When I was a kid, I had it good when I was sick.
My mom gave me no hassle about staying home from school (I was very rarely sick, so that helped), and she let me veg out in front of the TV most of the day -- when I wasn't propped up in bed reading, which I liked just as much. She made me chicken noodle soup (which came from a can, but I SWEAR it tasted better when she "made" it than it does out of that same can now) and let me drink soft drinks to help settle an upset tummy.
But now that *I'm* the mom, being sick isn't so relaxing. I was sick with a fever and sore throat for a couple days last week, and, boy, were those miserable days. On my sickest day, my husband had some un-missable things going on at work, so he couldn't relieve me. We don't have any family in town -- a fact I lament at times like this -- so I had to soldier on as best I could with a fever, body aches, chills, and a toddler who wanted a mommy who could keep up with her constant demands.
Right off the bat, I knew I was going to use the TV as a crutch. One measly day of blasting past the ADA recommendations wasn't going to rot her brain too much, I figured. So after we got through breakfast, I dragged myself to one end of the couch, parked the kiddo on the other side, and turned on "Dora the Explorer," which bought me a peaceful half hour in which to drink tea, put my feet up, and feel sorry for myself.
But after Dora and Boots had achieved their objective, Nora was done with TV. She didn't want to watch another Dora, and she wasn't tempted by any of the new (to her) shows I'd hoarded on the DVR for just such an emergency. She just wanted to have me read books to her -- which is great, except when I have a throat so sore that every sound I make come out of it is painful.
In a moment of discomfort-fueled futility, I tried to reason with her.
"Sweetie," I said, "Mama doesn't feel well. Do you think you could maybe play by yourself and let mama rest?"
I don't think I have to bother explaining to you how profoundly that did not work on a two-and-a-half-year-old.
I was enlisted to help be a playmate for blocks, then coloring, and probably some other activities I kind of fuzzed out through -- none of which took place anywhere near the couch. Slowly, painfully, we made it through the morning, and then it was time for lunch and a nap, and then just a couple of hours until my husband came home and I could finally abdicate my parental duties and, as they say in all the great old books, take to my bed.
I remembered, as I lay there in a haze, all the times in my pre-kid full-time working life when I'd forced myself to go to work sick because of a tight deadline, a big project, or because everyone else who knew how to do my job had already called in. And I lamented all those lost opportunities to stay home, get some rest, and recover. When you're a stay-at-home-mom, you truly don't have that option, and that's kind of a scary prospect. A toddler doesn't care that you're chilled to the bone. And who cares if an episode of Dora makes your pounding head pound harder? Not that toddler, that's for sure. You just have to summon some tiny scrap of energy and keep going through the routine -- because there's simply no other option.
Nora or any other toddler doesn't mean to be unsympathetic, of course. Mama being sick isn't a concept she can grasp, any more than she can understand mama not wanting to read "The Cat in the Hat" for the 9,000th time in a row even at her healthiest. But it's hard not to wish for a more easygoing boss, one that would let you take just a tiny snooze while on the job and maybe read picture books to herself for an hour or so, just this once.