I don't hate the winter, in theory. There's something so peaceful and quiet about it. A nice break in the year after an every-weekend-is-booked summer, a hustle start to the fall which, for us, includes a million birthdays and runs straight into Halloween and the holidays and another birthday without much of a break. Get past Christmas and end-of-the-year work deadlines and we - finally, deservedly - coast into a sort of quiet zone where we can watch movies guilt-free all weekend because it's too cold to go out (ok, yea, we should be at the museum or something, but shut up), subsist on homemade stew, wear sweatpants as much as life will allow, and teach our kids about snowball fights and igloos. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? It is, for the 3 days or so this idyllic winter hibernation plan actually works out. Because when you have kids, the other 117 days of winter are spent with at least one person in the house (if not all) being sick. And I don't just mean a cough and runny nose (which for the purposes of assessing whether to go to work or send your kid to school does not register even a 1 on the "sick radar"). I'm talking about rashes, multiple doctors visits, weird viruses you've never heard of, antivirals, antibiotics, ER visits, just shit that will mess your life up.
After 4 winters with kids, I can no longer passively sail into winter without feeling dread and anxiety about what's to come, saying little prayers that this or that doesn't happen. As confident as I feel (most of the time) about being a working mom, when my kids get sick, it always takes me back a notch. I don't want to diminish the particular torture of stay-at-home moms who have to take care of their sick kids all day and night (especially if they get sick, as well), because that is just exhausting and unrelenting. But when you're working too, there is a nagging anxiety about how you will fit in this unpredictable nonsense, and it's always coupled with a feeling of guilt that you're giving work or your kids the short shrift (although I've found that if you want predictability as to when your kids will be sick, plan a vacation, party or presentation at work, that oughtta do it.) Am I going to be up all night before my presentation this week? Will I or my spouse have to stay home? Will I make it home for a doc appointment? Does my child need ME? Will my boss think I'm lying? What if my nanny gets sick? I've delayed much-needed doc visits until my pre-scheduled work-from-home days, and I've stayed home even when I was sure my kid would be fine with our nanny. I've canceled trips and plans, and I've traveled with kids who had no business being out of the house. I've walked out in tears, I've stayed home in tears. No matter what side you land on, it's always stressful. And HA! the joke is on you if you are foolish enough to get sick yourself. You go to work regardless because you need to save your sick days for your kids and you don't want to infect them at home. And then people look at you like, why is she here? You can't win.
We're not an irregularly sick family; we usually go through the same cold/ear infection rigamarole most Chicago families do (I'm curious - do families in California deal with this too?? I'm willing to move). But years of breastfeeding, probiotics and vitamins aside, we've gotten hit hard this year. We've already been riddled with both kids getting the flu (they're fine), our younger one hospitalized for some bowel issue I hadn't ever heard of (he's fine), and me currently on day 9 of viral pink eye/head cold (btw my tactics on trying not to infect my children with one of the most contagious things out there while still having to make dinner, change diapers, breastfeed, give baths etc is nearing comical). But I'm fine. Well, I've lost my will to live, but otherwise, I'm fine.
And it's only January 26. JANUARY 26! Sigh. Cue the GoT music. It's going to be a long winter.