When Mom Is Too Sick To Be Mom

My daughter makes fun of my inhaler!

For the past few weeks, I have been battling bronchitis. If the incessant coughing weren’t enough, I have developed tendinitis of the ribs because of it. The first wave of medicine abated but didn’t cure it. Now I am on two inhalers and a codeine pill to sleep at night. But my daughter doesn’t care about any of that.

Case in point: Ellie wanted me to carry her for 90 minutes straight at the zoo today. Somehow, my explanation didn’t fly. I can’t imagine what she didn’t get about, “Mommy has an ouch that makes it feel like 10 zillion knives are stabbing me in the chest and back every time I breathe, so it would be really great if you could walk just a little bit.” To add insult to injury, she thinks it’s hilarious when I take puffs off the inhalers.

My editors and my managers at the gyms where I teach group cycling classes understand that I’ve been under the weather. But my toughest boss, Ellie, is having none of it.

So how do you mother when it feels like 10 zillion knives are stabbing you in the chest and back every time you breathe? How do you get it across to an almost-2-year-old that Mommy needs a time out?

The answers I have come up with are two-fold. One the American Academy of Pediatrics wouldn’t like, but the other balances it out. First, I let Ellie watch TV. No, not “Law & Order” or “Sex & the City” reruns. She loves “Yo Gabba Gabba” and “Sesame Street” so instead of watching just some clips, I confess to letting her watch a full episode or two, as prescribed by my pain level. I sit and watch with her and we interact about what’s going on, but I don’t have to chase her around or carry her anywhere, and the less physical I have to be, the less I cough.

The other thing I do is let her do her own thing. I sat on the floor and propped my aching self against the couch in the playroom formerly known as the basement and bid her to go forth and prosper. I put on some music – she’s obsessed with Gloria Estefan’s “Conga” – and watched as she entertained herself with stuffed animals, Mega Bloks, and a tunnel. She was perfectly happy to use her imagination to build a tower and play peek-a-boo through the tunnel’s mesh portholes. Again, I smiled and talked and applauded and laughed, but instead of watching a show, Ellie led one.

Illnesses should really check their spam filters because they clearly missed the memo stating that moms – and dads, for that matter – don’t have time to get sick. Until then, I’ll keep finding ways to balance nurturing Ellie and myself.

Stephanie KanowitzStephanie Kanowitz is a mother of two who moonlights as a freelance journalist. A Florida native now living in Virginia, she has worked as a copy editor, web editor, and freelance writer and editor since earning a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida in 2000. In 2006, Stephanie earned a master's in News Media Studies from American University in Washington, D.C. She writes about arts and culture, business, fitness, real estate, and technology, and she's also done several celebrity Q&As. Stephanie also teaches Spinning classes at local gyms. It's the one time a week when she can tell people what to do without them answering back. To see her work, please visit

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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