I came down with a nasty fever Thursday night that led into a couple unpleasant days of a stomach bug. My first thought, as I was sitting on the couch and starting to realize that I actually was sick and not just paranoid, was, I’m so thankful Nick doesn’t have to work tomorrow. And before that thought had even finished, Oh my gosh, I get to stay up late and watch crappy TV! And I get to sleep as much as I want tomorrow! I don’t have to take care of anyone or feel bad about not taking care of anyone because I can’t. I AM SICK.
Seriously, I have a problem. Within a half hour of those thoughts, I was shivering so much that I had buried myself under three blankets and was begging Nick to bring me a scalding-hot cup of water to warm my hands.
“This is going to burn your fingerprints off; I microwaved it,” he warned me.
“Perfect,” I said. “I can’t get my hands warm. I don’t need fingerprints, I just need to stop freezing.”
And still, a quiet part of my brain was throwing a party in celebration of my impending parenting snow day. Nick put a bowl next to the couch because I looked like I was about to start puking and headed off to bed, since he was now In Charge of All the Children. While willing my dinner to stay down, I silently reveled in watching The Tonight Show guilt-free, at least as much as I could in between nodding off and slipping into strange fever dreams.
Something is wrong with me. Who, besides people with Munchausen’s syndrome, celebrates feeling so terrible that a walk to the bathroom is akin to stumbling to the outhouse in a blizzard? And I know I don’t have Munchausen’s because I don’t want attention. All I wanted was to be left alone, blissfully alone with my DVDs of the West Wing.
But the more I started to think about why I had this bizarro reaction—especially even after realizing there is nothing on TV worth watching at 11 a.m. on a Friday—the more I realized that being seriously injured or ill is honestly the only guilt-free way to get out of parenting my children. Every day for the last eight-ish years—except for the handful of other times I’ve been bedbound—I have either been parenting, co-parenting, or have felt some degree of guilt and shirked responsibility over handing off the parenting duties to someone else. I know I have above-average opportunities to get away from time to time, but that always comes with the feeling that I’m still somehow responsible for the kids, especially if they are not behaving for the substitutes. We should be there, my brain says. I’m glad we’re not, but I still sort of feel bad they’re doing our job. Even if Nick is the one at home while I’m elsewhere. I know he is a fully equal parent and totally capable of running our herd, but I also know very well how unpleasant solo parenting can be. We’re having a great time, my brain says. Try not to think about how crazy things are at home and how much Nick could use a second set of hands right now. We’re having a great time. They’ll still be emotional and needy when we get home. You can catch up on it then.
When I am sick, however, I am responsible for NOTHING and NO ONE. It’s a vacation of sorts, if you only define “vacation” as “time away from work,” without any element of enjoyment or fun. Ok, it’s more like a Get Out of Parenting Free card. But hey, I’ll take what I can get. Even if that means The Price is Right, sweaty pajamas, and a tall glass of ginger ale. Paaarty.