i woke up this morning and i wanted to call in sick.

of course, this was the third time i’d woken. the first was at four-thirty, when Oscar – who seems to be going through a ravenous spurt – awoke starving. the second was forty minutes later, when after a reluctant (on my part – i stopped nursing him through the night ages ago) feeding and return to our respective beds, he woke again. by the time he peeped his “i’m up for the day” cry around seven, i was done…where were the day shift people? i tried to burrow under my pillow and hide. on weekdays, i am the day shift people.

i am too sick to be a mommy today.

i’ve had a cold now for two weeks. it’s waxed and waned in virulence, but has bloomed with a vengeance these past couple of days. i’m stuffed up, and my throat is dry and scratchy and wretched. for the first couple of hours of every day, speaking feels like i’m talking through shards of fiberglass insulation. nasty. my nose drips. i hurt, and i feel whiny.

i am obviously not fit to care for children. so where the hell is Mary Poppins when you need her?

when i envisioned motherhood, i took the baby’s inevitable illnesses into account, and signed on for better or worse. my own illness was the part of the job i failed to anticipate. i’m not sure why…perhaps the fine print on this part of the contract was smudged or something…perhaps some other mommy’s nose dripped on it, and rendered it unreadable. perhaps it’s just something nobody talks about, like so many of the other quiet endurance tests of motherhood.

but it is the place where this job is perhaps most different from anything one does in the paid working world. i’ve taught for twelve years. if you’re sick, you cancel or call a substitute teacher, depending on the context of your class. you don’t want to spread your germs to your students…and, really, you just don’t want to get out of bed.

if a teacher were to go to work sick for two weeks in a row, dragging her tail behind her and leaving snot trails all over her charges, she’d be called crazy. but as a mother, there isn’t anything to do but suck it up and try to sing through the scratchy throat and hope to god you don’t breathe directly on the child while soothing him to sleep. this last part, i can attest, is difficult. i took to wearing a hospital mask my mother “borrowed” from work for a few mornings, but a sticky sneezing fit ended that plan. now i just try not to sneeze on him.

i have this fantasy where somebody starts a substitute mommy corps. i wake up sick, place a desperate call to the substitute mommies, and “presto!” one materializes. she is capable, and kind, and a little plump. she changes all the dirty diapers. she brings me lemon tea and honey while enthralling Oscar with educational songs. she fluffs my pillows, and does my laundry, and makes sure Oscar eats just the right amount and gets all his burps up. she reads him Dr. Seuss and does all the voices in charming accents, and i hear him laughing as i drift off to rejuvenating dreamland. i sleep, and sleep…and get up to cough a bit, maybe, and then sleep some more. we have a delightful day, me and Oscar and the substitute mommy.

this is, currently – and a little sadly – my favourite fantasy ever.

at the end of it she gives him back, of course. i don’t want her forever. mothering O is my job…and i want to do it well, to be the one to make Oscar giggle and teach him things and watch him try to sit up on his own. i even take pride in the clean laundry.
i just want this one day off.

and maybe some lemon tea, and some cherry-flavoured cough medicine. :)