There is nothing like the completely helpless feeling that comes when your child is really sick. When they look to you to make them feel better, and you just can’t. That kind of helplessness makes you feel guilty and inadequate. Add to those emotions the complete pity and heartbreak you feel for your sick child and your emotional cup runneth over. Add to that already overflowing cup the stress and demands of a job for two working parents whose careers march on, no matter who is sick at home, and you have a bonafide basket case for a mother.
Hi, I’m the basket case. Nice to meet you.
Bean has been sick for a while, and while I don’t share too much medical information about my family on my blog (one of those rare boundaries we have set as a family), I can tell you that I don’t think I’ve ever seen him this sick. We’ve been to the doctor three times in the past two weeks, and all three times the last part of our conversation with the doctor has been what signs to look for before we need to take him to the hospital.
Yeah, those conversations don’t leave you too warm and fuzzy on the inside.
He’ll get over this, I know. But until he does, our world is a little bit of an emotional mess.
As terrible as it sounds to say it out loud, mine and Chris’s jobs are a large part of the stress. I know that when children are sick, the parenting status quo is that everything goes on hold. And that’s all well and good, but it’s kind of BS, too. Yes, we can put everything on hold, but our jobs are still there. Students need to learn, Chris’s company needs someone to sign the paychecks, my language arts department needs a chair, Chris’s show must quite literally go on. And it goes without saying that we are 100% okay with those things being set aside while we care for our sick child, but the reality is that while we are sitting at his bedside or in the doctor’s office or – God forbid – in the hospital, in the back of our minds is that little nagging nugget of job responsibilities.
That doesn’t mean we don’t put things at work on hold. It doesn’t mean we don’t do whatever is needed to help our children get better. But doing those things is a lot easier said than done. Just because I set my priorities and put my family first doesn’t mean that my other responsibilities simply go away.
So on top of all the emotions that come with a sick child, there is the working mom guilt for me. Guilt that I even have to stop and think about my job when I have a sick child at home, and guilt that I’m not fulfilling my responsibilities outside of the home, too. It’s a very delicate double-edged sword for working parents, and one that I’m sure sounds absolutely ridiculous to someone who doesn’t work outside the home.
I try not to get caught up too often in the working mom guilt trap because the truth is that I love working and 99.9% of the time, it is the right thing for my family. My job provides health insurance and helps pay the bills. It is necessary, but it’s more than just a necessity. Chris and I love that our kids are in daycare. We really do. We love what they learn and how they grow, and while it may not be the right thing for every family, it is the right thing for our family. And so, most of the time, I really don’t struggle with working mom guilt.
Except when things like this happen. When times like these happen. When medicine and fluids and luke warm baths and humidifiers and breathing treatments are nothing compared to a good snuggle on mommy’s lap. Let me tell you, they don’t call us Dr. Mom for nothing…
And so, during times like these, I remind myself that this is temporary and that if I have to lower my professional standards for a while to make sure my children get everything they need and more from me, it’s not the end of the world. Yes, the guilt will creep into my mind, but I pray it away and remind myself that none of this is really not in my hands after all.
Which is good because the only thing in my hands right now are Michael’s little hands. And that’s just how it’s supposed to be.