Guest blog by Meagan Kopatz
It’s just a scratchy throat, keep going. It’s just a blocked nose, keep going. It’s just a bit of a fever, keep going. I am not getting sick, I am not getting sick. Oh crap, I’m sick. Maybe a little nap is all I need to get through this….
“Muuuuuuuuuum! Where are you?!”
This has been the record playing in my head for the past week. I know I am being ridiculous – everyone has the right to be sick. But somehow, I don’t hold the same true for me.
If I use my sick leave at work, it is typically as carers leave for the kids. I try to avoid using it for when I’m actually sick because, well, it’s best to stockpile in case there is a bad cold season with the kids, right?
Plus if I take a day off work, there will just be a bigger pile of emails waiting for me when I get back so I may as well push through.
Being sick in the same house as my children is out of the question. They can sniff me out a mile away. Through my own actions I have taught them that mummy is a 24/7 service, available at the slightest whine.
I’m unsure how long I expect my body to hold out with the standard I have set for it and my version of motherhood. No day off sick for two years? Four years? Until they are both well into their school years and more independent?
When my husband is sick, I find myself quietly grumbling about manflu if he removes himself from the chaos to rest. Again, I know I am being ridiculous. He, like me, is human and can get sick and need to recover too.
So here I am, laid flat with a miserable cold and a hacking cough. I have pushed and pushed to the point where I physically could not go further. I have a fever and I know it will take a couple of days of rest to get back to an operational range of sick. I also know I will be mightily tempted to get out of bed and help out with the chaos.
I have utterly failed the question posed to parents like me: if the oxygen masks dropped in an airplane, would you put the mask on yourself first and then your children as instructed by the crew? If truthful, I know I would
put the masks on them. While noble, this is pretty short-sighted. Putting myself second in that situation could mean I lose consciousness and leave the children helpless.
I know all these things but it is not enough without action.
The time is overdue to challenge myself by putting myself first and recover from this cold. The children will survive without me, as will my husband.
If I don’t believe that and act accordingly then I am sending them all a very low message of how much faith I have that they can manage themselves and each other. By not resting I am also telling them that my needs don’t matter and they can continue to see me as a 24/7 service rather than a person who sometimes has needs too. And, if I continue in this way, I will become a cranky burnt out shell of the mother I want to be.
Ultimately though, by not giving weight to my own needs I will continue to set myself and my husband through my grumbling an impossible standard to sustain. An unfair expectation for us both, when really, we should be
sharing the load and supporting each other through this crazy busy time in life.
So, if you will excuse me, I need to pull on my oxygen mask and have a long nap – for everyone’s sake, including my own.
If you need help with managing your invisible load, then you’re in the right place.
Heather Pye empowers women to make positive changes by coaching on communication, mindset and organisational strategies.