Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Taking a Sick Day

I discovered something yesterday. Sick days are good for the soul. It’s just a shame when you actually wait until you get sick before you allow yourself to take one.

I picked up an infection in Cyprus, which despite attention from a doctor there, refused to clear up. After a frenetic day of rushing round trying to get caught up at home on Monday, I ended up at the emergency doctor that night feeling incredibly unwell, after several days of being not quite right. It turned out I had the wrong antibiotic to treat my problem, so the infection had been given an extra five days to bed itself in, and was now rearing its head with a vengeance and causing me quite considerable pain.

When I visited my own doctor Tuesday morning, she gently suggested to me that as I had a six day old germ that had been gathering strength racing round my body, perhaps the new medicine might work better if I gave it the time to. Finally, I decided to allow myself to take a sick day. And as I did that, I realised that I had not taken one in years. No matter how I was feeling or what had been going on, I had soldiered on regardless. In fact, when I thought about it hard enough, I realised that the only way you could get this 21st Century Housewife to take a day out like that was to make her feel really, really ill to the point that she just could not carry on any longer.

There are a number of examples of this in my life, from the time fourteen years ago when our Avon lady rang the doorbell to find me on the verge of collapse with an incredibly high fever to the time I drove from the Midlands to Surrey very ill with a lung infection. Both of these events are not something I am proud of. I’m incredibly blessed in that I am very healthy and rarely ill, but I know that it is a failing of mine that I don’t take enough care of myself the very few times I am. And I am almost positive that most other housewives are exactly like me.

When was the last time you actually stopped when you were ill, and did not just soldier on regardless? You may have felt that you just had to keep going for the sake of your husband or partner, your children, the toddler group or maybe you were chairing the PTA bake sale, but you just refused to listen to your body and rest. And how many times after that has happened have you ended up feeling well and truly past your best? My lung infection nearly landed me in hospital all those years ago, because a) I would not admit I was sick and take the time to go to the doctor and b) I did not want to change anyone’s plans, including my own. As a result I spent the following two weeks in bed sicker than I have ever been, before or since.

I personally have never stopped when I was ill unless, as I was yesterday, I was more or less forced to. And yesterday, for the first time in over ten years, I spent most of the day on the sofa. I slept, read, watched television and healed. For a whole day I just took care of me. The world did not come to an end, the house did not fall apart and no one was upset with me. The 21st Century Husband to help by picking up some shopping and the 21st Century Teenager helped by forgoing his band practice so that I did not have to go out. They were happy to help me.

I know it was easier for me because my son is grown, and I know how hard it is when you are ill and have very young children. But sometimes you just have to call a time out and ask for help. Admittedly sometimes it is impossible and I’ve experienced this myself when we were new to an area and my parents and friends were miles away, but hopefully with a bit of creative thinking you can find a trusted someone willing even to take your little one for a walk while you just grab a moment’s rest if you are really sick. You can always take your children with you to the doctor if you need to, so for heaven’s sake, go!

Hopefully I will not get ill again for a long time, and I’m going to try to make sure of that by taking another day out today as I know I am not really fully well yet. I just hope I learn my lesson this time and realise that it is no failure to call time out. If you were employed outside the home you could call in sick, so it is time for housewives to realise that every once in a while, they need to allow themselves to do the equivalent of that and take a sick day.

In fact, maybe if we housewives took the odd “sick day”, even if we were not really sick, it might help us to stay healthier in the first place. Whatever we do, we definitely have to remember to take care of ourselves as well as everyone else. So the next time you feel utterly frazzled, take a time out before you actually get sick, and be amazed at the huge difference it makes in both your physical and mental health.

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