When a Working Mom Gets Sick - Baby Steps in High Heels

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

When a Working Mom Gets Sick

A couple of weeks ago, the slipped disc in my neck started acting up again. This time, it was causing more than just headaches. It was pinching a nerve, which in turn caused a multitude of fun symptoms … shooting pain down my arm, numb fingers and face, and an overall inability to do anything with my left hand. When I’d finally had enough, I visited my doctor who prescribed a steroid pack to reduce inflammation.

This worked great for a couple of days. Then my luck ran out. The nerve was no longer pinched or causing pain, but my stomach did not react well to the steroid. In retrospect, my doctor thinks I also had a stomach bug on top of the bad reaction to the medicine. It did me in. I was out of commission for the better part of 10 straight days. I spent my birthday in the ER getting fluids and zofran.

I’m not sharing all of this in hopes of finding a little pity party. I am sharing to emphasize that I was truly sick … not a cold or allergies or something that would allow me to partially function. I was literally incapacitated for over a week. As a working mom, this was an interesting experience.

Okay, my husband would probably use other words to describe his experience {overwhelming, frustrating, exhausting} given that he was doing every single thing for the kids, for his job, and for his sick wife. And, honestly, I didn’t think it was terribly interesting at first. I just thought it was, well, terrible. It was definitely a throw-back to my hyperemesis pregnancy days, just without the promise of a cute little bundle of joy at the end.

Once I started to come out of the I-feel-like-death-all-the-time phase, though, I did realize that interesting might actually be an appropriate descriptor. I was starting to wrap my head around the sad fact that I had not had an hour, much less a day (or 10, as it was in this case), in years when I had not been required to be doing something.  Whether I have been working or mom-ing, or wife-ing, or just living, life never stops.

Even in our rest times, rest the task at hand:
-this is my one hour to watch a recorded show, or
-this is my one night out with friends, or
-these are the six hours I have to sleep tonight, or
-this is our vacation, dang it. Enjoy it! Enjoy it all! This is your only chance to do so.

I had not been still or quiet or disengaged in so long, that my body needed to literally shut down in order to be capable of such a foreign state. Everything was such a blur for several days. And, when I started to come back to reality, I didn’t have the energy to concern myself with what I was doing right or wrong. I was still in survival mode. I was just not capable of stressing over details.  

And, do you want to know what happened while I was out of commission? Not much. Nothing fell apart. The kids were still fed, read to, and put to bed on time. Everyone was bathed and loved, and nothing fell through the cracks. Nothing.

(Except my birthday, which I think devastated my daughter a little as she recently informed me of the following: “Mom, I don’t think you’re 29. I think you said that last time. Maybe you’re closer to 100, which means a big party.” The girl does love any reason to party.)

I did miss a night out with friends, a morning walk to school, and a PTA meeting. I took a few days off of work. And, I haven’t had coffee or wine in 2 weeks … but, none of these things, or the sum of them, has thrown my life off course at all. Not one single bit.  

I didn’t just say no to one thing. I said no to everything. For almost two weeks. And nothing has changed. So maybe we can slow down, turn down, and let down from time to time. Maybe the world will keep turning even if we miss the occasional meeting. Maybe we don’t need to overextend ourselves just for the sake of doing so.

And, because I’d like to take something from my little illness {other my 8-pound weight loss that I’m not really too upset about}, I am going to take some peace of mind that I can choose my own priorities … that I am not less of a mother or wife or employee if I don’t take on that extra task every time. In her recent book, For the Love, Jen Hatmaker calls this taking things off the beam. I’m not sure what specific things I will take off the beam, but I do know that it’s time to start thinking about it more seriously.

If I could eventually find a way back to that peace and quiet state of being (minus the sickness), that wouldn’t be so bad either …


  1. Oh, no! I knew you were sick, but I had no idea it was that bad! I know what you mean, though, about prioritizing and choosing what we say yes to. That's what life in the camphouse taught me.

    1. It was pretty ugly for a while, and I'm still recovering. Apparently, I'm looking for silver linings today. Glad you found yours in the camphouse experience!

  2. It is never easy when a mother got sick. I knew how it felt when my wife got sick also.

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