The sick day balancing act of a working mother

As much as I hate when our children are sick, I do like that we have to slow down and spend some extra time together. We nestle into the couch, and I get to hold and comfort my babies who aren’t babies anymore.
The hard part, of course, is that the world doesn’t stop turning. Yesterday, for example, when I took the day off to be home with my little boy, I was also working. I’m so thankful that I can do some work from home. And I truly enjoy the work I do. But that means the day becomes one precarious balancing act.
On days like this I worry I am not being either a good mother or a good employee.

Being a mother, of course, means holding my son, checking his temperature, making sure he’s hydrated, wiping his nose, calling the pediatrician with question after question, and arguing with a pharmacist who—this time at least—turns out to be right.
But being a mother also means helping to provide for my family by working. If I am not a good employee, I don’t keep my job. If I don’t have a job, I can’t help pay for groceries and a home and health care for our family.
It is easy to say that I should turn off the phone and the computer and shut out the world, but that’s not realistic—not today and especially not with the work that I do.
So instead I carve out segments during the day when I am just Mama, totally focused on our little guy. We take a long lunch break and draw mazes and connect-the-dot games for each other. We play board games. When he feels better in the afternoon, we toss a Frisbee around the yard.
But he wants more—and so do I. And, more than once I need him to give me space so I can get some professional work accomplished. I am just not enough. I’m handling everything sort of all right but not winning any awards.
I find myself thinking of the Blessed Mother. I imagine that when Jesus was sick, she was entirely focused on Him. She certainly never resorted to screen time to entertain Him so she could respond to emails.

Then I think, well, she must have had to focus on other priorities, too. She was probably cleaning and washing clothes, going to the well for water, making meals for Joseph, responding to the needs of family and neighbors. She may not have had the luxury of focusing exclusively on her child either. Regardless, I am certain that Mary handled it all better than I do.
Last night our little boy was feeling better. During the day I had been singing, “18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses,” and he was proud that he learned how many a dozen is.
“Mama,” he said with a grin, “maybe I will trade you for a dozen mamas.”
“You can’t,” I said. “Do you know how many people I promised to be your mama forever? I promised China and I promised the United States and I promised someone even more important than that.”
“Baba?” he said.
“Well, yes,” I said. “And someone even bigger than Baba.”
“God?”
“Yes,” I said. “So I’m your mama forever.”
He hugged me and giggled and squirmed away.
Even though he doesn’t always have my exclusive attention, he knows he’s loved. I don’t have any answers or a strategy for handling it all better next time. But as hard as it is to be everything to everyone, I am really not complaining.
I am grateful for all of it—and especially for being Mama to these two boys.
Now let’s hope we don’t have another sick day anytime soon. 

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Catholic Review

Catholic Review

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