Yesterday I had to harangue my Bestie into going to the doctor. She was holed up on death’s door (Ok, not actual death, but she was felt like it) with the ear infection from hell, which she was treating with a variety of homeopathic remedies, trying to keep the local Witch Doctor in business. Clearly an intervention was called for. It was just the thing my PMS had been waiting for. Time to put my super powers of Massive Irritability and General Bitch-tastic-ness into action!
Why, I demanded, have you not made an appointment with your doctor? You sound like hell. You probably look like it too. Do you think the infection has affected your brain and perhaps you are in the first stages of Mad Cow disease? Are you waiting for your ear to explode first? Would you like me to bring over a goat and we can sacrifice it to gain the twin gifts of healing and prophesy? (I know, I know…you all wish you could have me for a friend). How do you lay there with your highly coveted health insurance and NOT phone the doctor?
“I can’t afford the co-pay,” she told me. I won’t type here what I told her, except to say I disputed that reality. She was going to find that $20 in the budget somewhere – for other things, things that she considered more important. But with money so tight right now and her in between jobs, she was doing that thing that women so often seem to do. You know the one. It looks like this: “What? The ship might be sinking? Everyone to the lifeboats! No, no, don’t worry about me. I’ll go last. You take my place. I know you guys can’t row worth a damn, but I’ll stay here and go down with the ship. I’ll make the sacrifice. Good luck! I Love You! Don’t forget me!” That thing. What she was really saying is that money was tight and she was going to go without for the sake of her family. Because that’s what women do.
It is the tripwire; the weaker side of motherhood and it’s especially prevalent in these times of crises. She wasn’t even questioning it and this is a woman with a normally well-developed sense of self. But there is something about pain and times of desperation that throw mothers into survival mode. We start removing ourselves from the equation and suddenly the math is all about making sure the family will make it on the back of our sacrifices. Sometimes we forget we’re part of that family too and that it needs us, and it needs us to be healthy.
In her right mind knows she’s not really helping anyone with this decision, and if it were someone else, say me for instance, she’d be the one doing the screaming. But this is why the buddy system works so well when it comes to parenting. It always pays to have an advocate, because we are not always our own best counsel. Buddies are there for each other when the scenery all starts to look the same and the compass readings seem unreliable. Don’t leave home without your girlfriends. You’ve been told this before. You know it’s true. It’s especially true when we become mothers.
The last time I flew Southwest airlines; the stewards gave their standard and highly entertaining version of the standard safety procedures as the plane taxied for take off. When it came to the instructions for the “sudden changes in the cabin pressure they gave the following directions to those traveling with multiple children. “After you have secured your own mask, if you are traveling with more than one child…pick the one with the most potential.” Girlfriend, sometimes that’s you.