The First 48 Hours of Being a Sick Working Mom


After months of a self-imposed sabbatical from writing, I’m back, hungry for dialogue that isn’t work-related. I am writing about something all too common for us moms: being sick. Moms are not permitted to be sick. We are expected to “power through it,” only collapsing into exhaustion at the end of a “regular day.” Even admitting that we feel ill doesn’t sit well. I told my family that I tested positive for COVID a second time two days ago. Their reply? “Feel better.” When I told them my hubs had tested positive two days before, it was, “How are they doing? How are his symptoms”? Two very different but not surprising reactions. Mothers are supposed to handle being sick while doing everything else. To illustrate, I am sharing a brief diary from my first 48 hours of being a sick mom this week.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

11:30 a.m.: Daniel tested positive for COVID yesterday and is isolating in their room. We girls tried yesterday and this morning and are negative. My daughters and I are returning from a Target outing for fresh air. We are returning to our apartment with our haul, and I feel tired. I hope I am not coming down with something. It’s time for more caffeine and lunch with the girls.

2 p.m.: I just got Alice down for a nap and fell asleep beside her. Weekend naps are underrated. I get 20 minutes in, and then Ilse awakens to do a food project. We make bread from her Kiwi CO. kit. The instructions are easy enough, but the recipe doesn’t specify the type of yeast to use. As a home maker, that instruction lapse annoys me. Active-dry and instant yeasts are added at different times in the baking process. All we have at home is instant. We use the instant yeast for the recipe, and I silently pray it works.

6 p.m.: Dinner is on. Saturday night’s rib roast transforms into fried ribs with veggies over noodles or rice. Ilse’s bread is a success (Thank goodness!). Alice and I are eating toasted slices of it with our dinner. The hubs eat separately in isolation. This is going to be a long week.

8:30 p.m.: I finish dessert with the girls and begin to worry that I am coming down with a cold. I feel extra tired and rundown. It could be last week’s marathon work week while the hubs were out of town. I preemptively cancel client appointments for the week and decide to work from home on Monday. The girls and I end the night with prayers, stories read by Ilse, and counting koalas.

Monday, September 18, 2023

4 a.m.: I wake up nearly an hour before my alarm. And I feel it. F**K, I am sick! I brush my teeth, take a COVID test, and start the morning routine of unloading the dish rack preparing lunch box meals and breakfast options for the girls. I see the “T” line less than five minutes into testing. I take a breath, strap on an N95 mask, and go into crisis mode, emailing work, both children’s schools and postponing family appointments. The hubs order more tests, and we work out how to limit the girls’ exposure. I hate being sick.

7 a.m.: We tested both girls, and they are negative—that was six days to go.

10 a.m.: Taking a break from work to take Alice to the doctor for a blood pressure check and eye exam. We have less than two days to submit her enrollment forms to SFUSD for placement in the preschool program at Ilse’s school. If we miss the deadline, we lose her spot. I am double masking. Alice is deemed healthy. Forms completed. The symptoms are mild, like my first bout at the beginning of the year: head cold and weariness. Nothing new. I am just waiting for my period to start. Of course, I would get both at the same.

8:45 p.m.: Bedtime is rough. The girls are not happy they have to be apart from us. Alice wants us to take off our masks for kisses. Ilse sobs herself to sleep. Telling them we must keep them safe and healthy doesn’t soothe them. They want their hugs, and elbow bumps don’t cut it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

4 a.m.: Up early again. My period arrived two days late due to a stressful weekend. A late period start is usually more painful for me. I freshen up, put on a new mask, and get to work before the morning routine. I have a huge client event at work, and I need my team to execute it on my behalf. I email the team with my game plan. They should be set. Then, I go into mom mode for a bit.

8 a.m.: The girls are still testing negative. Every day they test negative is a gift. Five days to go. Meanwhile, I’m developing a scratchy throat and a cough. Must keep working. Found some frozen Pedialyte popsicles in the freezer and place them in my water can for hydration.

7:30 p.m.: Another full day of work done. Dessert and bedtime are soon. I am exhausted. I could sleep standing up. Having COVID and my period at the same time is an energy killer. The menstrual cramping during my shower knocked my last bit of energy. I take two Advil and sprawl on the living room floor, waiting for the medicine to kick in while the hubs help expedite dessert for the girls. Sleep can’t come soon enough.

Being a mom is the toughest job I’ve ever had. Being a sick mom is even tougher. I don’t handle sick well. Will we moms ever? I will rest at some point this week so I can resume all the awesome things I love about being a mom, especially hugs. Sound familiar, moms? Do you do the same?


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