I was sick this past weekend. Nothing bad, just a low fever and a general feeling of tiredness. It was the sort of illness you could almost forget about as long as you kept still. Anyway, I think it gave me an insight.
When I was a kid there a sense that moms didn't get sick. Granted, in the cultural milieu where I grew up, moms tended to stay home as well, so who knows to what degree this was universal, but at any rate, moms did not get sick. Kids got sick all the time. Dads got sick, too. Rarely, but it happened. Mothers, however, seemed invulnerable.
This, of course, was bunk. Moms got sick just like everyone else; they just didn't acknowledge it. There was too much to do. Intellectually, I knew that. But this weekend, as I was able to pretty much take it easy while getting better, I think I came to understand how they kept going.
Guilt. Yes, guilt (and me not even Catholic!). I think it was the first time I ever felt truly guilty over an illness. No doubt the mildness of the episode played a part. But still, there it was, and it hit me then that my mom, and surely other people's parents as well, had felt as down as I did plenty of times, and yet went on. Playing with pain, they call it in the sports world. You're not 100%, but the team needs you, and so you go in anyway. You could refuse; you could say no, but you feel you would be letting people down.
Yeah, it's an imperfect metaphor. They all are, sue me. And no doubt many people ignored illness because they had to work and needed the money. But I'm thinking more about stay-at-home parents, here, and I think there's something to it.