Leslie has penned nearly 400 columns for Star Community Newspapers, a Dallas-area conglomerate (circulation: 100,000+).
Mom Can’t Be Sick
I’m home sick today. Not homesick—which is not a fun thing to be either—but at home in bed, sick. It’s one of those mysterious illnesses where the doctor says, “We’re seeing a lot of this kind of virus—fever, aches, sore throat.” And then three dreaded words every mother hates to hear:
“Antibiotics won’t help.”
My mind reels. Unspoken rants bounce through my brain. What do you mean—antibiotics won’t help? That’s what you always give me. Please, tell me you’re kidding.
“You’ll just have to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.”
For this I pay $105.
I got the same diagnosis and prescription from my mother for free.
No offense, but in my book the doctor is there to dole out precious little pills to magically make me feel better. If he doesn’t, then how has the visit been helpful? It’s done more harm than good. Let me explain. Because I expected to get medicine to help me feel better, my mind and body were dependent on him dispensing medication.
When I’m told I’ll be getting no antibiotics, my body goes into panic mode—much like the last ten minutes of a James Bond movie. You know the one where James is trying to keep a nuclear reactor from going off and a female Russian voice continually drones, “60 seconds and counting.” (Only the 60 seconds takes about 10 minutes.) During that time, alarms sound, warning lights flash, people, desperate to reach the exit, scramble over one another in survival mode. “30 seconds and counting . . . ” My internal alarms have sounded—no antibiotics incoming!
At the risk of sounding like I’m addicted, I need those drugs. I believe medicine will make be better. As a mom, I have a lot of people counting on me. My children need cereal and Hot Pockets. Do you think milk just buys itself? My husband needs shirts taken to the cleaners. I’m out of clean underwear. The world doesn’t stop just because I get sick. Though I wish it would, it doesn’t.
It’s hard for any mother to be sick. Though it’s not quite as consequential as, say, George W. Bush or Tony Blair coming down with the flu, the government of a household goes completely out of whack when the mom gets sick.
Projects don’t get done in a timely manner. Kids don’t have what they need to wear for school. Plus, have you ever noticed that the time Mom gets really sick, with something like Asian flu or pneumonia, that’s the day all three kids will need to have projects done for school. Not just any project, but ones requiring cooking, and grocery shopping, and a beautiful presentation of the food. This turn of events means Mom, a blend of grace and steel, manages to pull herself from the warmth of her covers and direct the cooking show. The product will be superb. The kids will be grateful. Mom will have “done it” again. She isn’t called Mom for nothing.
Unfortunately, this superhuman feat won’t please Dad. He’ll be lurking in some dark corner, watching, waiting. And at just the right moment, when Mom has collapsed onto the sofa, exhausted, her recovery pushed back two days, he’ll say, “Honey, you’re not going to get any better if you keep getting up and doing stuff around the house.”
Gee, I wish I’d thought of that.
This time around, I abide by my doctor’s seemingly ridiculous diagnosis of a virus. I take Tylenol and Advil every four hours. I gargle with salt water. I drink lots of juice and ginger ale. I watch far too many DVDs, until my back is sore from inactivity. On some level I even enjoy my little mini-vacation from housework.
But I can’t believe the thought that keeps running through my mind: I can’t wait to feel better so I can get out of this bed and do something.
As a mom, I can sometimes fall into the trap of devaluing my job.
If I don’t take pride in what I do, I fight discouragement. If I hear how valuable I am, my tendency is to feel taken for granted. All of these lead to me not seeing the value in doing the job just for the sake of being a mom.
Lately, however, I’ve noticed a few things that could solidify my standing, my role within the family. If these items don’t render me indispensable, I don’t know what will.
Because . . . if I don’t do these things, no one will:
Remove lint from the dryer filter. OK, just by mentioning that one, I’m admitting that other people in my house help with the laundry. That fact alone puts me light years ahead of many moms I know who are still knee deep in their teen’s jeans or hubby’s boxers.
But, seriously, am I the only one who ever remembers to clean off the filter? When I checked on a load in the dryer this morning, it seemed as though they were drying more slowly than paint. I could have knitted a sweater—for Shaquille O’Neal—with amount of link packed onto the filter!
Clean out the refrigerator. Not that I particularly like opening a Tupperware containing questionable foods, but I’ve been assigned that task by default. No one else would even think of lifting a lid or opening a baggie.
This is partly because my family members don’t particularly like leftovers. Now don’t get me wrong. We still have leftovers—often; I just have to cleverly disguise them. Leftover spaghetti noodles morph into tetrazzini or chicken noodle soup.
It’s also partly because no one notices how full the fridge gets. I regularly find yogurts stacked to the fridge ceiling, condiment bottles perched precariously and (unintentionally) dehydrated fruits and veggies occupying their respective drawers.
If I were to ever take an around-the-world cruise or become unconscious for a lengthy period of time, my family would open the refrigerator only for milk and ketchup.
Change the bed sheets. My children would rather sleep on top of the comforter than face dirty sheets. And we have two baseball players, the likes of which attract dirt like a white shirt invites ketchup! It’s a pain, I’ll admit, especially changing sheets on a king-sized mattress. But there’s nothing like slipping into bed that night, relishing the absence of grit and crunch.
Use coupons. First off, allow me to confess my own shortcomings in this department. I’m as likely as not to get to the checkout line having left the coupons (a) in the car; (b) on the kitchen counter or (c) unclipped in the newspaper.
However, when I do take the time or particularly when I find a coupon perfectly suited to our lifestyle—say $1.00 off three boxes of Hot Pockets™, I will definitely use it. Occasionally, I’ll clip one for Quiznos’s or IHOP and leave it on Bret’s nightstand, thinking he’ll use it when he eats there. Two months later—after it’s expired, I’ll remove it from the same spot and throw it away.
Make any kind of powdered drink. With the rising costs of Gatorade™, lemonade and soft drinks, I typically buy powdered drinks and mix my own in gallon containers. Fortunately, the kids don’t complain (at least they haven’t yet) about pouring their own sports drinks for a game. However, no one besides mom has ever prepared one of the drinks from its powdered form.
Change the toilet paper roll. I’ll find the new one (I suppose I should be grateful for that!) sitting on the back of the tank, propped on top of the cardboard tube from the previous roll or partially unrolled on the bathroom floor. But no one has ever thought to remove the old tube and replace it with a new roll. Silver lining: I always get to install it with the paper coming out over the top. (I loathe paper coming out from underneath!)
The bottom line is that I should never question my significance. I should never question my role in this family. I’m needed. I’m an integral part, a necessary cog. I may not keep everything moving, but I do have complete authority over a few aspects of household management.
Even if it’s by default.