“I tried to be strong and push through …”
A few years ago I ended up in our local hospital’s Emergency Department. I was working 4 days a week, had 2 young kids (aged 6 and 4 at the time) and my husband James was working full-time.
I had been given the opportunity to take on a special project at work, which I did and loved. However, it meant my 4 days had crept up to 5-6 days a week for the past 4 months. James was also assigned to a big project at his work. His 40 hours per week was more like 70 and had also been for 4 or so months.
To manage juggling work and kids, my 3 days running per week and Monday night yoga classes stopped.
James stopped his exercise routine too. We didn’t have time to see friends. We didn’t have time to cook properly so ate lots more take-away. I drank lots of coffee. I slept a lot less. My hair desperately needed cutting, but it was a low priority so just didn’t happen. I’m a pretty resilient person so I just kept pushing through, waiting for James’ and my work to die down a little.
Then I got a cough and started feeling a bit sick. I pushed through. On top of work and kids I needed to get a 6th birthday present for a party that weekend and also for my Auntie’s 75th birthday dinner on Friday night. The cough was getting worse on Monday. I was looking forward to that Saturday night, when I would get 3 hours to myself to watch rubbish TV and just lie on the couch. On the Wednesday, my cough sounded like a barking dog. My chest started feeling tight. I kept pushing through.
By Friday morning the right hand side of my lungs had this sharp pain. I knew I was in trouble.
I was in a meeting with my boss and he asked if I was OK. I simply said “No. I need to go to the doctor right now.” I drove myself to the doctor and found myself lying on the floor in his office. My chest pain was excruciating. I managed to call James, asked him to drop everything and to sort out someone to pick up the kids from school and child care and then meet me at the doctors. Within the hour, I was taken to the Emergency Department at our local hospital with James by my side. The doctor diagnosed that I had pneumonia, for the 4th year in a row.
They believed my cough had turned into bronchitis (which I ignored) and then turned again into pneumonia (which I couldn’t ignore).
As I lay there with all sorts of pain killers flowing through my system, I remember saying to James “I tried to be strong and push through“. Then my mobile rang. It was my Auntie wondering why we weren’t at her 75th birthday dinner and checking all was OK. It wasn’t. James and I knew we needed to have a big chat and work out what needed to change. We needed to work through how we could balance both of us working, having young kids and looking after ourselves. We massively overhauled how we did things and looked for practical solutions to make our family’s life easier.
I look back on that time and am glad it happened, as it forced us to radically overhaul our lives.
It reminded me of the “boiling frog” story. If you put a frog in boiling hot water, it will jump out of it immediately. However, if you put a frog in warm water and gradually turn up the heat, the frog will eventually boil to death. Sometimes the gradual piling on of things can be enough to break you.
I was like that frog in warm water, with the heat gradually being turned up. I was “lucky” enough though to have my own boiling water moment. Having pneumonia was enough to shock me into doing things differently and find practical solutions to get back in control of juggling work, kids and my own life.
Since that awful time, I’ve been researching how to make life easier. I look for practical solutions everywhere to make being a working Mum that little bit easier. I want to help other working Mums so that the heat isn’t continually being turned up.