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What It's Like to Be Sick as a Stay-at-Home Parent

A Hilarious Picture of a Stay-at-Home Mom's Sick Day Compared to Her Working Coparent

Hannah Mayer is a nationally award-winning blogger, humor columnist and exponentially blessed wife and mother of three. She would trade everything for twelve uninterrupted hours in a room with Jon Hamm and two Ambien. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter or at her blog, sKIDmarks.

Of all the changes I've had to adjust to since becoming a stay-at-home mom, sick days are the worst. I can take the hours on end talking only to the dog — he hardly ever interrupts and occasionally makes some thought-provoking points. I'll gladly trade my fancy heels for crusty yoga pants — they double as convenient hand towels. And I'll play Candy Land until I'm catatonic, but dear lord . . . get me sick and I'm more than ready to tap out.

Last week my husband called me on his way home from work.

"I can't pick up any wine for you tonight," he croaked into the phone. Before I could burst into tears he said, "I'm sick. I've had to pull over and barf on the side of the highway twice. I don't know if I can make it home." His voice trailed off and I thought I heard sirens.

My stomach dropped and, as usual when I panic, my butt started to sweat. He would be fine (probably), but when did I last touch him? Images of the night before popped into my head when we . . . uh . . . shared germs. Pacing back and forth on the kitchen floor, I wondered if there was any way possible to save myself.

"Finally!" I yelled when he walked in the house a half hour later, green and sweaty. "Here, wear this until you get upstairs," I said, tossing a surgical mask his way. "I'm probably already a goner but maybe you can spare the kids."

That evening, my hazmat suit and I attended to his every need, changing out the liner of the barf bucket, offering tepid water, cool rags, and extra blankets, and adjusting the volume on the bedroom television. The next morning he slept as I got the kids ready for school, and then I brought him plain oatmeal with a side of fruit in bed. He spent the day catching up on his favorite Netflix shows and sleeping. By day's end, he was feeling better, even refreshed, and returned to work the following day.

That's the working-parent sick. It's different than the stay-at-home parent sick.

That's the working-parent sick. It's different than the stay-at-home parent sick.

I woke a few mornings later, looking around for the elephant I was certain spent the night sitting on my head and the cat that had pooped in my mouth. My husband was already at work and against every instinct in my body to lay still, I knew I had to get the kids to school. The silver lining was that once they were there I could rest. Or die on the bathroom floor alone. Either way, they were going to school.

The decision of whether or not I could actually get out of bed was then made by my stomach, which demanded I run to the bathroom or clean vomit out of the sheets.

"Eeewww!" I heard a little voice behind me.

"Can you get Mommy a wet rag?" I asked.


Then I heard the TV flip on while my kids cheered they could "do anything they want now."

My recovery that day looked somewhat different than that of my husband's. I brushed hair into ponytails in between heaves, stood at the counter pouring cereal wrapped mummy-tight in a blanket to keep me warm and also to keep my legs from buckling. There were a few times when I didn't know if I could make it — but the thought of three kids running feral around my limp body was too much to bear. I powered through, spreading that peanut butter and tying those shoes with visions of laying on the couch in peace.

My recovery that day looked somewhat different than that of my husband's.

My husband was concerned but unable to take another day off work, so occasionally I texted him proof of life. Usually from the bathroom. After what seemed like 20 minutes of recovery time, I looked at the clock and saw I was going to have to Mom again in less than an hour.

"What's your policy on overnight stays?" I asked the school secretary when she picked up the phone. "Get lots of rest and take small sips of water," she replied. "You're not the first one to try this. At 3:22, we auction off stragglers to the highest bidder."

That night when my husband got home from work, he hustled me right upstairs. "I'll get dinner and get the kids to bed," he said. "Don't worry about a thing. I've got this all under control. Do you need anything now?"

I wearily shook my head and waved at the ghost of my dead grandma standing in my closet as she reached out her hand for me to take it.

"There," he said, fluffing my pillow. "Your fresh barf bag is next to the bed. You'll be better in no time." His motives may sound sincere, but I know it was all self-serving. "You have to be . . . you can't leave me," I heard him whisper as he turned out the light and quietly backed out the door. "We have three girls and I don't know how to french braid."

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