When It’s Just Too Hard To Mom
In my 3+ years of being a mother to my two children, despite sleepless nights, teething, nightmares, colds and viruses, I have always been able to rally and still (try to) put my best foot forward as a mom. That is until this weekend, when I got the flu and everything fell apart really fast. So here’s the thing, it sucks when you’re sick. No matter if you have a super stuffy nose that makes it impossible to sleep at night because you’re mouth breathing and no one can really sleep that way (and eating is a whole different beast that we’ll just call a super challenging event); or if you have a crazy phlegmy cough which always decides to tickle the back of your throat at the most inconvenient of times (sorry napping baby) and you cough so hard that you gag, and you actually make your abs and ribs hurt; or if you have a sore throat that feels like someone dragged a fork down it, and so of course you keep having to swallow every five seconds just to make sure it’s still sore (it always is). Now, add all of those maladies together, but also add in a high fever. And with that fever comes the chills. You are the epitome of an oxymoron, you’re so hot that your face feels like it’s on fire and your eyelids are so hot that you can fry eggs on them; but you’re also so cold that you are wearing sweatpants and are curled up in the fetal position under two blankets shivering and teeth are chattering. And you know it’s bad because of that old saying “starve a fever, feed a cold”, but you’re so miserable that you can only lay there and pray that you feel better fast and soon. Oh, and don’t forget to add how you are suuuuper achy. Literally your BONES hurt, and moving is a grueling challenge in and of itself.
So now that we have the the flu ailments covered, if you’re like me, you also have two very small children to take care of. And here’s where it gets tricky. Because it’s not like you can just call into work and say “Hey I have the flu, I’ll be back in a couple of days” and your boss understands and you get to sit back and watch movies all day. Nope. Because no matter how horrible and horrendous and hellish and whatever other word that starts with an “h” that means you’re feeling truly awful, may feel, the kiddos will not understand that Mommy is just not feeling well. Sure, my 3 year old slightly understood me when I croaked to her that I couldn’t play princesses and trains with her because I was sick. Her solution was simply to snag her Doc McStuffins kit, give me a check up and bammo, I should feel better. Very sweet and heartwarming, but alas, I did not feel better. And certainly my 9 month old did not understand that I was (and still am) extremely sick. And though he eats solids, I’m also still breastfeeding him. But he doesn’t take a bottle very well and he’ll only nap for me. So what’s a girl to do?
Well, for starters, be easy on yourself. When the Urgent Care doctor confirmed that my flu test came back positive, I almost burst into tears. Maybe it was because of her tone as she explained that since I had exposed my entire family to the flu (like that was my goal to do that morning) that we all had to go on Tamiflu. Or maybe it was because all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and have my mom take care of me and somehow fast forward over being this tired and sick. I was prescribed Tamiflu, a cough suppressant, plenty of fluids and rest. I told her I could comply with the first three but #4 was definitely not a guarantee. “Why?”, she asked me, slightly annoyed. “Because I’m a mother”, I said. No further explanation needed. I’m sure she could see the dark circles under my eyes from the sleepless nights due to teething and breastfeeding every two hours. Or the grey hairs that have decided to sprout. But back to originally hearing I had the flu: the mom guilt was high. Even now, I keep looking at my happy squealing baby and my singing little girl and just pray so hard every night that they don’t catch it.
Going back to wishing that my mom could take care of me. She is, but she also is helping me watch my kids while my husband is at work. And I think it’s truly a testament to her own motherhood magic if I nostalgically wish for the peace and comfort and love that I felt whenever I was sick as a little girl, even now as a 31 year old wife and mother of two of my own. What’s funny, is I don’t remember how sick I was any of those times, but I do remember how she would always build up this humongous pillow mound on our couch so that I could recline against it to watch tv. And she would fold our huge brown blanket in half so that it was like a taco, and I’d crawl inside and be enveloped and warm and cozy on all sides. She would bring me Lipton tea, with just the right amounts of sugar and milk, and wheat toast cut into “streets”. And I could watch all the My Little Pony, Muppet Babies and Fraggle Rock to my heart’s content (I realize I’m dating myself there. Yay 80’s babies!).
Anyway, if you’re sick, or maybe you had a surgery that you’re recovering from, or maybe you’ve just had yet another horrendous sleepless night and simply cannot scrape up the energy to Mom right now. Give yourself some time and some love. We’re not robots. We are only human, and with being human means that we are not perfect. We all have our breaking points. It is more than ok to reach out to a friend or family member and ask for help. Take care of yourself. The saying “You cannot pour from an empty cup” has always resonated with me whenever I feel like I am at my breaking point. So be gentle to yourself. Take the time to heal and take comfort that each day you are getting a little bit better. Or if it’s because of a sleepless night, then take comfort in the fact that you are one day closer to your baby eventually learning to sleep on their own, because soon they will not be a baby anymore. If that is not the epitome of bittersweet, then I don’t know what is. So back to asking for help, remember that sometimes it truly does take a village. Lean on them. They’re here for you, just like you are for them. And you’ve so got this, Mama.