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Parent Sick Days are Sometimes Necessary

A few sick days now could allow for an abundance of quality time with family in the future.

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!

voice of reason December 27, 2011 at 07:09 PM
if you are not prepared to be a parent 24/7 for the rest of your life or at a minimum 21 years than you shouldn't be a parent, period. too many "parents" cop out and make excuses but no one tells them to be a parent, unfortunately anyone can become a parent, no license required or even brains
Margie Peterson December 27, 2011 at 07:37 PM
Jenae -- good luck with the surgery. I'm sure what you lacked in physical activity with your kids due to back problems, you more than made up for in attention, affection and less strenuous activities, such as reading. That's what your kids will remember. I wish you a speedy recovery and look forward to hearing about your bike rides with your kids down the road.
Heather N. December 27, 2011 at 08:51 PM
Yes, she should continue to be in intense pain for the next two decades, and possibly suffer irreversible spinal degeneration so that she won't have to let her husband be in a charge of their children and househould for a few weeks. That makes perfect sense. Jenae, I hope you have an "easy" surgery and speedy recovery.
Carmella Obst December 27, 2011 at 09:46 PM
What are you talking about, "voice of reason"???? Obviously, you have no idea what it's like to be in constant pain---lucky you!! What an insult----everything you said above----and that's the "voice of reason"??? Consider yourself blessed. I can't even begin to try to understand the basis of your comment.----what are you thinking?? Good decision, Jenae---I know it wasn't an easy one. Sometimes you just "know" when it's time. Best of luck. This will all be behind you soon.
An interested bystander December 27, 2011 at 10:35 PM
Good luck Jenae, in my prayers. And tell Brian that chocolate bars are just as much a pain in the laundry as pens!
Dan Shope December 28, 2011 at 12:50 AM
Good luck, Jenae, with your surgery and rehab. You are a hard worker, and you will be fine.
Mariska van Aalst December 28, 2011 at 12:25 PM
Jenae, we wish you a speedy recovery! You've certainly more than paid your dues -- may your pain soon be a distant memory...
Nancy O'Keefe December 28, 2011 at 12:53 PM
Jenae - I went through this when my children were ages 2 and 4. What began as a gymnastics accident when I was 18 reoccurred at age 29 simply by my picking up the baby the "wrong way" -- using back rather than my legs. We moved in with my in-laws and everything was fine. One of the hardest lessons we "superwomen" need to learn is to let go of our control and let others help US. Allow the boys to experience "Mommy-care." It will help them see you as "person" and not just "Mom." Good luck to your family and especially to you. Things will be just fine.
Jenae Holtzhafer December 28, 2011 at 03:27 PM
Thank you all for your kind words and support. I had the surgery yesterday and all went very well. I'm realizing how much I was doing before and how I will now be dependent on my family until I'm back in action. It's times like these that allow us to value our loved ones even more. And yes, Margie, I quit my full time career to be a stay at home mom, so I know what it means to be a parent and make sacrifices. I have never once regretted that decision. My boys and I have spent amazing quality time together. Not sure what Voice intended but it doesn't other me. I know I've done my best! :)

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