By Abbie Cornett
For some reason, I always feel guilty about being sick. I don’t know why, but I do. The guilt leads me to frequently do too much, particularly when it comes to my kids. And, I pay for it by feeling like hell for days afterward.
A couple of weekends ago, I didn’t feel well and, as usual, my kids had overbooked the weekend with an impossible sports and social schedule. Needless to say, I spent the entire weekend running from one place to the other, cooking, cleaning and dealing with the drama only teens can dish out during homecoming week.
By Sunday night, I was exhausted and sick. I was lying across the foot of my bed trying to find the energy to fold clothes, when my 10-year-old came in and laid next to me. When I started to get up, she told me to lie down and stop being stupid.
I got mad! First of all, she called me stupid, and secondly, I had stuff to do. When I started to yell at her, she looked at me and said: “I love you. I don’t want you to be sick. You do more than any of the other mothers. Who cares if the clothes get folded.” Needless to say, the clothes didn’t get folded. I laid back down, turned the television on and watched “Scooby Doo” with my little one.
I have thought a lot about what she said that night. I realize that I push myself so hard because I am afraid my kids will see me as less capable than other parents - that they will feel they are missing out because of my illness. I realize I frequently do more than some of their friends’ parents not because I have more energy, but because I feel guilty that I have an illness. And, I have come to realize that it’s not that my children see me as less of a mother, but that I see myself that way.
In the past, if I said no because I was tired, I felt guilty. If the house was messy, it wasn’t because I was a normal working mother, but because I had a chronic illness. Society had programmed me that my illness was something to be ashamed of - that it should be covered up. My daughter showed me that it’s OK to stop sometimes.
Since that night, I have been working on learning to say no without feeling guilty. If the clothes don’t get folded for a couple of days, the world won’t come to an end. Or, better yet, I should teach my teens to do laundry. The dishes will wait until morning, without anyone pointing their finger at me. But most important of all, I have learned my children love me for who I am, even when I don’t love myself.