From the moment I woke up at 3:01am, I knew something was wrong. The queasy feeling in my stomach didn’t go away, and the remainder of the night was spent as much in the bathroom as in bed. When it was time to get the kids up and ready for school, I could barely drag myself out of bed. Just standing up hurt. Even the thought of coffee revolted me, and that’s a sure sign of how sick I really was. I can barely function until I’ve had my morning cup of joe or three. But as any mom can tell you, moms can’t get sick. It’s not an option.
Most mothers feel the need to be Supermom. We have tremendous amounts of pressure to do everything right all the time, from reading at least fifteen minutes a day with our preschoolers to making organic snacks and healthful meals to keeping a good balance between technology and active play for our tweens. If you happen to be a mom who works outside the home, by golly, you’d better be spending quality one-on-one time with each of your children when you all convene at home. And if you’re a stay-at-home mom, for goodness sake, why can’t you keep your house clean? What else do you do all day? And the pressure comes from within, too. Many women are convinced that if anything is to be done correctly around the home, they need to be the ones to do it. Ahem. Mea culpa.
So what happens when Supermom can’t do everything? What happens when she- gasp- gets sick and literally cannot be vertical? What happens when she has to hang up her cape for the day? Catastrophe, right? The house falls to pieces and the dishes pile up and everyone eats marshmallows and ice cream for dinner. That’s the mental picture I had as I lay in bed yesterday morning, rehearsing my list of things I had to get done. I was supposed to take down the Christmas tree, sweep and steam mop the floors, tackle the bathrooms, and fold the baskets of laundry that had been there for three days. But there was no possible way I could do any of that now. Instead, I was leaving the house at the mercy of my children and husband. It would be an epic disaster.
Turns out, I was wrong.
Amazingly, my sick day brought out hidden blessings I never would have seen were it not for my vulnerability. Fortunately, my husband’s schedule is flexible enough that he was able to take the kids to school in the morning and our pre-kindergartner to school at lunchtime. He was a gem, stopping by the store to pick up lemon lime for me, putting the baby down for his nap, and bringing me an aspirin to offset the headache that was forming as a result of not drinking my daily coffee ration.
My four-year-old, for her part, was as sweet as I’ve ever seen her. She’s very empathetic when the situation calls for it. All that morning as I lay in bed, shivering under the covers, she stayed with me, singing songs she made up about me, letting me listen to her musical flashlight toy, and spreading her Clifford blanket over the top of me- a very gracious offer indeed. When I’m Supermom, playing games or reading or baking cookies with her, she doesn’t need to show compassion and understanding. It was good for her to be in the role of caregiver, albeit ever so briefly.
My older boys stepped up to the plate as well. By afternoon I was feeling well enough to move to the couch, so I instructed them what to do for making dinner. It was a simple pot of pasta with canned sauce and frozen green beans, but they made dinner and were terribly proud of themselves for doing so. And then after dinner they helped clean up– one did the dishes while the other swept. It was actually sort of good for them that I wasn’t Supermom. They had to fill in and take on more responsibility, which is good for everyone involved.
I’m not the only mom who has experienced this before. A good friend of mine broke her leg when her children were younger, and her boys discovered they could do all sorts of things around the house- bring in groceries, do the laundry, and yes, even make dinner for the family.
As parents who wish to raise godly children, we need to look at the big picture. Someday, our boys will be husbands and fathers themselves, and our daughters will be wives and mothers. Part of our daunting task of raising future husbands and wives is to teach responsibility. But that’s much easier said than done. Anyone who’s ever had the “help” of their four-year-old when making cookies can tell you it’s frustrating and messy. But they can’t learn if you don’t give them the chance. If you’re always Supermom (or Superdad!), they’ll never get the opportunity to realize what they’re capable of. No, they may not do things exactly the way you would, but that’s okay. It’s all part of the learning process, and allowing them to take on more responsibility and learn life skills is worth more in the long run than a sloppily steam-mopped floor.
All told, my sick day wasn’t the disaster I feared. Everyone else chipped in and got done what needed to be done. So don’t be afraid to hang up your cape every now and then. Your family just might surprise you on how well they step in to help. But today is a new day, and I need to disinfect the bathrooms and wash the sheets and pillows and get that Christmas tree put away so I can make an early dinner before my son has a basketball game in the evening and my daughter has basketball practice. Whew. I’d better get moving. I’m really going to need that cape. At least for a few hours.