Thursday, February 23, 2006

Mother, heal thyself.

This was originally posted on November 22, 2005.

It's probably nothing, really. I had some very unpleasant dental work last week that requires me to be on antibiotics for a while, and my insides don't much care for the penicillin. But this afternoon I was feeling more than usually wretched so I decided to take my temperature.

I wasn't sure it was going to be accurate. It could be apparently on the high side because I was on my feet and folding laundry while I was taking it, and I think you're supposed to lie down and think restful thoughts while you have a thermometer in your mouth. Even if you leave out the part about potentially raising your temperature from activity, it's better not to walk around with glass-enclosed poisonous chemicals clamped between your teeth.

On the other hand, it could be artificially low because of all the air blowing past the mercury. It's a little hard to keep your lips firmly closed around the thermometer when you're very vocally engaged in keeping an aggressively energetic toddler from crawling on the laundry, throwing pillows on the floor, and removing books from the bookshelf. If you throw in the answers to questions like "Mama's bubbles? Peter's bubbles? Daddy's bubbles? Mary's bubbles?" when there are NO BUBBLES in sight, it's lucky it didn't tell me I was hypothermic.

So I took my temperature again, with the digital thermometer this time. I'm not sure this effort was an improvement, since I had to put away the laundry before he unfolded it, replace the cushions on the couch for the third time today, retrieve a ball of clay from a cooking pot soaking in the sink, flush a toilet and silently beg it to magically unstop itself (it did!), and look despairingly into the fridge in hopes that a fully prepared dinner would materialize. (It didn't.)

As I've grown into the job of Mother, I've discovered that the requirements for sick days are remarkably similar to those regarding missing church in my childhood. Church attendance is a high priority for my family, and the unwritten rule was that you must have a broken bone, a real fever (not the suspicious 109.5 temperature acquired with the use of a bunkbed and an overhead light), or be throwing up real vomit in order to miss church. It was a good rule, and I didn't miss much church.

When you're a mom, your list of acceptable maladies is similar, but shorter. Fever? Well, if you're upright, you can make dinner. Broken bone? Hey, that's what casts are for! Throwing up? Just don't do it during story time.

Now, there are a few things that are completely unavoidable, which is one of the many reasons why dads come in handy. A combined total of ten months of constant and permeating pregnancy-related nausea meant that I didn't do much laundry or serious cooking during those phases of my life, thanks to a very sympathetic husband. I've had a couple of cases of food poisoning where if the house burned down, I would have simply sighed with relief that I didn't have to fix dinner that night. And if you're actually in the hospital, you get some time off. Theoretically.

Of course I'm not all that sick, and it could be worse. I don't usually play that game, since I've always subscribed to the philosophy that my hangnail hurts me way worse than your broken leg hurts me. But if you don't have small children at home, the next time you're sick just keep this in mind -- it could be worse. You could be taking your temperature while folding laundry, ten hours into a fourteen-hour workday while entirely at the mercy of a tyrannical three-foot-tall boss whose first language appears to be Squirrel and who can completely dismantle a room in a quarter of the time it takes to clean it.

My temperature? 99.5. Nothing life-threatening. Too bad ... if I was at death's door, at least I could lie down for a while.


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