I had to ask my husband for permission to share this story...Oct 08, 2023
Ten years ago, I had a headache that changed my life.
Not just a headache, but a full-on flu. I remember the day started like any other day: waking up, cleaning up the kitchen and living room from the night before, making breakfast for the kids, until...
That dreaded and familiar feeling of "sick" wafted over me. I tried to push through until I just couldn't anymore.
Within less than an hour, I was dragging myself to bed, head screaming with pain, bones starting to ache, throat starting to burn.
I crawled under the comforter and announced to my husband that I could not care for the kids at all, and that he was suddenly the main dude in charge of well, everything.
My husband is a good man. A kind man. He loves the kids but at that point in our lives, we had pretty separate "jobs" in the home. Kids? Me, mostly. Dishes, dog, taxes? Him, mostly.
So as he surveyed the room full of breakfast detritus and his naked 4 and 6 year-olds running around, his mind began to whirl.
And so did he. Running from task to task. Making snacks, wiping butts, drying tears, cleaning messes, engaging little brains, disentangling warring siblings, you know the drill.
At some point midday, I needed some pain meds for my headache, and my head hurt too much to even call out for help. I weakly reached for the phone and managed to squeak out the words "I think I need some Tylenol." A few minutes later he ran in, and quickly plopped a bottle of pain meds on the side table. I stared at it, realizing it was so close, and yet still so far.
I dialed him again, and said "Water." He hurried back in, deposited the water glass by the bedside, and ran back out to the kids.
By evening time he had somehow made it through the day, and he starfished on the bed next to me, exhausted.
"Man, what a day!"
I wish I could say otherwise but the feeling that poured over me in that moment was... RAGE.
Dude! I do this every day, I thought to myself. Then I said it out loud.
He suddenly felt hurt, like I wasn't appreciating all he had done.
We laid there, both of us stewing for a while. After some going back and forth, I was able to deeply appreciate all that he had done that day, and we both resolved to more openly validate this invisible work we each do every day, and acknowledge each other more fully for doing it!
Yay. Win-win, right?
Sort of. Except I suddenly realized there was something else that still wasn't sitting right for me.
Even though he had been running around taking care of the kids, I didn't feel he had taken care of ME that day. Yes, he had taken over what was usually my job at that time, and yes he had brought me Tylenol, but what I was missing was a hug and some compassion for what I was feeling that day too.
And in that single moment, I had an epiphany that would forever change how I viewed the job of parenting.
I suddenly realized: THIS IS HOW OUR KIDS FEEL.
We parents run ourselves ragged, getting everything, doing everything, bringing everything, and then plop down wanting the very same recognition my husband was craving at that moment. But our kids often find themselves feeling like I was that day. They are aware someone is running around FOR them, but even in the midst of that, they can still feel lonely and not quite taken care of.
From that day forward, I made sure to always check in WITH my kids as I ran around doing all the things FOR them. I made sure I brought the "Tylenol" AND a hug.
That one day changed my marriage, my relationship with my own kids, and what I teach parents.
And today, I hope it helps to make your life and your relationships that much fuller as well.