Mummy stuff

Being sick (of it)

I have been struck down by the flu last week. For the first time in a very long time, I had to stay in bed for two consecutive days, unable to look after little L. Suddenly, 20 months after becoming a mother, it hit home: there’s no one I can call to tell them I am not coming to work. And you know what? It really sucks.

It’s not only that I had to literally beg my husband to come home and look after little L, I also realised with despondency that after I convinced my better half to take over my job for one and a half days, it’s only been partially done. Sure, little L was well and alive, fed, bathed and entertained. But once on my legs again, I was faced with the mother of all laundry piles and bits and pieces of general mess were taking over the house. I wrenched my head in my hands and tried really hard to remember – when exactly did I sign up for that job?

And then it dawned on me: it must have been when I chose to be the only person who decided what’s for dinner.  At the same time I must have volunteered for the role of present-organiser (in-laws included, of course), childcare-outsorter, fridge-filler, vaccination-arranger, dry-clean-up-picker, Christmas-card-writer, tree-buyer, tree-decorator, utility-bill-payer, gardener, …

I must have been drunk, drugged and completely out of my mind.

Contemplating to take on more paid work (yes, I consider both writing a novel and looking after my daughter work) in the near future, I wonder what would happen to all these tasks. They are not going to evaporate, that’s for sure. Am I going to be stuck with them forever? Tell me, working mums, how do you divide the chores? And how on earth do you manage with more than one child?

More work would also mean more childcare for little L. Which instantly comes with a huge pang of guilt for me. Somebody please explain to me why I feel guilty at the mere thought of sending her another day to nursery. Why don’t men feel guilty about little ones in childcare?

To be fair, my husband is far more relaxed about a lot of things around the house. Squeaky clean is my requirement, not his. Actually, he is more relaxed about a lot of things. Also, as an entrepreneur he can’t really do the 9 to 5 thing. Still, I am a bit disappointed by how things turned out to be. I had always thought of myself as an independent woman, free to choose what she wants to do with her life. So why do I feel like caught in an episode of Mad Men?

36 Comments

  1. Damn what lack of sleep and a bug can do to your self-confidence and worth. Knocks you for six then makes you start doubting everything.
    I only know you virtually but you are amazing! Just remember that. You would be amazed at how easily you would fit everything in, you’d adapt, we’re very adaptable beings. I would write more, but my little one is screaming for me and no-one else can help there! FBx

  2. So many parallels, I could have written this myself, but not as eloquently, great post.
    My husband is also an entreprenuer (might start referring to him as that on the blog, he will love it!), I have a novel and a creative writing course on the go, same wrangles about childcare and same job list.
    All that works for us is writing out a list of the jobs and dividing them up, I can’t say I got rid of many but it made us understand the sheer volume of stuff I was doing. So when the going gets tough it’s easier to help each other out.
    Also read a blog about household chores being a good way to unblock writer’s block, or as Louise Douchty suggests in Novel in A Year, just let the standards slip, there are no prizes for cleaning!
    Hope you feel better v soon!

  3. I hear you LOUD AND CLEAR. I’ve actually been really annoyed with myself as my last few blog posts have been so whingey but I feel just like you. My husband’s career seems to go up and up and I feel more and more like a fifties housewife with eroding skills. This week he has a merry go round of christmas parties in london so he’s not been home. Meanwhile, I’ve been stuck in the house with two sick kids, getting very little work done and not seeing another adult. Yet when he comes home tomorrow utterly exhausted and not wanting to do anything but sleep, I’ll be expected to deal with the kids. Causes huge resentment. I’m trying hard to figure out a plan to fix it because I can’t go on like this. Wish I could be as upbeat as Flora Budd.

  4. Do you know what?…. this is one of the most comforting things I’ve read for yonks…IT’S NOT JUST ME THEN, PHEW! I can’t imagine any of us intended to do all this unpaid work, but here we are, and I promise you, it’ll be worth it in the end! I’ve never got used to not being paid, but in order to stay sane, I have HAD to get used to things being less than perfect…way less! I now reckon if we are all happy and healthy, that’s about all that matters.
    Get well soon!

  5. I dont feel guilty to send my daughter to the nursery.I believe that kids should be playing with kids for a while and not spend all the day with adults. Its just my opinion anyways. Now I’m backing to work and she’s going full time to the nursery. I dont like the idea, but I dont have any choices and I dont like nannies either. Anyways this is life, and every minute that I have free I spend with her, and its what I call real quality time.
    The house…my standards are higher so we had some discussions around this subject here.

