94: Sick Break

94: Sick Break

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

Sick Break

We should read to give our souls a chance to luxuriate.

~Henry Miller

Moms need social outlets. My favorite is book club. Once a month, my literary friends gather for intelligent conversation and homemade coffee cake while our children play in another room under the watchful eye of a babysitter. I look forward to it for weeks. But one morning, when the club was slated to discuss a popular new biography, my two-year-old woke with a fever. So, of course, we stayed home.


“What are we going to do today, beanie?” I crouched to my toddler’s level and smoothed her wispy hair with my fingertips.

“Read books.” Her eyes twinkled. Then she coughed in my face.

“Okay, bring me three books.” And a box of Airborne.

“Five books!”

“Three books to start.” I grabbed a tissue and wiped her nose. “Then when we’re done reading, you can help me put some laundry in the wash.” Might as well take advantage of our quarantine and catch up on the housework, right?

“Okay, Momma!” She ran to her room and returned with — yep — five books. We snuggled into the sofa cushions and started reading. When we finished one stack of favorite stories, she retrieved another from the book bin. Then another, and another.

Before I knew it, our three-book limit blew to nearly an hour of quality time huddled together under a blanket. Then we set the books aside and turned on a movie. My daughter cradled a sippy cup in the crook of her elbow and pressed her head against my chest.

Stillness. Such a strange feeling. I listened to my daughter breathe and sniffle. Cough and sneeze. Munch crackers and giggle at the television screen.

Laundry? Forget it. I had more important things to do.

Sometimes I trick myself into thinking busy is better. That a fulfilling and productive lifestyle requires being with people — working, volunteering, scheduling playdates and coffee breaks, dissecting the meaning of life with friends while holding steaming lattes in our hands.

But when I’m forced to sit in the quiet, slow moments, I begin to see how loud and rushed my life has become. Social commitments. Deadlines. Chores. Routines. They can pack the calendar and crowd out my peace. Then a sick day punches my pause button, and I have no choice but to rest.

Funny, isn’t it? All this time I thought social outlets were my “break.” Maybe not.

As I sat on the sofa that day with my arms around my daughter and studied her delicate eyelashes, her red-rimmed nose and plump cheeks, it dawned on me — I was not stuck home alone. I was spending precious downtime with one of the people I love best.

That was not a bummer. It was beautiful.

So from that day on, I started scheduling “sick days.” They’re blank squares on the calendar, purposely left open to enjoy the company of family with no particular agenda or to-do list. Sometimes we eat popcorn for breakfast and stay in our pajamas until noon. Sometimes the kids watch a video while I speed-read the next book club pick. And when one of my children actually does come down with an illness, I’m less likely to grieve over the sudden change in plans and more likely to say something like this: “Awww, sweetie, you have a fever. Bonus free day! Let’s pick five storybooks. Better yet — make that ten. Today we’re having our own little book club.”

~Becky Kopitzke

More stories from our partners