The Playroom: Sick day

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

Some jobs come with benefits. I’m a stay-at-home mom, my job does not. But before you consider me some twisted lizard of a parent who doesn’t see benefits in parenting, I’m not talking about jelly hugs and bleach stains on my favorite jeans.

Being a parent may be one of the toughest jobs there is, if you exclude being a coal miner, any sort of day labor in the hot sun, jobs where you pick up road kill, tasks where you are chained to someone else, anything that involves getting up before 6 in the morning, or driving a school bus filled with 8th graders. But at least with those jobs there are employee benefits — benefits such as retirement plans, health insurance or sick days. There are no such things with parenting.

As I lie in bed with a sore head, sore throat and stuffy nose, my hungry children fight downstairs, screaming up to me as I wallow in my bed past 7 a.m., “Mom, I don’t have any clean socks.”

I want a sick day.

Before I had kids, when I had a job with benefits and lots of sick days, I never used any of them because I never got sick, ever. Now, some kid five counties away sneezes and the germs will make their way into my kid’s preschool class and then I get sick because my 4-year-old is a germ magnet and she will not stay away from my Diet Coke.

I want to clap my hands and say that I believe. I want the sick-fairy Princess La-La to come into my bedroom on gossamer wings and wave her magic sick-fairy wand and take care of the lunches and breakfast and answer questions like “Mom, why did you throw up in the sink?” after I try to take a vitamin the size of a horse pill because for some reason I thought that would help. I want her to whisk my kids away to school, do the grocery shopping, change the sheets, make the beds, go to a play date, feed the dog and the kids and then sit in a hockey rink until 8:30 p.m., come home and study flash cards on the American Revolution without getting frustrated and yelling, “Benedict Arnold, colonial soldier who fought for the British.” and then grumbling, “That is the stupidest flash card ever written.”

I want sick-fairy Princess La-La to make me soup and bring me hot tea for my sore throat and offer sympathy, saying things to me like, “Oh you poor, poor thing, you must feel awful.” And then I want her to pat the dog and turn on the humidifier and quietly close the door and turn off the lights as she tucks me in to bed.

After all the sick-fairy duties are done I want to snuggle under my clean sheets and then I want a preschool princess fairy with a runny nose and Velcro wings to climb in next to me and give me a cuddle and a jelly hug, before she spills the Diet Coke she just brought me on my head.

“It’s okay sweetheart, don’t cry. Princess La-La will clean it up.”

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. Her website is Email her at