  6. I continually bang my head against the fact that I have unwillingly become a housewife in addition to my full time paid work

    Whilst Mr Muddling does say that he’ll help the reality if is something needs doing in a timeframe he can’t be relied on to do it because he doesn’t necessarily see the value of things like regular groceries or laundry

    I am slightly on strike at the moment but incredibly he just hasn’t really noticed – I’m guessing he knows I’ll cave at some point and normal house elf behaviour will recommence

    Especially at times like now when I’m really busy at work it makes me horribly resentful – yes we should share thing 50/50 but it just doesn’t work out that way

    The best thing we did was hire a cleaner so we don’t row over cleaning the bathroom and then buying in other help – I work on the basis I earn £x per hour at work and so paying out £y to get free time at the weekend is worth it

    I just guess it happens because it has to

  7. Our kids were sick this week and it was awful. I agree hire a cleaner. I have one that comes every two weeks. It makes life worth living. Hope you feel better soon.

  8. I always laugh at the phrase “staying home with the kids” because the reality is that you not only stay home with the kids, but anything and everything to do with the house becomes your responsibility.

  9. Hope you are feeling better! You and I are polar opposites – I don’t mind a little mess and also my husband does all the organisational stuff and is the neat one -he is present-organiser (in-laws included, of course), fridge-filler, vaccination-arranger, tree-buyer, utility-bill-payer, gardener

    I am christmas card writer and tree decorator and childcare-outsourcer. The way not to feel guilty about putting L in a nursery is just to do half days that way you get a break and she enjoys the company of other kids

  10. I could have written this post, however, I also have to admit that part of it is by choice. I like to do stuff to do with the home, not the chores, but there’s a return for doing them – most decisions in relation to home and children are made by me, and I feel I have authority to make these decisions because I’m landed with the housewife stuff (both before and during mat leave).

    As to going back to work – If I go back as before, 4 days a week, we will have to pay for a cleaner. There’s NO WAY I can do 28 hrs of work, childcare runs, cooking, and housekeeping. My least favourite bit will have to be outsourced.

    Oh, and I also have to say that I’m not ambitious careerwise, I’m happy where I am (this may change of course, but for now, status quo is good).

    And to be fair on hubby, he does do a great job interacting with the kids while I cook or do other things.

    Part of the difficulty is I guess that as expats we don’t have our extended families nearby, so the support network is not as good as it could be.

    Hope you feel better soon!

  11. I forgot to add that kids love nursery. Don’t feel guilty. I was at home for over a week with both, and Cubling pleaded to go to nursery because there’s so much more to do. We have a good balance – 2 1/2 days nursery, rest mummy time with some playgroups. I’ve involved her in the choice and she prefers playing with other kids to playing with me.
    When Snowflake was ill, we sent her to the childminder in addition, so she was cared for and hubby was able to do some work and spend time in the hospital. She loved it and keeps asking to go back.

  12. I hope you are feeling better. Im in a continual muddle and state of slux, I forget everything and spend weekends doing chores. I sacrifice my happiness and peace for the kids. However, I have no qualms about using childcare when and if I can afford it. Its good for little ones to be a bit independent of you and to have experiences on their own, its also important for them to socialise with other kids.
    I think you are doing brilliantly and you still manage to look great and have a life. Keep going as you are, try not to feel guilty and take on as much or as little as you actually want.
    Phone me if you want to rant/ chat/ talk it over.
    C xx

  13. It is hard hard hard work. Yesterday I went on strike and let all 3 run riot around the house whilst I sat on the sofa. My OH was ‘working from home’ (yeah right) and kept walking into the room and grumbling. Eventually he had the gall to ask me ‘what have you actually achieved today’? (Cue maniacal laughing). Speechless.

  14. As a SAHM I see it as my job to do all the stuff around the home, and like you, when I need to go away or am sick, very little of it gets done (although nobody dies) and life goes on. One reason I chose not to work is that my Huzz travels loads and I’d be chasing my tail and going insane if I had a job outside the home as well. So really doing all the stuff that keeps the home and family ticking along nicely, as I like it, is the better choice for me. But sometimes I go quietly crazy and shut myself away! Happy weekend, and hope you are feeling better now.

  15. @Carol P exactly, I agree! And you should love it! The way people used to raise kids in my country not long ago (And in most societies a few generations ago) was as part of a huge family. Mothers, sisters, eldest daughters, milk mothers (not sure what to call them! but the women who would breastfeed other womens babies if they couldn’t do it themselves) and the children would call many of the ‘mama’. It does take a villiage. I spend a relatively large amount of my money on a nanny and I Love her and I plan to always have a nanny assuming I can. I am happier, better rested, my kids have no confusion about who is helping to care for them and who their mother is and we have loads of fun. So if it’s one day a week in nursery, or a cleaner or a weekly play date where you drop the little one off GO FOR IT! Metropolitan mum I hope you’re feeling better! The worse I have ever felt was when I was ill while breast feeding. Couldn’t get anyone to cover for me lol.

