our boys to bed.

And then I stopped and thought about it. Why do we feel guilty?! Neither Brandon nor her husband would feel guilty about having us take over with full responsibilities. Not because they’re bad people but because WE’RE IN A PARTNERSHIP. And that is what you do when you’re a parenting team. Sometimes one parent has to step up. And yet, here she and I were feeling absolute gut-wrenching guilt because we weren’t on top of it all for one day. Because for one day we had to ask for help in taking care of the kids. Because for one day we were mere mortals instead of super mom. One day.

And this feels like a societal issue forced on women - we’re not allowed to get sick because we’re supposed to be the ones to take care of it all, no matter what. So if you get sick, you pop a cold pill and you keep moving.

But what if instead, we allowed the fact that sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back, reset, and really recover instead of slapping a bandaid on it and moving on? What if we realize that we don’t HAVE to do it all and that’s why we have our partners (or our family, or our friends, or anyone else in your village who is willing to help)?

Moms don’t have to be superwomen. And I think it’s time we recognize that.