Reader essay

Sick Mommy never gets a break. Even PBS is no help when you really need it.


Amy Eagle


Is there anything sadder than a sick child? The fevered brow, the red cheeks, the whirling dervish reduced to a listless lump? Is there anything more pathetic? More heart rending? Yes.

A Sick Mommy.

Look at her: dragging around in that ratty bathrobe with the marker scribbles on the butt, trailing clouds of tissues, hands washed raw in a well-meaning but wholly unnoticed attempt to demonstrate good hygiene.

Sick Mommy can’t stay in bed because her union, the Sisterhood of American Homemakers, is far too distracted or sleep deprived to harness its awesome collective bargaining power. Thus, mommies have no sick days.

These are the days PBS really earns that pledge money. Ah, the way “Sagwa” effortlessly rolls into “Clifford,” into “Arthur,” into “Dragon Tales” and so on, ad infinitum—or the news starts and she has to get up to make dinner, anyway.

One lovely, mellow program after another. It’s almost enough to make up for those hectoring pledge-week requests for the kiddies to bring mommy to the TV every 20 minutes for a “very important message.” Mommy knows the nice people at PBS are only trying to do a difficult job with honor; nonetheless, they make her want to throw a hairbrush at the television and fall to the floor sobbing, “I gave you 40 bucks already! What would it take for an uninterrupted shower? My very soul?”

But I digress.

And I don’t want to seem anything but pro-pro-pro PBS, especially when Sick Mommy is so looking forward to lying on the floor wrapped in delirium while hour after hour of commercial-free TV washes over her and her son. Believe me, Sick Mommy is in no mood to be jolted awake to watch a REALLY GREAT ad. (Not that she would sleep on the job, mind you. The care of her young child is far more important a trust. She might, just, you know, rest her eyes for a minute.)

So the plan for the day is bottomless TV.

This is a great plan. A brilliant plan. A plan with something for everyone, the barely functioning mom and the boy who never gets to watch enough television.

The boy who, on the first lovely day of spring, when the world is soft and warm with renewal, the hyacinths perfume the air, the breeze is full of promise, the birds are singing sweetly, the sap is running and dozens of interesting dead worms are strewn across the sidewalk, will scowl at the suggestion he turn off the TV. A veritable Disneyana of nature could be happening out the back door, with talking bunnies and everything, and the boy would still beg for one more show.

So, of course, today of all days, he gets bored and fidgety after one measly hour. Sick Mommy is a bit panicky, with hours to go before she sleeps—hours, that is, until the start of afternoon kindergarten. She’s desperately pulling things out of that ratty bathrobe sleeve. “Wanna watch ‘Star Wars’? Wanna watch ‘Looney Tunes’? Wanna watch [she’s really desperate now] ‘Yu-Gi-Oh!’?”

But no, the boy’s plan is so cruel, so diabolical, so perfectly heartless, it takes the breath away.

He wants to tickle fight.

Then he wants to build a city with every block in the block box, make a train go through it and put LEGO people in it and also a LEGO space station with rockets and planets for the rockets to go to.

It’s just the sort of creative, wide-ranging, all-absorbing project SAH union rules insist she encourage, whether she has the strength to pick up a LEGO or not. Sick Mommy looks sideways at the boy as he tumbles the blocks out of the box (Oh! Her aching head!). Certainly this must be some sort of devilish payback for all the times she clicked off the TV and chirped, “Why don’t you play with your blocks?”

He looks so innocent; she never suspected him for an evil genius.

So, fighting fire with fire, she looks him right in his big, brown, sweet, little evil-genius eyes and lies to him. “Honey,” she lies, “that’s a great idea. Why don’t you go ahead and get started while I take a really, really, really quick shower?”

Sick Mommy, of course, has no intention of taking a really, really, really quick shower. Sick Mommy intends to take the longest possible shower in the history of showers. Sick Mommy intends to drain the entire water heater, and, if possible, the neighbor’s water heater, and when the hot water is gone she intends to leave the cold water running as a distraction while she lies on the floor and rests her eyes for a minute.

No one, not even PBS, can stop her. 

Amy Eagle is a writer and mom (not necessarily in that order) who lives in Homewood.


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