It’s that time of year… that time from November through April, when your children’s noses are constantly running, there’s always someone coughing, and you keep feeling that incessant tickle in your throat. Having only so many sick days at work — and feeling guilty when I need to take one — it’s the time of year when I’m constantly worried that I’m going to need to take a sick day, either for me or my kids.
Well, it happened.
The other day, I was in my supervisor’s office, hacking up a lung, discussing the work of the day. She suggested that maybe I should go home and get some rest. She knew the baby had been sick, too. I declined the offer.
She looked me squarely in the eye and said,
“You don’t need to be a martyr.”
Yes, I have heard this before. But this time I listened.
The next day I woke up feeling absolutely lousy. I knew it was almost the long weekend, and if I didn’t rest up and take care of myself, I was doomed. So I did it.
I called in sick. I took a sick day.
I took a sick day, and I did nothing around the house.
I took a sick day, and I rested on the couch, binge-watched “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and drank my weight in fluids.
And, at the end of the day, I felt better. Not quite 100%. But, definitely better than I would have if I had gone to work or if I had used the day to cook, clean, or shop. Did I feel guilty? Absolutely. Should I have? Absolutely not.
This whole experience got me thinking: Why is it so hard for moms to take a sick day? And I don’t even mean why is it so hard for us to take a day off from paid work — I mean why is it so hard for us to take a day off from mom-ing?
My husband is an excellent caregiver and loves being with his children. He is happiest when he is playing Candy Land or reading in bed with our girls on a lazy weekend morning. He is perfectly capable of parenting without me. And, yet, if I need to rest and send the three of them out so that I won’t pass out, I feel guilty.
We internalize so much mom guilt. Everyone jokes about the man cold, the mom cold, and how moms never really get a day off. But why do we buy into this? Why are we not fighting against this? Don’t get me wrong — I get it. I, too, am the CEO of my house. I am the meal planner, chef, accountant, activities coordinator, and house tidy-upper.
But even CEOs take sick days!
Moms: This cold and flu season, let’s fight! Let’s all take a sick day when we need it. And focus on ourselves. And not feel guilty. Let’s use our supports, whether they are our partners, our family, or our friends. Let’s make this the year of taking care of ourselves when we need it the most! We’ll start with the sick days, then maybe move on to “me time” in general!