  16. This is a sharp reminder of when I had a bug that knocked me out for a couple of days, and had no cover as my husband was away with work. It suddenly dawned on me that, as all of our family networks are four hours drive away from us, I really am stuck in times of need. I just had to (painfully) get on with it but it is really difficult.

    I work four days a week and have the right balance with my son, but our house is chaos! It really stresses me out but I figure something has to give. Maybe I shouldn’t spend so much time cooking!

    Hope you feel better soon.

  17. simone says

    Oh, gosh poor you 🙁 I think that in the 9 yrs I have been a parent, that I have only had to get my husband to stay home and help me out twice because I could literally not move!! Been ill lots more than that of course but most times you just have to muddle through don’t you, ugh!

    Lots of interesting responses to your thought provoking (and very well written!) post. I am f/t a stay at home mother right now but even when I worked p/t (after I had my first child), I did everything at home. My husband is self-employed, has his own company and works really long hours. I didn’t realise it would all fall on my shoulders but somehow it does – altho he is pretty relaxed about things. I don’t know of many working mother friends who don’t have help of some sort – otherwise it’s impossible. And I wouldn’t feel guilty about the childcare, I am sure she is very happy there and another day would do no harm at all.

    Feel better soon….and I voted for you 🙂 xx

  18. shelley says

    Hi Deborah
    Believe me, going to the office is not all wonderful 😉 Get better soon and don’t lose sight of yourself

    Love

    Shelleyxxx

  19. Being sick and not getting ‘time off’ is terrible- I remember the first time I had the flu as a mum and it coincided with nursing- that was ugly- I think it gets easier as they get older- you can manage with two because it’s not that much more work- really more mess- and it IS possible to love the second one just as much.

  20. There is no sick leave when you are a mother, is there? It has to be really, really bad for husbands to take time off – I think there should be a rule that people get sick leave when their spouse is sick, actually. After all, if the child was being looked after by a nanny and the nanny was off sick, someone would have to be there, wouldn’t they?

    And, once you go back to work, there is the issue that every time your child is sick you have to take time off. Something that most employers have definitely not come to terms with.

  21. Oh, how awful! As the mom, we never feel like we can be the ones to get sick. We have to take care of everyone else and so when we’re out of commission, it’s especially hard. And, yes, the guilt can be difficult. My kids have been in daycare and they are fine. I think in cases like that, we should look at it as the quality of the time we spend with our kids vs. the quantity. If the time is well-spent, they are well-adjusted and happy, then we’re doing our jobs right. Of course, that doesn’t stop guilt from rearing its ugly head every now and then. Hope you feel better soon!

  22. ingrid says

    I am so sorry you are sick but identify with you. My husband is at home sick this week and has not moved. I went out to do chores etc and came back 4 hours later. He said you were a long time. I said I had been to the libray, homebase, spinning class, chemist, tesco and tkmax. I did a 40 mile round trip as every venue was in a different place I thought I was very quick. If he had had to do the same he would have needed a list, time out for coffee and lunch and it would have taken him 24 hours plus he would have forgotten something. While I love him loads they do not see the house in the same way as we do and we take on the responsibility of the home and chores when we stay at home.

  23. Totally relate to this post. I felt until recently moving back near my family-that I was trying to do everything, get freelance work (filmmaking/ freelance journalism etc) whiles looking after a VERY active 11 month old and the house and, and, and, and well everything….bloody impossible.

    Husband works from home but when he works he has to work and it’s tough. I’ve found it a lot easier living near my family so Mum can help with childcare and I’m seeking out a good nursery for the little one as back on set in the NY. Don’t feel guilty-and yes it does tend to be the women who always feel guilty. I seriously need help to stop the guilt all the time!

  24. Hello – I am late to post a comment on this but oh my you have struck at the heart of the matter with this! Everything you say is true and that realisation that it all lies with you is a stark one. I think every mother has memories of times of being unwell (I got recurrent tonsillitis when mine were small) and having to muddle along, feeling dreadful whilst the home ground to a halt. It’s wretched that it goes that way!

    I work part time and I do everything in the house. I am the Madmen wife and I have finally made peace with it. But my advice would be – get help where you can, utilise nursery as long as you can live with yourself and the guilt. Get super organised and try to be one step ahead. Eg – I get the week’s food delivered every Monday – even with the cost, the fact that I don’t have to spend time at the supermarket is a big plus. Keep the home really organised – uphill battle but worth it. I plan everything – it’s exhasuting but it’s the only way I can stay ahead!
    So – I am with you – honestly – have so been there….
    Lou xx

  25. I’m trying to get my husband to understand that when I’m sick, there is no one to take care of me; dishes still need to be done, dinner still needs to be made, clothes still need to be ironed and the dog still needs to be walked. And I don’t even have children yet! It’s a nightmare! Bless you Met Mom, I hope you feel better very soon 🙂

  26. Hannah says

    I think we all reach that moment in time when we realise that we’re trapped… we realise that we’re committed to being a parent and that if we want to look after our children, keep on top of housework, as well as hold down some form of employment (other than looking after the kids!), then we will slowly but surely lose grip on life. Something has to give. I’d agree that there is definitely a guilt felt by so many mum’s about putting their children into childcare in order that they can pursue other interests and/or go to work. My husband doesn’t feel guilty, but I would. As a full-time Mum of two small boys, I often feel completely out of my depth, unable to cope, but I think it might get easier once they are old enough for school and then I intend to spread my wings.

