My youngest child is asleep in my bed. She is four, and like her sisters has spent the weekend with an unidentified illness. Fevers and sore throats, aches and headaches, nausea. I went from one to another, dosing medicine, taking temperatures, and soothing.
It was, strangely, a good weekend. I was tired to that point where you no longer think of how tired you are, which helped. I had back-up: my husband took one night off from work, and my parents, who moved to our city a month ago, were only a phone call away, if there was an emergency. But no one else is mama, and the work of nursing them was squarely on my shoulders. They wanted mama's lap, mama's arms, and mama's bed.
Yesterday afternoon, after the worst of the illness had passed for most of them, I fell asleep on my bed, and three of the kids came quietly to my room and arranged themselves on and around me, not ready yet to rest without mama's comfort. I slept, too tired to notice. I woke up to find my seven-year-old's head on my calf, her arms wrapped around my leg like it was her teddy bear.
There are many things that are hard about being a stay-at-home mom, especially in this intermediate period, when the kids no longer have the needs of an infant, but are not ready for much independence either. My time here can feel purposeless, and I have to fight a constant sense that I should be getting more done, whatever "it" is: writing, cleaning, cooking, reading, earning. Something.
But then I have a weekend like this, where I feel so grateful that I get to stay home with the kids. On Saturday night, my five-year-old daughter had a fever of 103.9. It kept rising, and the medicines I had given her were not lowering it, so she lay on the couch watching cartoons, while I laid wet towels on her, changing them as they warmed to her body temperature. It took hours, but it lowered her fever at last, and she slept. I was so grateful that this miserable night could be followed by a low-pressure day, that I had no deadlines to meet or substitutes to find. I knew that the next day I could nap briefly, and make it a slow, recovering day. This is a gift.
A few feet from me now, my four-year-old is asleep in my bed. She is almost well, and only needs a napping day. There is no safer place to sleep than mama's bed.
In a minute, I may join her.