The Mom Stories: If Mom Goes Down, Everyone Goes Down
Welcome to The Mom Stories, a series of relatable topics on everything motherhood. Listen as nationally-syndicated columnist and parenting author, Lisa Sugarman, tells her refreshingly honest perspective and experiences on the challenges that motherhood throws at you.
Because who says story time is just for kids?? That's why I'm reading to YOU while you drink your morning coffee…from the bathroom…with the door locked. Something short and digestible and funny that is just enough to entertain you and give you something to think about.
This week, we are talking about what happens when mom can't fulfill her duties because she's been taken out by sickness, stress, you name it! Because when mom goes down, everyone's coming down with her...
Ok, so, I’m sitting here typing, starting what I’m convinced will be an award-winning column about something super timely and impactful, when I sneeze all over my laptop screen. Like need-to-get-up-and-get-Windex-and-paper-towels kind of sneeze. And then it hits me. I have a moral obligation to shelf that column idea and write about something that’s way timelier and more impactful—how parents keep parenting when we’re sick.
So, with a box of Kleenex on my right, a bottle of Asprin on my left, and a murky orange cocktail of Emergen-C on the coffee table, I’m thinking ahead about the next handful of days and wondering just exactly how bad this head cold will get. Will the mega doses of vitamin C, Echinacea, and zinc I’m taking keep it at bay? What, exactly, comes after white-hot mess?
At the same time I’m wondering all this, I’m staring at Dave’s business trip flight itinerary in my email inbox, realizing that it really won’t matter if what I have turns into the plague, because with him away, I can’t go down, no matter how sick I get. Cause if you’re a parent—especially a mom—sick days just aren’t part of the package.
Which gets me thinking about all my sick friends out there who I know for a fact are popping vitamin C tablets like they’re Skittles. Why? Because we just need to keep moving forward.
See, parents don’t have the luxury of succumbing to illness. We just don’t. It’s just not built into the job description. Don’t get me wrong, there are wonderful perks to parenthood. Stuff like lopsided pinch pots and misspelled birthday cards and snuggling and butterfly kisses and all sorts of other great stuff; but there’s very little vacation time, hardly any worker’s comp, and zero sick leave. That’s zero sick leave. For a parent, getting sick is just a sidebar that really has no direct impact on the bigger story.
And since the majority of caregivers are moms, if mom goes down, everyone goes down. If mom stumbles and doesn’t get back up, the earth will automatically start rotating the wrong way, pull out of its orbit, and everyone will slide right off the planet.
I mean, think back…back to a time when you got sick as a kid. Even though getting sick sucked, it was never all that bad because we had mom there to take care of us. The only thing we had to worry about was sitting up high enough in bed so our chicken soup didn’t dribble down our face while we were eating it off the tray. But for us, now that we are the mom, everything’s changed. It’s all on us.
I remember, back in the day, when we caught a virus or the flu or some other disgusting germ, it automatically meant endless hours of daytime TV, feety pajamas, and Dimetapp on tap. Aside from the feeling-miserable part, it was almost like being at a spa. Almost. We were responsible for absolutely nothing, except maybe changing our pjs every two days and making it to and from the bathroom without making a sissy in our pants. Those were good days. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. When we were sick, we had the ability to take advantage of the one and only upside of feeling awful: Mom.
Now, fast forward 15-20 years and we’re the grownups. We’ve got a wife or husband and a job and a couple of kids and a house and twenty-seven-hours’ worth of chores jammed into the average day. Now we’re playing in a whole new ballgame. Only this time, there are no subs or timeouts or delays of game. Play never stops. Ever. Not even when we’re vomiting up organs or crawling to our minivan on all fours.
Truth is, when we held our mushy, perfect little baby in our arms for the first time in the delivery room, we punched in on the job and there’s no punching out. There’s no double overtime, no vacation pay, and no weekends off.
But that’s ok. It’s worth it in every possible way. Us inheriting the job of taking care of our young is just the natural order of things. And as challenging as it may sometimes be, none of us would change it for the world. Remember when, as a new parent, all we begged for was our screaming newborn to fall asleep because we were exhausted? Then what did we do? We sat there watching our baby sleep for 45 minutes because we just couldn’t get enough. (Being a parent is confusing).
I suppose I’m just saying all this because, at this exact moment, while my nasal passages are so thick that it’s like trying to inhale while my mouth is stapled shut and I have a metal clamp my nose, I’m acutely aware that how I feel has no real bearing on what I still have to do today. I mean, it’s not easy doing what we all do on any regular day, let alone while we’re hallucinating, vomiting, sniffling, sneezing, limping or crawling.
The way I see it, though, life is cyclical. So, in another 50 or so years, when our kids are taking care of us, it’ll all come around. We just have to be patient. Personally, I’d like to prolong that inevitability as long as possible. So, for the time being, I’m just gonna keep tossing back those cough suppressants and drag myself through the week until Dave gets home and I can call up the reserves. Until then, it’s business as usual. I mean, how long can a cold possibly last? I’ll probably feel dynamite again in eight to ten more days…
Join Lisa Sugarman and Debra Fox Gansenberg (How to Raise Perfectly Imperfect Kids and Be OK with It) for a LIVE book talk! They'll cover how to hold the social distancing line with your perfectly imperfect kids, and they are also ready to tackle all of your toughest parenting questions. Head to the Zoom meeting on 4/3/2020 at noon PST/3 pm EST to join the parenting revolution!