  27. So universal, no you are not alone! My children are grown however I have my Isabella quite a bit, work full time run my blog and art business…….where is the time?!

    I have a New Giveaway from My Sparrow, so do come and enter!

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena

  28. I don’t remember ever having spent a day in bed ill since I became a Mum 21 1/2 years ago. It is virtually impossible to do so, even though OH has taken to his (our) bed for weeks on end on various occassions. Hope you feel better soon xx

  29. oooooooh, thats a whole can of worms you’ve opened up there!!! Women still, sadly, fall into these roles often without much discussion. I remember going away with my sister for two days and coming back to find the house in utter disarray – so depressing. Don’t feel guilty about the childcare, as a society we live far more isolated lives, so instead of a village sharing the raising of kids, we now have to find and pay for childcare. Its the way it is, just different from days gone by!!

  30. That problem. I know it well. Babes does help quite a bit in the kitchen, but the day-to-day running of most things is my job. And it does feel overwhelming at times. Especially when I’m sick and still I need to get up at seven to get three people out the door by eight fifteen. That HURTS. Especially because when he’s sick he just lies about and moans.

    Luckily I’m the relaxed one about clean squeakiness. 😉

    Get well soon!

  31. Sorry you were sick Lovely…hope you’re all better now. This post rang so true with me. Its only when you’re laid up sick that you realise just how much you do to keep things running smoothly. I get really frustrated when I see things not being done my way – utter control freak! It’s funny how one day your life is one way and then, with the arrival of a child, it suddenly switches. But hey… Mad Men is very glamorous.. and so on trend right now! 😉 xxx

  32. I have, sadly, no answers for you. When Husband was away for two weeks everything ran like clockwork and the house was immaculate. I even got some rest in. However, when he came back it all went to hell – he actually created more chaos than he cleared despite ‘helping’ (or grumbling about how much he did). I feel quite homicidal about it and I have no solutions for it. They do not have the same standards and they will not step up to the mark unless you give them a set of tasks and threaten them. This, of course, undermines intimacy which means that you might as well not have them around at all.
    I have resolved to earn more, purchase more services (childcare, cleaning, self-pampering etc.) and you will feel less guilty the older your child gets. Also, the more independent you become, the more alluring you appear to your partner and he may step up (or not, but you’ll care less;)
    xo

  33. Ah, the CAN OF WORMS.

    First, you have to let go of the perfect house thing. Once you do, it’s a huge relief. You realise that you’re honestly just doing it for yourself, because who else is going to notice?

    Second – and you’re doing this already – you need to bring the issues into the open, and think about them honestly.

    For too many years, I persuaded myself (very convincingly) that I loved doing all those jobs you list, and that I was 100% happy and fulfilled doing them – or 95% at least. Now I realise that I’m not, and I probably wasn’t. But in order not to feel inadequate and oppressed, I basked in earth-motherness.

    Times are a-changing. Husband buys his family their Christmas presents. And they don’t arrive on time. And it’s not my fault, and I don’t worry about it. Hurrah. That is a huge step forward for me.

    Husband was in charge of the organisation of all the details in the medical issues that we had to go through for immigration (and you can imagine, it was A LOT).

    When I am out for the evening, I no longer plan what Husband can give the children for dinner. So they always have scrambled egg. It does not matter. They are not malnourished.

    Little by little, I’m learning to change, and to be less controlling, and to find myself in things other than the smooth-running of my family. You do well, Met Mum, to address these issues now, rather than in 10+ years time.

    Gosh, this comment sounds so sad, but I’m feeling very empowered at the moment!

  34. I should add that I am lucky in that Husband is totally supportive of all my newfound gumption. He thinks I’ve spent too many years trying to be like my mother, who totally loved domesticity and children and being immersed in home life.

  35. I had this dawn on me recently. I had been struck down by that stomach bug that hit Northern Ireland and was banised to the bathroom for two days (during which I was able to get help from my mum- thank god for weekends and parents!), afterwards I had very bad vertigo and just had to deal with it.

    Saddest thing is, no matter who you have helping out. Nobody will ever keep the house or chores up to scratch and it ends up, the more you wait, a bigger task to be done. No wonder my mum never lets flu or anything get to her!! Her house would go to hell lol

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