Something I call “The Plague” has taken hold of our home the past nine days. It involved poop soup and vomit and fevers and aches and pains and lots and lots of laundry and Lysol. Fingers crossed and knock on wood, the worst of it is over. And fingers crossed and knock on wood, the baby has been spared.
Sometimes one strong stomach bug is all it takes to knock a family down and out. Gratefully, our illnesses came in succession — first Mary Tyler Son, a short reprieve where we thought we were in the clear, outside of a day I felt not so good and had a single sympathy vomit, then Mary Tyler Dad, and finally, for the grand crescendo, back to me.
Mary Tyler Dad missed two days of work (one when he was flat in bed, and one when he cared for the kiddos cause I was flat in bed). I can count on one hand the number of days this man has been sick since I have known him. I still recall the New Year’s Flu of 1999. All anyone was talking about was Y2K, which looked a lot like yack, and that was about all Mary Tyler Dad did for 48 hours.
So for the past two days, I have pretty much laid in bed. A mom’s dream, right? Not so much. Not even catching up on Game of Thrones is much fun when you feel like hell (speaking of feeling like hell, did you see what happened to that dude’s head?!).
It’s sad, really, cause I will be the first to admit that when I am worn to the bone with this whole mothering thing, I do fantasize about being sick in bed for a day or two, absolved of all maternal responsibilities, and the iPad becomes your guilt-free best friend. And, you know that, really, because you are that sick, the best, most maternal thing you can do is stay the hell away from your kiddos, lest you pass it along to them.
Then, when it happens and the bug hits, the bug that is bug enough to keep you down and out, you feel so freaking awful that you just want to cry. And the iPad that was supposed to be guilt-free is only showing me things like NYPD Guilt, and Real Housewives of Guilt County, and Law & Order SVGuilt. UGH!
On top of that, your loving husband comes to your bedside every 90 minutes or so to check up on you and freshen up your bedside Gatorade. He is the best, which oddly, only makes you feel worse. When you are awake, he brings the baby to the door to smile and wave at you, which is also oddly crushing. When it is clear that he will be missing a day of work to care for the kiddos, as you are not able to stand up straight, let alone lift a 22 pound baby or drive back and forth to school, the guilt worsens. You are keenly aware that he will be missing his boss’ only day in the office for three weeks, even if you don’t really know what the ramifications are of that.
Oy, the guilt. It is so overpowering you decide to nap, waking up four hours later feeling worse than you did before.
Long story short, I struggle with the guilt I feel when I watch my husband care for his children. Isn’t that ludicrous?! Bah! It is ridiculous and yet I feel powerless to stop it. Truth be told, I would have never married a man I didn’t feel was capable of partnering in the whole child rearing department. One of the endless hours of television I watched these past two days was a Real Housewives of Orange County episode where one of the dudes reluctantly agreed to father a child with his wife, but if and only if she agreed before hand that the raising of said child would be her responsibility and domain. WOW.
No thank you!
So, here I am, proud feminist on the one hand, holding out for a good man, a solid man, a man who is man enough to help raise his kiddos and knows that child rearing is not woman’s work, but yet I feel guilty when I watch him in action.
Who exactly should I turn my feminist card into?
As one day of my sickness morphed into two, I could see my husband looking wearier and wearier. No one gets that better than I. Two kiddos five years apart is tough stuff. Keeping one happy and engaged means depriving the other, especially when you are on solo duty, as I am much of the time. The much needed nap for baby makes the afternoon trip to the park impossible. The walk in the woods will lead to a baby out of sorts and fighting to stay awake. Neither one of the kiddos is independent enough to get ready for bed or meals solo, so you do the best you can, but at the end of the day, you are spent, done, exhausted.
And Mary Tyler Dad was coming into this after 48 hours of his own plague. Poor guy.
That is why yesterday, when I started to feel the veil of sickness lift just a bit, and the aches and pains lessen, and I called out I would sit at the table for dinner, I was as relieved as a turkey on the day after Thanksgiving to hear my husband say, “Hot dogs for dinner!”
For me, the stay at home parenting gig has always been three-fold: kids, home, food. There are extras that fall into that, too, but for the most part, that covers the bases. That’s why whenever I don’t have it together to serve a three course, all organic, non-GMO meal at dinnertime, I feel like I am shirking my responsibilities. I sheepishly tell my husband, “tacos for dinner,” or “sloppy joes for dinner,” or “chicken breasts for dinner,” and somehow feel less than for not serving up a balanced, vegetable heavy, nutritious meal. Because it’s what I signed up for, it is the gig, you see? Mary Tyler Dad never does anything but eat what I serve with a smile and a thank you. The shame is mine, all mine.
But there he was last night, two days of doing the kiddos solo and coming off his own illness, and there were hot dogs for dinner! He had no apparent guilt or shame. I certainly had no dashed expectations. Honestly? I loved him so much in those moments, seeing his weariness with a side of hot dogs and apple sauce.
This parenting stuff is hard core and we do the best we can. I am one lucky lady to have someone in the trenches with me. And maybe, just maybe, I will get over my shame and guilt at serving the occasional hot dog for dinner. Who needs ketchup?