Getting sick at the busiest time

Illness is an occupational hazard of being a working parent, but usually it catches you just at the moment you slow down [slightly]…

Tired women at work


Usually in life I have found that as soon as you start to relax,  you get every sickness going. I can’t recall many Christmases when the kids were small when I didn’t have a stinking cold or the flu or, at the very least, the norovirus – and sometimes two of those three simultaneously. When I say ‘start to relax’ this is generally after a period of mega activity on all fronts – the September to December work life madness being a case in point.

Generally, your body knows that collapsing in the midst of all the stress would be a Very Bad Thing. However, my body seems to have given up on that hard-earned wisdom this week and has decided to succumb right slap bang in the middle of the busiest time of the year work-wise.

I woke up on Friday and was feeling a little bit more tired than usual. But I figured it’s the busy period, tiredness is to be expected. I hauled myself into London, did a meeting from a Pret and went to record the WM People podcast. So far so good.

On the way back I started drifting off, even though I was trying to force myself to read a work-related book, ironically about being ‘enough’. There seem to be quite a few books around on a similar theme about people of my age or younger being one step away from the edge of the cliff stress-wise, even though they seem, to all intents and purposes, to be doing really well ie they are not facing eviction or starvation which, outrageously, seems to be something we have come to tolerate for many in this country.

The ‘enough’ book was telling me how to get to the balance nirvana that I have never attained, but which always sounds really nice as a theory. There was a part where it detoured into the idea of post-traumatic growth. This part woke me up a bit as I find it really trite to say you can ‘grow’ as a result of trauma. Maybe some trauma, but grow suggests something positive and for some trauma it is more about trying to find a way to navigate a gaping hole that threatens to swallow you up whole. Sometimes it’s just about being able to get up in the morning at all. Does that count as growth? Sometimes, however much we cling on to the idea that every cloud has a silver lining philosophy, there are no happy endings and we just have to accept that.

Anyway, I got home and forced myself to write a profile of a very interesting student who is investigating the possibility of being able to 3D print an intestine. I got through it and have no idea whether it made any sense at all. I picked up daughter three from her shift at McDonald’s and collapsed on the sofa. The younger section of the family thought I was either being melodramatic or could be contagious. I retired upstairs with the cat, my devoted work colleague and companion.

Throughout the night I woke up with a pounding headache. This seemed worse than a cold. Perhaps it was terminal? By the next morning the headache was still there and I felt sick. My partner did a sterling job of fetching paracetamol and made me a tuna pizza that I couldn’t eat. My brother in Argentina sent sympathy. ‘Relax and watch Netflix’, he said. Only watching Netflix hurt.

Then my partner suggested doing a Covid test. I’d completely forgotten about Covid, but lo and behold, the two lines came up after we had searched all the old boxes and found a tiny drop of liquid left to do the test. I told my colleague as this week I was due to be on duty every night as organiser of seven different events. I’m not quite sure of the protocol now, but this time around I feel worse than the last few times and I don’t want anyone else to get sick.

So instead I am going to sit at home and be ‘enough’ and hope that I don’t get long Covid in the process. The cat is doing an outstanding job as my nurse, my partner is out stocking up on paracetamol and everyone else is probably counting the days until they get it [unless, of course, they gave it to me in the first place].

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