Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Me + Florence Nightingale = Different

When The Builder was sick yesterday, I remembered this post. When I got sick last night, I realised I'd have to use it. It first appeared on Kidspot.com.au earlier this year. Apologies if you've read it before. Normal transmission should return tomorrow.

Florence Nightingale and I have a lot in common. We’re both women, we were both born in May, and, er, no, actually that’s about it.

Apparently, Ms Nightingale felt called upon by God to become a nurse. The woman is a saint. I am not.

Until I had children, I’d done no nursing. If I felt ill, I took a tablet and soldiered off to work. My husband was expected to do the same. Now that I have kids, the only discussions that take place between me and God on the subject of nursing go something like this:

Me: Dear God. Please make them better. That coughing is driving me INsane.


Me: Hello? Anyone there?


Clearly, the Lord has better things to do than deal with the ravings of a sleep-deprived, self-centred maniac.

Of course, it’s not just the bodily fluids and incessant noise factor that sends me over the edge. It’s not even the piles of tissues, raging fevers and sooky little scraps of misery that insist on sitting on me all day.

It’s the worry.

I’m sure even qualified nurses come undone in the face of their own baby’s first battle with the vomiting bug. Or the quavery little voice in the night that calls out ‘Mummy, I don’t feel well’. Surely even hard-bitten professionals lie awake, listening hard, wondering, ‘Was that a cough or a death rattle?’

When you sign on for this parenting caper, there’s a lot of information available. By the third month of my first pregnancy, I could have told you all about what I could eat, what I couldn’t, how breast was best and which hospital had the highest C-section rate. It wasn’t until after the birth, however, that the secret truth of parenting became apparent.

We were in the carpark, trying to work out how to get the capsule into the car when it dawned on us: we were responsible for this tiny life. The real parents, who knew what they were doing, weren’t going to swing by later to pick him up. The weight of parenthood settled quietly on our shoulders.

For the most part, I don’t notice the extra burden. It’s like gaining weight anywhere – your body shifts imperceptibly to take the strain. But when the kids are sick, it moves front and centre, like a hard rock in my gut.

Oh, I make all the right moves. I keep the fluids up, try to keep the temperature down, wipe runny noses, play endless DVDs to keep them ‘resting’ on the couch, whip up nutritious smoothies, get them to the doctor when necessary and, generally, channel Florence.

But like any hard rock in the gut, it makes me irritable. I just want them better so that I can throw them out into the backyard with a ball or a light-sabre and have a moment’s peace. I’m sure Florence never felt like that.

Then again, Florence never had to worry about what would happen if she herself got sick with the latest permutation of kid virus to come through the door. If the reality of Sick Kids is a bad dream, the prospect of Sick Mummy is a nightmare.

Welcome to my nightmare...


  1. Would it make you feel any better if I told you that by the time you have 9 kids, you start to worry a bit less? You can try that or take my word for it.

  2. Hear, hear. Sick toddler here and I have to work in the city for the next 4 days. Motherguilt combined with the worry that he needs me and the terror I will get sick....well you know how I feel.
    Hope you aren't actually sick x

  3. Only seven more to go then... best I get started. Or cut my toenails instead.

  4. @Seraphim I know exactly how you feel. And yes, am sick, but on the mend. One of those dastardly 24 hour things.

  5. Maybe it was the food at the posh ball that done you in?

  6. So funny and so true...

  7. I relate to the new-born thing - when my son was six weeks old, I suddenly burst into tears out of sheer gratitude that I hadn't killed him.

    Just to brighten your day: looking after your children is way easier than nursing your mother....

  8. I spent last night with a limpet attached to me (aka the sick toddler), I will be referencing your post in my blog tonight...you have captured it beautifully! Oh and that Florence had GREAT PR...she may have been a dragon but she managed to emerge a saint...let's hope we end up in the same boat!!!!

  9. Being sick as a parent is the worst thing. My first taste of this was when I had mastitis, including a raging fever and a migraine, when my daughter was two weeks old. I cried and cried - then I stopped and realised I just had to get on with things. She literally couldn't survive without me, so I did what I had to do.

    There should be a law against parents being sick.

    Hope you're feeling better soon :)

  10. Great post. I think that's really where the sense of overwhelming responsibility kicked in for me - not when they were first sick, but when I was. Husband out of town, no else around, and it's down to you you to look after them. Hideous.

    Hope you feel better soon!

  11. Still hard to balance compassion, sympathy, fear and frustration when my kids are sick.

    I did manage poetic justice for my years of care though a few years ago when I got The Flu when my husband was working interstate. The kids took care of me and made sure I got plenty of rest, kept up my fluids and took regular panadol. Very caring.

    I find that the stress of caring for sick kids has left me rather unsympathetic to my husband when he is ill. He is generally told "I've used up all my care and compassion on the kids, so you're on your own buddy." Ah, love. It's a beautiful thing.

    Hope you're feeling better soon.

  12. Sick kiddies are not on my wish list. We've just had in the past 3 weeks an ear infection, urine infection, 2 colds, unexplained rash, and a 2nd ear infection - oh joy! Huzz is pretty good when he's sick (rarely). But I did have an exwho once called me at work and asked me to come home and take care of him when he was sick!!! You can see why he became an ex!


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