It’s no fun being sick. And it’s really no fun being sick as a mom. Laundry doesn’t stop piling up, lunches don’t pack themselves, and groceries don’t just appear at your door. We may feel as if we’d like the world to stop spinning momentarily, but alas, it does not. We keep mom-ing on, sickness or well.
Recently, we have passed the chest congestion/cough between the three of us. It started with my son, who is usually the first to bring sickness home from kindergarten. I spent many sleepless nights in his room, cradling his lanky body upright to ease the coughing fits. I massaged oil on his chest and feet, propped up his pillows, sat in the bathroom telling him stories as steam from the hot shower provided temporary relief. I held the pink basin as he coughed and spit up phlegm. I rubbed his head and held a warm washcloth to his neck. Most of these I did without thinking, they were instinctual. Comfort, calm, love. It’s what being a mom is all about. 24/7, no holidays, no paid time off, no sick days.
The fact is that even in our own times of being sick, we still mother. Even in the moments when we would prefer to be mom-ed, we continue to mom.
I woke up one morning, and did not want to get out of bed. My son came into my room, and my grave, “good morning” was met with a question. “Mom, are YOU crying?” I assured him I was not; that it was just my turn with the gunky cough going through the family.
“Then tonight I will sleep with you.” He replied. “You slept with me when I was coughing, and made me feel better. So tonight, I will sleep with you!” I appreciated the gesture, but didn’t have the heart to tell him that wasn’t quite how it worked.
As the day went on my sickness symptoms continued to get worse and by afternoon I had ruptured an eardrum. I was miserable. I remained miserable for several days. I was miserable while doing laundry, cooking dinner and packing lunches. I felt like a miserable mom.
Two mornings later my son came into my bed in the wee early hours. I was coughing up a storm, worn out from not sleeping well and dreading getting up to move through the day.
“Mom,” he whispered, “do you need me to get you the pink tub?”
“No honey, I’ll be okay.” I continued to cough, moan and generally begrudge his requests to get up.
“Mom,” he whispered again, “do you want me to go into the bathroom and turn on the hot shower for you?”
“No honey, I’ll be fine, thank you. Can you just snuggle me instead?”
“Yes, and when you’re ready to turn on the light I will read you a book. A really good one.”
I know we are years away from him making me dinner, but in that moment his desire to comfort me made me feel better than any home-cooked meal. It was more refreshing than a full basket of clean laundry, folded AND put away. Ever so briefly, the roles were reversed; I was being comforted, calmed and loved. I was tended to in my sickness. I was mom-ed. By my kindergartner son.
Motherhood is such that we don’t always know what impact our mothering is going to have. The fruits of our labor can take years to ripen, and we often miss seasons entirely. We go through our days doing what we know to do. Mostly, it’s intuitive. We do it without much thought, and we hope it sticks. We hope it’s received in the same spirit to which it’s so freely given.
As I lay there, aching ear, tired body, and weary soul, my son’s glow-in-the-dark jammies staring back at me, I felt to my core that it is all worth it. 24/7 comfort, calm, and love. Ripe, beautiful, delightful fruit, all for the taking. In sickness and in health.