Today I am largely engaged in care work – feeding ice to a pale and sweaty six year old who can’t keep food or drink in his stomach today; following him around the house with a Clorox wipe; washing the numerous linens he is soiling, bless his virus-ridden little heart; shifting him from couch to couch and scrubbing the cushions where he missed the buckets/towels/numerous other puke-catching devices that I’d arranged in his immediate vicinity.
I have work-work screaming for my attention as well, of course. As we all know, parents are expected to parent like you don’t have work, and work like you don’t have to parent. . . never fun, but I took the sick shift today because although I have lots on my plate, none of it’s due today. No deadlines, no meetings, nothing requiring my presence in the office, so I’m “working from home.”
I get a lot of satisfaction from work-work, of course, although like 100% of mothers who work in law firms, and most everyone else, too, I can see multiple areas of needed change to improve the way the business is structured. But I get satisfaction from this care-work, too, as grueling and gross as it can be. A cool hand on a young one’s sweaty brow – the ability to comfort with a back rub, or a cold cloth – running ice along cracked lips – watching his small chest rise and fall as he sleeps across from me on the couch. There is intimacy, closeness. I watch his sleeping form for signs of another bout of retching and suddenly I’m just watching him, the miracle of him, lying there existing. Heart beating, lungs expanding, thumb from his left hand tucked into the clenched fist of his right. Things aren’t exactly right, some invader has laid him low, but all the pieces and parts are still miraculous.
A silver pot with a broken hand sits tucked into his armpit, there where he sprawls, limbs flung wide. I’ve made a nest of towels and he has balled them all up beneath him. He is desperate for food and drink, hungry and thirsty and sleepy and weak, and these are things I will soon be able to give him to make him feel better. If I know Liam, and I do (I knew he was sick before he threw up – he slept late, later than normal, and I immediately checked my work calendar), he’ll be bee bopping around this evening like nothing happened. He’s my Quick Sick – gets desperately ill for half a day and then it’s done – while Jack tends to get much milder versions of everything and then flail like a delicate flower for much longer than is necessary, in service of his hypochondria.
I have briefs to write, emails to answer, and I will, while he sleeps. But I thought I’d come here to note that today, my six year old was sick, and I was grateful for the day spent in his company, offering palliative care and watching his miraculous little body heal itself.