Today was day six of being stuck inside with a sick baby. I have actually left the house in the past six days, once to take the baby to the doctor, and once to take Ben to the park just the two of us, so he wouldn’t think I’d totally forgotten that he exists. Other than that it has been a mash up of marathon days melting into endless nights, coughing, vomiting, epic snotty sneezes and just general time sucking baby sickness. This poor girl has been through the ringer this month. She had a stomach bug over Chanukah and then came down with the worst cold ever last Friday night. This happened to coincide with Mo and Ben’s vacation from school, which was both fortunate and unfortunate. We all know how it feels to look forward to a “break” of some kind, and when that break arrives, it gets filled with obligations, or doctors appointments, or sick kids. We were disappointed but managed to go with it without too much frustration. As an at-home mom I’ve been forced to go with the flow so much that I’ve pretty much given up on anything ever happening the way I expect, and Mo was an incredibly good sport about spending almost his whole time off in full on childcare mode. Our one family outing was to Boca to visit his parents, which was great, but certainly not the trip to the Keys we had planned.
I also caught a cold last Wednesday which added to the excitement. When I feel that I am coming down with something I panic a little about not being able to take care of whatever it is I need to take care of. This feeling is probably familiar to everyone. Not wanting to be bested by a pesky virus I go into herbal germ warfare mode, taking tinctures and vitamins, cutting out dairy, and (sort of) trying to rest. Fighting the sickness can get stressful, which is probably what puts me over the edge into actually getting sick! Once I realize the battle is over I relax a little, and continue with the herbs and trying to rest, etc. This time I was completely removed from focusing on my cold by my sweet girl catching it and getting it much much worse than I did. I have spent the past week with her in my arms every waking and almost every sleeping moment.
Just for the record, I composed some beautiful poetry in my head while holding her for a nap the other day. With nothing nearby to record it, it is gone forever, into the wind. On Tuesday evening I sat in bed holding her, watching the sunset filter through the vertical blinds as they shimmied a little in a breeze I couldn’t feel. The color shifted from white, to orange, then blue as the day closed. The way the light moved was so beautiful, and the weight of my baby in my arms so loving and satisfying, I wanted to remember it forever. Six hours later, staring at the same vertical blinds in the darkness I had no such lovely thoughts. I wished for the morning so I would at least have someone to talk to.
When my kids are sick I turn into much more of a worrier than usual, wondering if every symptom is a reason to rush to the hospital. She has fever! How high is it? Should I give her Tylenol? I read there is a link between acetaminophen and asthma! Is there a homeopathic remedy that fits? What time is it? Where is the nearest urgent care center!? I thought this would have passed now that I have two kids, but it seems I have forgotten almost everything I learned about having sick kids with Ben. I didn’t even make a list of what I wanted to talk to the doctor about so when she called me back I rambled on about mucous and breathing sounds and forgot to talk about dehydration. Sleep deprivation is like that, sneakily stealing my common sense, and of course, patience.
Yesterday Mo had to go out to get some grading done in the afternoon and poor Ben was left with sick Ella and strung out me. We managed fine and I like to think my rather short temper didn’t wreak any irreversible damage. At the very least I managed to feed and bathe both of them so I think that’s enough under the circumstances. As the amount of sleep I’ve had decreases the bar I set for myself gets lower.
Most of all, I find having a sick child in the house sends me through every possible emotion and outlook. One minute I’m desperate, begging Mo to hold her so I can just eat something. The next minute I’m smiling and feeling like a hero for reading a book to both kids while wiping Ella’s nose. Then I’m incredibly frustrated, telling Mo, “I can’t listen to the moaning anymore! Hours and days of her moaning right in my ear!” He’s like, “Have a little compassion! She’s in pain.” Then I feel guilty, and mad at him for making me realize that I wasn’t being so sensitive. Then I feel self righteous, “I’ve been caring for this moaning sneezing creature for days on end! I’m allowed to complain!” So it’s been a loooong week.
Today Ella finally turned the corner and I was able to actually put her down to nap by herself. I spent the time cleaning my apartment from top to bottom, washing everything I could find in hot water and generally trying to purge our home from whatever made us feel so awful. The good thing is that a clean apartment and being caught up on the laundry makes me feel pretty on top of my game. Speaking of my game, I’m trying to figure out what to call myself. I think “stay at home mom” is the PC term for a woman who does not go to work outside the home. It doesn’t quite feel right, mostly because I don’t like to “stay at home” too much. I wanted to say “full time mom” but I realized that would somehow imply that women who work outside the home are not being a mom while they are at work, which of course they are. The reason I feel like I need a better title is because I consider myself an intelligent person and right now I am applying my intelligence and effort full time to being a mom. I have other interests and care about other people, places and things besides my immediate family. However, at this juncture in my life I am devoting myself full time to thinking and working for myself, my kids, my husband, and my home (let’s be honest, mostly the kids because they are the most vocal and demanding). I don’t know what other moms who do or do not work outside the home think about their lives, or how they divide their energies. I know it is not easy being a parent and I imagine that the more demanding of attention someone’s job is, the more difficult it must be to give so much at home and so much at work. My point here is not to compare what I’m doing to what other people are doing, because I have no idea what anyone else’s life is like since I’m not living it (although I would love to hear your perspective, so please comment if you are interested/inspired/angered/confused by what I’m saying!) What I’m trying to say is that I want a better job title!
At this point in my life I care about things like how to get laundry stains out, the best way to speak to my son so that he will respect me and also know that I love him, the easiest way to make healthy and delicious baked goods from scratch, how to maintain my sense of self while devoting my day to caring for others, connecting fully with my family as often as possible, getting to know my own thoughts and becoming aware of patterns that no longer serve me….among many other things. What is the name for this job? A friend who I respect and admire calls this “life-ing.” Living is what we do to stay alive, and life-ing is what we do to make a life. I don’t think “life-er” is a good title though, what do you think?