Everyone likes to say moms wear so many hats — cook, chauffeur, teacher, housekeeper, craft generator, CFO — and for the most part I think I manage to sort of juggle most of these roles. Some people (who unfortunately are not actually doling out salaries to us moms) have even set the market cost of someone performing all these roles at a whopping $162,000 a year.
But there’s one part of being a mom that, if it were part of my job description, I would definitely get fired for: Nurse. (Also maybe housekeeper. But definitely nurse.)
I’m so bad at being a nurse to my sick kid… in every way. I always look for a pediatrician with a doctor or nurse’s line where you can call and ask dumb questions because I honestly don’t know any of the answers. You can take birthing and parenting and breastfeeding classes, but where are the classes that teach you when exactly you should freak out about a fever? Or how to soothe an upset, sick child?
Even after I have called the doctor and been reassured that my son’s 102 fever isn’t a reason to go to the ER, I still feel totally helpless. I am good at looking up doses of medicine and doling that out at the recommended intervals! I am not good at figuring out why my child is still crying after he has taken said medicine.
Today, in fact, he was sitting in my lap sobbing while we watched Frozen for the third time. He had a 102 fever (“No cause for alarm, just give Tylenol and watch!” said my pediatrician) but no other symptoms. I had given him Tylenol and apple juice. He had refused my offers of bananas and toast. I had resorted to ineffectual snuggling and soothing noises. He’d been crying for 30 minutes.
My husband got home from work and assessed the situation. Within minutes, he’d gotten a fan from upstairs and pointed it at our sweaty child. He came back with a bowl of veggie straws from the pantry to coax our toddler into eating. Within minutes, he had stopped crying and was happily eating (although he still wanted me touching him at all times).
My husband then left for an event. He was home a mere 15 minutes and fixed everything. I’d been trying to fix this for hours and hadn’t even thought about doing some cooling or veggie-straw coaxing.
This is the most recent example, but it’s definitely not the only example. I am fuzzy on the intricacies of wound care. I don’t like looking at pictures of rashes on the internet to determine what weird illness we have. I’m not sure what to do most of the time other than give a dose of medicine and offer food and snuggles. When we got hand-foot-and-mouth last summer, we muddled through, but, oh, what a muddle that was.
I’m not sure why I’m so bad at this aspect of parenting. I get stuck on one way to solve the problem, and when that doesn’t work, I have no idea what to do next, so I try it again. There’s a quote from Albert Einstein that says, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” This perfectly covers my parenting-a-sick-child approach.
Even when my son was a baby, I was no good at this. I had one way to soothe him, and that was breastfeeding. If he wasn’t hungry, I was helpless, offering to nurse over and over to a fussy baby who was definitely not interested. My husband, on the other hand, had an endless supply of rocking methods, songs and swaddling techniques. My husband didn’t read any parenting books or Google anything, and he hadn’t regularly taken care of babies. He was just naturally awesome. To this day, if my son wakes up sick in the middle of the night he wants Dad, not Mom. I don’t blame him, I would want Dad, too.
I keep hoping this is something that will improve with experience. Maybe our second child will get a Mom 2.0, one who doesn’t just keep trying to force-feed chicken noodle soup. Mom 2.0 will have innovative solutions to illness recovery and a detailed understanding of rashes.
Or he will most likely get just me. And luckily, he’ll get Dad, too.