Mama Called in Sick: A Lesson About Guilt and Being Present

being a present parent

I took a sick day yesterday and fought off a fever, a cough and guilt. My list was long and I had no time to lay on the couch or prop my feet up. Clothes were piled high at the base of the washing machine. Beds laid unmade. The shelves of the refrigerator were bare; the pantry supplies, scarce.

In the early hours of my morning, I wrestled with my planner. It begged to be filled with errands and chores. It beckoned for busyness. I laid my pencil down and picked up the thermometer. When the test came back positive for fever, I called in sick (to myself).

I settled on the couch, still in my PJ’s. I turned on Good Morning America and picked up a library book about animals. Barrett settled in close and we read for a long time. The scent of his shampoo tickled my nose. His contentment began to spill over into my soul.

I played blocks and bus. I sat in a chair on the deck while he threw acorns over the railing. We pushed shapes through the holes of the shape sorter and I discovered he knew the word “circle.” I discovered a lot of his new words that day, words I hadn’t heard because of the constant whirring in my head.

This kid, who had cried for the last week nearly around the clock, was perfectly content with his mama by his side. And this mama, burdened with the guilt of taking a day to rest, began to lay that weight down.

In her book, Hands Free Mama, Rachel Macy Stafford asks, “What if, instead of rushing through the minutiae of your daily life, you occasionally paused and offered your presence?” She later quotes Thich Nhat Hanh:

The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers. 

Mamas don’t really get sick days. Taking care of a toddler is not exactly taking the day off. I still had to get the kids off to school, help with homework and cook dinner. But, because I had tabled my to-do list, I did all of those things without distraction. I did them fully present (or, at least as present as I could be with fatigue and cold meds fogging my brain).

being a present parent

I almost always feel guilty for being sick. I do not have the time for it. Conversely, I rarely feel guilty about distracted parenting. Multi-tasking is a way of life. It is survival.

My unwanted sick day became a blessing wrapped in Kleenex. I found the space to be fully present with those I love most. I saw my fussy toddler change into a content little boy. I watched my daughter get up from a conversation about her itchy dog and take the initiative to bathe him. I caught the sparkle in my 3rd grader’s eye as she reported her #1 reader status in her class.

This morning, I woke up fever-free. My energy level is rising. I am trying to hold on to the lessons I learned yesterday. I made a point to shut off the laptop and put away my phone when the kids got up for school. I made time to talk to them at the breakfast table. I indulged Barrett with a little extra cuddle time before we headed out for errands.

There is no room for guilt when it comes to being a present parent with my kids. The dishes can wait. Social media will continue without my presence. Those babies are only mine for a minute. I want to breathe them in, to let their joy bring me pleasure.

Hopefully, I won’t need a fever to remind me to stop and watch my flowers bloom.

I am linking up with Suzie Eller’s #livefreeThursday. Visit her site for more guilt-free me posts.

Recommended Resource


“My highly distracted life was all about productivity. If I couldn’t check off an activity on my to-do list, it held no value. But when I started viewing time spent with family or doing something I enjoyed as a Priceless Investment, I was able to make those moments a priority in my schedule.” (Rachel Macy Stafford, Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters!)

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9 Comments

  1. This is such a beautiful reminder to pay attention to the most important things. I tend to over schedule myself and I know my kids feel it. When I take the time to fully turn my attention on my boys they light up like a light bulb.

  2. What a great reminder. Fussy families can sometimes be cured with simplicity of schedule. Love this…I am going to take these words for me: “Hopefully, I won’t need a fever to remind me to stop and watch my flowers bloom.”

  3. Don’t we all need a sick day once in a while. Thank you for the encouragement today. Visiting from Suzie’s #livefreeThursday. Have a great day!

  4. Love this, Kelly. I think you sound like a wonderful mama! What lucky kids! Enjoy every minute.

  5. I love that you’ve joined us on #livefreeThursday! <3 Every mom needs to hear your words today.

  6. “I almost always feel guilty for being sick. I do not have the time for it. Conversely, I rarely feel guilty about distracted parenting.” Oh, how true this is! Thank you for this reminder today! #livefreeThursday

  7. This is wonderful, Kelly and take it from a momma who knows….time flies and in a blink of an eye your babies are on their own! Wish I had followed your wise advice more years ago! Thank you for sharing! #livefreeThursday

  8. I sure needed to read this today. Thank you!!

  9. Okay, this Grammy is going to take your advice and relax into being present with my grandchildren for the next 8 weeks. I’m homeschooling and caring for them full time while their parents are away, and I’ve been a little concerned that my multi-tasking skills are rusty… maybe that’s a good thing?! Lovely post that I will use to remind myself about what is truly most important. Thank-you!

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