But Moms Can't Get Sick
Moms aren’t allowed to be sick. Certainly, not single mothers! I had persevered in the face of respiratory illnesses, random headaches, even a bout with the dreaded food poisoning. I was tough, I was strong, I was invincible. At least in my own mind. I was the only parent; the kids were depending on me.
Then, the monster of all stomach flus hit with the force of a tsunami. No amount of stamina or willpower could keep me going. My Superwoman resolve vanished and I surrendered to the bed. My girls were three and four at the time and fortunately, easy going, not particularly adventurous kids. The first few hours of mom being in bed were a novelty to them and they entertained themselves by playing quietly in their bedrooms within earshot of my room. Meanwhile, I devoted myself to losing those last ten pounds of baby weight still clinging on three years’ post-partum. Not exactly the Weight Watchers approved method but if the stomach flu has one positive perk, it’s miraculous weight loss. Between bouts of running to the bathroom and reeling from nausea, I laid in bed, feeling very sorry for myself. Where was Prince Charming to bring me homemade soup and hold my hair back while I threw up; simultaneously playing games with the kids and cooking them meals? At that point, I’d be grateful for someone tossing a bottle of pepto my way!
I gave the girls carte blanche with the television, the normal one hour of television per day rule thrown out the window. Like feral animals, they foraged for food, subsisting on string cheese, pop tarts and Cheerios. Desperate need for peace in the land banished any parental guilt. In the midst of their television binging and junk food escapades, they tried to take care of me. My precious preschoolers hauled boxes of crackers and glasses of water up the stairs to my room in an attempt to nurse me back to health. In a heroic, but comedic effort, they even tried to change the sheets on my king-sized bed. As you can imagine, that did not go well, but I was happy to see evidence of their empathy.
I tend to be a tad dramatic when I’m sick and images of me dying and leaving my young children to fend for themselves plagued my dehydrated brain. After 24 hours of attempting to supervise my kids while paying homage to the porcelain god, I finally gave up and called in reinforcements. My parents were in their 60s and 70s and I hated exposing them to my stomach flu. I also I hated giving up my pride and admitting I couldn’t do it all on my own. At least not very well. My parents brought supplies; ginger ale, soup and pepto bismo. My mom cooked a real meal for the kids while my dad took care of me. My parents were not the kind to bundle up the kids and take them home with them but they did stay long enough to get us through the worst of it. When they left four hours later, the girls were clean and fed and I was feeling like I might live to see another day.
Being a single parent can be difficult in the best of times. Trying to do it all by yourself in the face of severe illness is sometimes too much for even the most stoic of parents. After that apocalyptic stomach flu, I was careful to keep a supply of over the counter medications in the house along with saltines, ginger ale and healthy snacks the girls could access on their own. Fortunately, I never needed that back up plan but it was a comfort to have in place.
What do you do when you’re too sick to take care of the kids? Call a friend, relatives, your ex or do you just let the television be the babysitter for the weekend?