You can’t get sick — you’re a mommy!
Tonight’s episode of "9 to 5 to 9" is being pre-empted by a sniveling, whiny pity party. Please tune it at the regular time and URL Sunday, when "9 to 5 to 9" will return with a less self-absorbed episode.
I felt cruddy all day today. My eyelids were sandpaper, my nose was triple its usual, and an alien kept pounding on my forehead, trying to escape. Tomorrow morning I’ll have whiplash.
It was nothing fatal. Just an allergy attack. Except I don’t have little allergy attacks – I have sneeze tsunamis. Strings of five or six head-snapping, body-rocking spasms at a time. No kidding -- I once spent months seeing a chiropractor after I threw out my back during a sneezing fit.
I ah-chooed my way through the work day. It’s not as if I was contagious and would infect co-workers. Irritate, maybe, but not infect. And I’m always grumpy during these spells, so I didn’t need to be around the irritating little people who would have wound up going with me if I’d left. They definitely would have irritated me, as loaded up as I was on legal pseudoephedrine. How do meth heads stand it?
The real reason I stayed, though, was the secret every working mother knows: Mommies don’t get sick days. Mommies don’t even get sick minutes. Heck, I know mommies who would be delighted just to go to the bathroom alone.
Back in the day BC – Before Children – I still would have stayed at work. But as soon as I got home, I would have popped a Benadryl, crawled under the covers and slipped into a coma. Can’t do that now. Not with young’uns to herd, feed and bathe, lunches to pack and the next day’s dinner to fix.
And working moms have to ration that precious sick time, particularly in the early years when every virus floating within 10 square miles hones in on your kid. For days when you get the call: "We think Big Guy has pink eye. You need to get him checked."
My first reaction is "aw, crap! I have things to do." My second is, "my poor baby." My third is intense guilt because I thought "aw, crap" before I thought "my poor baby."
Then there’s the other guilt. No matter how many times in the day BC you covered for other parents with sick kids, no matter how many holidays you missed so someone else’s children wouldn’t miss Mommy or Daddy at Christmas, you think someone will hold it against you when you have to bug out when a bug strikes.
Thus starts the head trip: You’re used to being an A+ worker, but now you need to be an A+ mom, too. Where ever you are, you feel guilty about where you’re not.
Back in the day BC, you never had to jet midday with an "Oops! Gotta go!" Back in the day BC, you never wondered if co-workers questioned your work ethic. You’re not alone in wondering now. I was at a seminar a few years ago for women in journalism, and the fear that peers thought they weren’t doing the job was common among mothers in the room.
Many of us at that seminar survive by partitioning our lives: Work stuff in one box, home stuff in another. Problem is, it’s always going to get messy when one box overflows. And that completely overlooks that fact that there should to be a third box, filled with your stuff.
The things you used to do back in the day BC. Things like come home from work and lapse into a coma.
Today, I really missed that third box.
Copyright 2007 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.