As mothers, we are sick. I mean it is totally sick what we manage to get done.
We keep going, we get through Christmas, we’re into a New Year and we’re still spinning those plates. (Are you kidding me right now In Style about how I look? SHUT.UP.)
Just being a mother is more than enough. I’m not even talking about running the household, marriage, finance management, outside the house employment, community commitments and extended family ties. I’m just talking food, shelter and clothing emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually for our offspring. No matter their age. (In my experience, what changes over time isn’t intensity but its genre.)
And so what happens when a mom actually gets “sick” sick? Well for a start we don’t get sick. We just have a slight cold/irritating cough/feel “a bit off”. Am I right?
And, again in my experience, we only get “sick” sick when all other options are taken away from us. I can count a number of occasions over the years when this has been true for me.
You see there’s a reason it says in the 23rd psalm “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Once, when very sick, I asked the Lord why He hadn’t simply and gently suggested it. To which the reply came, “I tried.”
Both my kids were sick over Christmas and New Year. It was only last week when they went back to school that I realized I had not managed to shake off the “slight cold” I’d had myself (alcohol really doesn’t work?). I dropped them back and went to bed thinking, “Man, I’ve got to kick this thing quick!” But I got worse. And worse.
By Thursday, I resorted with reluctance to Urgent Care where they chided me with suspected pneumonia. Whoops, and at least I got the drugs and was ordered to rest. (Ordered!)
Now I’m no stoic. But I’m a single mother and when was I going to cancel everything in the precious two weeks over Christmas break? And who could I call?
I find it extraordinarily tricky as a single mother to reach out for help from married mother friends. Because in the end you feel like you’re always asking, even if you only ask every couple of months or so and ask different people. What is this about? Do I project my neediness onto them because of my own recognition of gaping need, or am I actually seen as an imposition?
Well let me say, it is just so lonely, lonely, lonely trying to do this motherhood thing alone. I’m not willing to be a chirpy-brave-robust blogger about it because there must be someone out there who feels like me and I want to shout, “You’re not alone!!” And I’ve got pneumonia so cut me some slack.
Before I was a single mother, I had no idea what that meant. I felt sick just imagining the relentlessness of life for my single mother friends, but I didn’t get it and – in all truth – felt slightly annoyed when they asked for my help because didn’t they get that I was incredibly busy myself?
So, to all you TOTALLY SICK MOTHERS out there of every stripe! Spare a thought for your single mother friends. Don’t wait for them to get sick. Don’t wait for them to ask. Don’t say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” “You’re amazing, I don’t know how you do it.” Just help. Do it. Offer it. Suggest. They’re the ones straggling at the end of the relay race we’re all trying to run, except they’re doing it with the same amount to carry as that which was meant to be borne by two.
And we need you! And you need us. Because we can now contribute in new and different ways to your life as well. Ask us. One of the most powerful things about motherhood is the brilliance of its mutuality. Don’t you think? Gather us back into the center of the pack. We are needlessly exposed on the edge.
No one can ever replace you as the mother of your kids. But mothering can be done by many. And, of course, I’m fifty and who do I want now I’m really sick? My own beloved mum, five and a half thousand miles away.