I felt it coming. Something not quite right in the belly, all day yesterday. Generally someone starts to get sick within twelve hours of my husband packing his suitcase for a couple of days away on business. Someone in the house starts to cough or sniffle, or someone runs a fever, or someone spends the evening on the toilet or vomiting on the staircase.
This time, it was me.
I didn’t vomit on the stairs, but I did spend the dark hours of the night stumbling from bed to the bathroom for… various bathroom activities I don’t really like to talk about. When my alarm went off this morning, I groaned. Is it really only Tuesday? Am I really sick? Is Brandon really out of town?
Brandon and I rehearse the schedule for childcare and work each week, probably every day he’s home. There are many advantages to Brandon’s work schedule but a significant disadvantage is the unpredictability of when he’ll be out of town. Sometimes it is Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday, sometimes it is Friday, sometimes it’s half-day Monday, Thursday, and half-day Friday. It would be easier if I knew he worked two or three specific days a week because then I could just say, “Hey, can you watch my kid these three days a week for the next four months?”
This works real well in the fall when I’m off on Fridays (see my previous post about my ideal work scenario). But in the winter and spring, the schedule goes kaboom. A great thing, money wise; a crazy thing, sanity-wise.
Because of this unpredictability, my mom-in-law had planned to drive down from Akron this morning with Brandon’s 89-year-old grandma who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in order to watch Henry for me. And then, I found out yesterday that my dear, dear friend who often watches Henry was actually available, so I called off Rhonda and Garnet. Rhonda was grateful, and I was relieved that she didn’t need to worry about getting grandma ready by 7 a.m. to get here.
Back to this morning, lying in bed pressing snooze. Dilemma: I’m sick. I’m not going to go to work because I’m sick. Do I send the kids to their respective schools and childcare centers all day, or do I call off the troops and keep Henry here, with me, even with the aforementioned bathroom emergencies, and then leave at 11:30 to get Elvis, and then leave again at 3 to get Lydia? Then there’s all the mess of making lunches for people, and snacks for people, and changing Henry’s diaper, and keeping them entertained all day.
We all woke up, eventually, and I shuffled about, working this out in my mind. If I send the kids all day to Park Street and Henry all day to my friend’s house, what will people think? Adults have to care for their young children by themselves when they are sick all the time. I’ve done it dozens of times before; we gather around the television and watch Disney flick after Pixar clip until it’s time for lunch and then we nuke whatever is available to eat from the fridge and keep on at the movies until it’s dinnertime and then bedtime. It’s manageable.
But I had already gone through all this trouble to arrange for childcare, all this finagling to make life happen the way it needs to happen on a normal, regular day, and after all of that work, why should I call it off just because I’ve been up all night sick? Isn’t my wellness worth the childcare expenses?
So I changed from pajama pants to sweatpants, which are obviously more respectable, bundled up everyone in winter wear, packed Lydia’s lunch, and dropped them off at school and preschool and childcare.
Let me interject a moment to say that we have some great friends who help us out in big and small ways constantly. I didn’t actually take Lydia to school; our friends down the street took her when I dropped Henry off at his sitter’s. They do this often, as do our friends right next door. It’s these favors that seem so small but make a world of difference for me, every day. I breathe easier knowing they’re around.
When I dropped off Elvis, I had to get out of the car and sign him in. His teacher greeted us at the door and offered to take Elvis’s stuffed animal for naptime while he took off his coat. “Thanks for taking him today,” I said, “I’m not actually going to work today; I was up all night with a stomach flu or something.” I don’t know why I felt like I needed to explain, except that I don’t get the feeling that this particular teacher likes me much. I think I’m one of the anonymous parents in the school who forgets to send in bookfair money and never remembers to buy the teachers Christmas presents, and every time I pull up at 8:10 a.m. and hustle around the car in high heels to open the door for Elvis, urging him to hurry, hurry, hurry, unbuckle your seatbelt, let’s go, buddy, she smiles a pitying smile, as if to say, “Running late again?”
So I guess I needed to explain why I was still in sweatpants, a pink hooded sweatshirt bunched up underneath my winter coat, to explain why today I’m being a lazy mom and unloading my beloved children onto several other people so that I can sleep on the couch, watch several hours of Mad Men and make chicken soup. And visit the restroom.
Yes, that’s right, that’s what I did. Self-care. And by three o’clock, after two long naps, several cups of hot tea and honey, a banana snack and chicken broth lunch, and disc two of season two, I changed out of my sweatpants and into jeans to give the appearance of showering and getting dressed today. By four, I felt like a human, albeit a shaky one, and was ready to retrieve my kids. Park Street said, “My, you’re early today!” and I offered up the same line as this morning, “Well, actually, I didn’t go to work today because I felt ill.” “Ah,” she said, and walked off. Ah. Yes. Let’s go home, kids.