Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Special Guest Writer: Mommy Sick Days

Cold and Flu season is upon us again. That glorious time of year when Mommy gets to clean up piles of snot-filled tissues, refill the cold air humidifier, and buy orange juice by the vat. Adding to the fun this year are the news networks, bombarding us with the imminent danger of H1N1. Vaccinate or die. Except that we have no vaccines for anyone who isn't a prisoner or employed by the CDC.

My 15-year-old son stumbled into the house yesterday after school and after dropping his bag in the middle of the kitchen floor (a whole other topic for discussion), mumbled something about "sore throat" went straight to his bedroom, crawled into bed, and aside from getting up to pee and drink a gallon of Gatorade, has not emerged since. It's been 17 hours. I would go in and check on him, but quite frankly I've got PTSD from two weeks ago when I found the Victoria's Secret catalogue in there.  I don't care if there WAS a card in there for 25% off your purchase. The only way I'm approaching that thing is with some industrial gloves and a 10-foot grappling hook.

And, after 3 kids and years of being married to their father, I've leaned that this is just standard non-Mommy sick behavior. When the rest of the world is sick, they go their bedroom and sleep until the virus has run its course.

When Mommy gets's just another day.

Kate's husband goes into Superman Shuffle Mode. That is to say, he wraps a dark blanket around himself, shuffles around, and spends long stretches of time on Krypton or something, emerging just long enough remind everyone that, yes, he's still sick and where's the sympathy dammit?  Lydia's husband often gets what is commonly known as a "Man Cold". For more information on Man Colds, click here ( You will not be sorry.  Mine eats Tylenol Cold and Flu like Skittles and then lies on the couch and whimpers like a Cocker-Spaniel. Obviously, they call in sick and discard the blackberry. It's 24 to 48 hours of coma aided and abetted by the nice folks at Proctor and Gamble.

Lest you think that I'm just picking on the husbands, the children are even worse when ill. With them comes not only the whining and the phlegm, but that heart-in-the-throat moment when you pull that thermometer out of your three-year-old's mouth and it reads "103.6". They may be the Little Terror Suspects, but we all know that we love 'em more than our own lives, and to see them that sick will scare the hell out of you.

But let's say they're aren't that's just your-run-of -the-mill headcold. Their world still shuts down. No going to school. No homework. No clearing the plate off the table. No walking the dog. No taking out the trash. My 15-year-old is supposed to take out the garbage in our house, but the longer he quarantines himself in his room, the more my kitchen is starting to smell like Newark.

Fellow Moms, when we get sick, do we look at our husbands plaintively and whisper hoarsely, "Where's the juice?" Do we push the magic mute button on our children to quell the raging sinus headache? In short, does Mommy get a sick day?

Of course not.

Mommy may look like an extra from "Outbreak," but any thoughts of crawling back into bed are invariably interrupted by "Where's my red tie?" and "Did you pack my lunch"? After a sleepless night of coughing up stuff that resembles toxic waste, we watch as our husbands glibly wave goodbye, then feed the children breakfast, drive them to school, run to the grocery store to pick up more strained green beans for the baby, wash 4 loads of laundry, unload the dishwasher, go over homework, drive the daughter to ballet, and make dinner for everyone.

In short, we do what we always do. And we do it because we know what will happen if we do run into our bedroom and shut the door. For those who don't know, remember Hurricane Katrina? Now picture that in your kitchen and living room. Any hour taken hiding under the covers equals 4 extra hours of housework. And you don't get FEMA's help.

When I was eight, my mother became critically ill with pneumonia. She was, in fact, so ill, she was in the hospital for 2 days, and in bed immobile for nearly two weeks. My father was a wonderful man -- he could build a house from scratch and fashion a contraption that used the gravitational pull of the sun to make the toilet flush or something -- but had not a clue WHERE the dishwasher and washing machine were, much less how they worked.

Our house was in complete chaos. My sister washed our underwear in the sink using a bar of Ivory. We ate peanut butter and jelly for every meal until we ran out of bread. Then we subsisted on a can of Planter's nuts and Tang. It's a good thing Mom got better when she did, or I'm fairly certain that we would have ended up like those rugby players in the Andes.

The U.S. House recently passed the Health Care Bill, and now it's in the Senate. I'm thinking about calling my Senator and asking him to submit an amendment that would make it a federal crime to make moms work when they are ill. But then again...I'm not sure we have the National Guard troops to spare.

XOXOs from Lydia and Kate to Beth M. for her brilliance.

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