Yesterday, for the first time in a long time, I had a nice sick day. Don't get me wrong, I was sick so the coughing and the whole "feeling like crap" thing wasn't great, but I was also able to actually lie down on my couch and take a break from regular life (which can be nice even when you're not feeling 100 percent). Now that my kids are almost 5 and solidly 7, I'm able to occasionally rest when I need to. But sick days when you're a mom with young children? That's basically a heretofore unimagined level of hell that I would not wish on my worst enemy. Okay, maybe my worst enemy.
One of the coolest things about being a parent is that it's a totally immersive, 24 hours a day, seven days a week experience. And because it's so enveloping the love you feel for your little ones, and the joyful highs that come along with it, are elevated. But it also means you're running on fumes for at least the first several years of your kid's life, because you're basically, and constantly, managing life for at least two people. And managing someone else's life when you're trying to, like, not die of plague? Well, it sucks. It sucks so bad.
To show you just how terrifically awful this (let's face it) common experience is, allow me to present a sick day without kids versus one with them thrown into the mix.
Without kids: Wake up whenever you damn well please. Hell, don't wake up except to email your boss to tell them you won't be in... if you want. I recommend getting up to pee, but other than that the world is your oyster. It's magical and not only totally OK but probably a good idea to rest up.
With kids: Not only do you have to get out of bed but you have to get out of bed whenever you normally do. If your kid is up at 6:00 a.m. then so are you. Also, kids have this sixth sense for knowing exactly when to mix it up and wake up, like, 45 minutes early just for the fun of it. Yay.
Without kids: You are reprieved of your morning routine. Today, the morning routine does not exist. You enjoy this change of pace and, hey, feel better, kiddo.
With kids: Literally zero change in your routine except now you feel like total sh*t (or even sh*ttier than you normally do) while you do it. Because these little creatures are still dependent upon you for everything, practically and also legally.
Without kids: You eat or don't eat what you want. If chicken noodle soup makes happy, you eat it. Saltines? Awesome. Personally, I'm a pastina girl (pastina is the Italian penicillin). Point is, you eat what you want in peace or you don't eat and either way you live your best life.
With kids: Either they are going to try to eat any morsel you manage to nibble on ("What's that? Crackers? I WANT CRACKERS! GIVE ME CRACKERS!") or they will pass judgement on any small comfort you are able to scrounge up? ("What's that? YUCK! That's gross! I don't want to eat that! That smells bad!")
Without kids: Anything you want. I recommend The Great British Baking Show. It's so nice and soothing and if you fall asleep at one point it's not a big deal.
With kids: If you're lucky you'll get to watch something that doesn't completely annoy you (A Series of Unfortunate Events is my personal favorite right now). But, again, kids know when they really need to step up the annoying kid behavior and what better time than mom's sick day? So you'll probably wind up watching Pocoyo. Like, the episodes that don't even feature Stephen Fry as the narrator.
Without kids: Glorious. Frequent. Long. Restorative.
With kids: N-... naps? Am I pronouncing that correctly?
Your Favorite Blanket
Without kids: Wrapped around you, obviously. If you're like me, this may be the only item wrapped around you on a sick day. You can just veg out naked, wrapped in a cozy blanket like a nude little burrito. There's no time for clothing when you're healing: only blankies.
With kids: It will be cruelly yanked away from you and used as a blanket fort. You will tell them no. You will tell them to use another blanket if they have to. They will whine and cry and you are too sick to argue and you will just say, "FINE! TAKE IT! I'LL SIT HERE AND FREEZE!" and they will not care because children are selfish and cruel and they got what they wanted.
Without kids: Basically non-existent, as it should be on a sick day.
With kids: Not only do you have to interact with you rkids, but you also have to interact with people on their behalf. Moms at pick-up. Teachers. Their best friend's parent. And even if you can circumvent those painful exchanges, your kids alone are harshing your sick day buzz. They're exhausting under normal circumstances. They're super exhausting when you're super-exhausted.
Without kids: F*ck 'em. They can wait.
With kids: F*ck! Why don't they tell you kids need to eat every day before you have them?
Prospect of Recovery
Without kids: You're probably going to be fine the next day or so.
With kids: Not only have you not had a chance to rest basically at all, but another feature of children is that they bring home basically weaponized germs that are trying to destroy your body and soul. So even under the best circumstances these bugs tend to take longer to recover from. When you have to take care of kids as you recover, well, just be OK with the idea that you're going to be at least moderately ill between November and March.
Without Kids: I mean, it's a sick day, so you're not feeling great but there is an enjoyment in just resting and doing nothing.
With Kids: Look, are they noisy? Yes. Are they a lot of work? Yes. Is there any chance you will be able to actually relax and focus on getting better in their presence? None. But...
... there is no but. Having kids around when you're sick is the worst. There is no upside unless maybe another adult is there to manage them and, even then, it's best if that adult takes them elsewhere so they don't bother you, because they will try to bother you. You win this one, child-free folks.