Let’s Be Real: Moms Don’t Have Time to Be Sick

Rebecca Eckler September 12, 2017

One of the scariest times of the year for me is the start of school because it’s the beginning of the season when I have to try to stay as far, far away from anyone who is sick, or even feels like they are coming down with something.

The nano-second another person in the office, or a friend so much as sneezes or coughs in front of me, I run away, as if they were bounty hunters out to capture me. Or I’ll ask point blank, “Is that allergies or are you catching a cold?” No, I’m not a hypochondriac. Like almost every mother I know, I just don’t have time to be sick.

Thanks to kids going back to school or day care, all confined to classrooms, plus the weather constantly changing, it’s the germiest time of the year. (All kids are just germ pits on legs.) One mother in the office just caught the stomach bug from her child, and while I was about to chat with her, she said, “Stay away from me. I have the stomach flu!” To which I responded by picking her up some chicken soup. Oh wait, that’s not what I did at all. As awful as this sounds, I raced out of her office, as if I was an Olympic hopeful in track and field.

Another colleague has strep throat and thankfully didn’t come into the office, because that’s the last thing I need to catch and even thinking about her sore throat makes me want to take a shower with Purell. The truth is, Moms really can’t get sick. And it’s not just that we don’t have the time to rest up. Parenting when you are sick is just pure awful. And what makes it worse is that you still have to make sure the kids are alive and well, while also trying to ‘rest’ and get better. It sucks.

But, there’s nothing more ridiculous than a mother being told that you need rest. Twice in the last year two years, I’ve had two different doctors tell me that I needed rest.

The first time I saw a doctor after I had a panic attack. The head of Psychiatry in emergency took me into a private room. He was a lovely man, who talked to me for almost an hour about my life, about stress, panic attacks and what I needed to do. “I see people like you all the time,” the doctor declared. “You need a rest. A serious rest. Like, for a month.” Well, okay then! A month’s rest’it is!

Except that the only way I could see myself getting an entire’s month’s rest was if I somehow ending up in jail…in solitary confinement? Or maybe if I got addicted to something and was sent to rehab. (But one of those nice rehab places where celebrities go, with private chefs and yoga instructors.) So, I suppose my options are rehab or jail, if I wanted a month’s rest to deal with stress. But, you know, parenting.

A rest to me is maybe a power nap in between driving and picking up carpool. Or the shower is a pretty good place to get some alone time. Sometimes I do fall asleep while standing in the shower.

I thanked the friendly, but (naive) doctor, and finally walked out of the hospital thinking, “Does he not know that mothers can’t just take a month-long rest because of stress?” Unless he was also offering to take my kids to their activities and playdates and would make them breakfast every day.

The second time I was told I needed a rest happened very recently when I also found myself again in the hospital, with wicked stomach pains, like someone was stabbing me. I, of course, read about the symptoms of Appendicitis, before Ubering to the hospital, and even through the immense pain, all I could think was, “I can’t have appendicitis now. The recovery time is too long. I can’t be on bed rest for two to four weeks, because who the hell is going to take care of everything? I don’t have time for this!”

In a daze, I ran a mental list of all the things that needed to be done. My daughter needed new tap, jazz and ballet shoes. My son was starting school in two days and needed a haircut. My daughter was starting school in four days, and I hadn’t filled out the necessary forms. I needed to respond to a number of e-mails. My daughter had a doctor’s appointment and an orthodontics appointment. How was she to get to these? My son had a birthday party to attend and squash lessons. And I needed groceries. And a birthday present.

Sure, sure, you’re probably thinking. Your health comes first. And what about your partner? Sure my partner can take over, but not entirely. He doesn’t know my daughter’s schedule and where she has to be and when. And plus, her plans change constantly. He doesn’t make tutoring appointments. He doesn’t RSVP to birthday parties. And kids, no matter how sick you are, will barge into your bedroom to just jump on your face while you’re trying to ‘rest’ in bed. Even my son’s father couldn’t keep our non-stop five year-old from barging in my bedroom, while I was trying to rest, for more than two hours.

Fortunately, I didn’t have appendicitis, but again, I was told I needed to ‘rest.’ I just shook my head, sighing. Even now, a couple of weeks later, I’m still in pain, but I can’t let the pain get in the way of…parenting. It’s just not realistic.

Because I was in pain, I tried to rest, but my mind could not stop racing with worrying about all the things that needed to be taken care of, but also worrying if they’d get done. My son’s father is completely helpful. But, truth be told, it would actually take longer for me to explain the daily routine and who has to be where and when, and what needs to get done, than it would if I actually just did it all (or mostly) myself. Trust me, I’m not a martyr. It’s just the truth. I’m sure a lot of mothers can relate.

So, please, if you have a sore throat, a stomach bug, just stay away from me. Or if I’m running away from you, it’s not because I don’t like you or that I am in training for a marathon, it’s simply because I don’t have the time to be ill and I’m not chancing it if you sneeze. Let’s just say I’m getting a lot of cardio in these days and keeping a small bottle of Purell in my bra.

‘Rest’ is an almost laughable diagnosis….at least for most mothers. Anyone want to come and arrest me so maybe I could get that month’s rest in solitary confinement? Anyone?

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