I once wrote a about the challenges of being a parent and having to push on despite illness. Parents don’t always get sick days, even when they want them.
Have a cold? Eat some chicken soup. Have a headache? Take a pill. Have a stomach bug? Drink some ginger ale.
But sometimes, it goes beyond being sick. I’m about to embark on that journey.
For several years I’ve struggled with degenerative disc disease (DDD) and spinal stenosis. For someone my age, it’s not very common. Thanks to genetics and two 10-pound babies, I get an early taste of having the back of a 70-year-old.
Surgery is the only true solution. With an infant and pre-schooler it was impossible to undergo the spinal fusion necessary to resolve this problem. I told myself I’d wait another year and tough it out.
Isn’t that what we parents do? Tough it out?
But when my sons were one and six, I realized it wasn’t getting easier. Now I had a toddler to chase after. I was required to pick him up from his crib and lift him into his car seat. The surgery would have to wait another year. The pain continued, but I justified the delay.
"Parents don't get sick days," I kept telling myself. "Parenting means sacrifice. I can deal with this."
Again and again, I found reasons to push off this necessary procedure, partially because I was afraid to go through with it, but also because I knew it just wouldn’t work with the phases my kids were in.
They still needed me to bend over and tie their shoes, to lift them up in public restrooms so they could wash their hands (why can’t everyone have nice step stools like IKEA?!).
However, what I’ve realized is that my avoidance of the surgery has resulted in a loss of experiences and memories made with my children.
I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve had to stay home rather than join them for a hike. I’ve passed on day trips to New York City because the thought of walking for hours on concrete was painful. My Dorney Park pass was used three times because I couldn't stand the thought of walking around and certainly couldn't ride the coasters.
We haven’t had a family bike ride…ever.
For the past four years, I’ve been more of a grandma than a mom to my kids in the sense of being physically active with them.
I have gotten up in the morning saying, “Please be good this morning. Mommy’s back hurts,” so many times that my 4-year-old has started to say, "Mom, MY back hurts."
This isn’t the memory I want them to have of me. It’s not fair to them.
It's OK to let my husband take charge for a while. The house will still stand. The kids will be fed. Life will go on.
I’ve excused myself from this surgery for valid reasons, but I now realize that sometimes parents DO need a sick day every now and then.
And hopefully, while I am recovering, my husband checks pockets before doing the laundry. We've had enough "pen in the dryer" accidents!