Like any working mom—and I imagine most stay-at-home-moms, too—I dread impending sick days. Of course, I hate to think of my kids feeling unwell, but my dread isn’t entirely selfless. I have so much on my plate work-wise that it seems nearly impossible to carve out time to lay low and do my best Florence Nightingale impression for my kids for days on end.
But my daughter recently had a few days home from kindergarten, and on the second day, when her fever was waning, and the color was coming back into her face, I learned just how nice (and welcome) a sick day can be.
Of course, I remember loving sick days as a kid—mostly because it was an excuse to miss school, binge on sweet cereals, and watch Nickelodeon more than usual—but I was surprised to learn how much rejuvenation value they hold as an adult (especially when you’re feeling just fine and caring for the one who doesn’t feel well).
Once Scarlett started to feel better (and honestly, is there anything more wonderful than watching your kids re-animate post illness?), she and I got to enjoy some real, honest-to-goodness quality downtime together. We painted rocks, worked on kindergarten workbooks, did our manicures, read stories, and spent a good share of our time giggling. And while she watched TV (full disclosure: There was a lot of “Wishenpoof!” going on), I was actually able to get work done. All in all, it was a lovely, calm, recharge kind of day.
You see, we are both admittedly overscheduled. She has school and afterschool activities during the week; then there are birthday parties, play dates, the odd doctor’s appointment…I could go on and on. And as a working mom of two kids, every minute of my day is usually scheduled. I would describe most of my week as “harried” rather than “relaxing.”
And on a regular day at home—when Scarlett’s 1-year-old brother is also around—I often find myself discouraging both kids from taking out a messy project, like rock painting because the cleanup is too time consuming (and toddler + paint = mess of epic proportions).
But on sick days, the rules are different. Scarlett can pretty much do what she wants, and we’re not rushing anywhere.
Now, I need to make a few confessions about how this day of relative calm, lest you think it’s easily attainable.
First off, my daughter is 5.5, and a sick 5.5-year-old is a lot more chill and pleasant than, say, a sick 1 or 2-year-old who can’t express their discomfort in ways other than wailing and tantruming. Also, she’s a lot more likely to be distracted by an iPad and/or TV, and is very good at playing on her own, and entertaining herself.
Also, I happen to work from home, and for myself, so I’m lucky enough not to have had to use up any precious, pre-determined company sick days. Besides that, I’m able to squeeze in a few hours of work here and there in a way that many full-time employees probably can’t.
And, finally, the biggest caveat: My son—you know, the one I mentioned who has made painting off limits at home?—was in day care for the whole day, leaving Scarlett and I to hang out one-on-one.
It was those factors combined that created a truly lovely day, which I’m pretty sure Scarlett will remember for a long time, not just for the Nutella sandwiches and “Wishenpoof!,” but the quality time we spent playing, laughing, and learning together.
As it turns out, at any age, a sick day can be a pretty nice thing.