Am I Dying Or Am I Just A Parent?

by Emily Gallo
Originally Published: 

A few weeks ago, I developed severe eye pain. My right eye watered, got puffy and red and was super sensitive to light. After a few minutes I could barely open it. Never Google these symptoms.

Before I wrote my own eulogy, I washed my face, removed my contact and flushed my eye. I wore my glasses for the rest of the day. It turns out there was a tear in my contact; I did not have meningitis or a corneal ulcer.

I parented through this entire event because I’m practically a superhero, but by the end of the day, I had a slew of other symptoms brought on by my four little cherubs.

So before you jump to any terrifying conclusions or Google your symptoms, it might save you additional grief if you take a moment to consider your day.

Symptom: Nausea

Causes: Sure, you could have the dreaded norovirus or the rotavirus, but it’s quite possible your gag reflex is being tested by…

  • Witnessing your toddler mix yogurt and ketchup together and eat it with a pretzel stick.
  • Changing the sheets on the top bunk and discovering a wall of art made entirely of late-night nose findings.
  • Stumbling upon something while you dropped your teen’s sheets in the washing machine, something you never ever want to talk about with anyone. It was probably yogurt anyway. Wretch.

Diagnosis: Parenting.

Symptom: Insomnia

I know. You hate yourself for this or you hate someone or everyone because the only thing you’ve wanted to do since you had children was sleep. But here you are, it’s 3 a.m., and you’re counting cobwebs. It’s got to be a disease, you think. It’s likely something irreversible. I’ll never sleep again, you whisper into the darkness.


  • Just today you made a remark under your breath that will likely be the only thing your 6-year-old remembers from her childhood. It will certainly become her mantra and the reason she’ll date the cast of characters from the Star Wars bar scene until she’s at least 37.
  • You found a prophylactic while cleaning your teen’s room. You’re sure he doesn’t know where that goes. You wonder if you should praise him or punish him and suddenly a montage of his childhood is playing in your head and how did this happen.
  • Your daughter spit at a child at the playground. You’re wondering if you did the right thing this time — or any time ever in your whole life.

Diagnosis: Parenting.

Symptom: Headache

Causes: It could be a migraine. Or it could be that…

  • You muscled through another bedtime and fielded questions about time travel, quantum physics, and why Cookie Monster is blue.
  • It’s 12:03, and curfew is midnight, and she isn’t answering her phone.
  • You made a slam dunk dinner with veggies hiding in the sauce. You nailed the timing, and you even used their favorite plates. No one ate it. They hated it and started chanting, “down with dinner.”
  • You stifled your desire to let expletives fly when the cashier said, “I can take the next person over here.” You were next, not the seven people behind you. You knew you had t minus 10 seconds until your kids started opening all the candy on the check-out line shelves.
  • Your son would only wear octopus shirts. You purchased all the octopus shirts that exist in the world. Now he only likes sharks.

Diagnosis: Parenting

Symptom: Back pain

Causes: It could be a slipped disc or the old age you’ve been denying with cover up and sunglasses, but it’s likely something like…

  • The way you sit in your bed at 2:00 a.m. for your infant’s one millionth feeding of the day.
  • How you carry the baby, a toddler, 12 bags of groceries and two book bags into the house in one trip while your other kids tell you how tired their legs are today.
  • The way you perch on the bleachers while you watch your kid play. It’s not until the game is over that you realize you didn’t breathe once because that was your baby out there playing against giants.
  • The stop, drop, and roll maneuver you use to get out of the baby’s nursery at night.

Diagnosis: Parenting

Symptom: Sore Throat

Causes: Sure, it’s possible that you have allergies or a common cold. However, it’s probably because…

  • You asked your kids to pick up their Legos. Three hours later, you stepped on said Legos and screamed for 45 minutes straight.
  • Before you realized there were no kids in the car, you belted out the lyrics to four Sofia the First songs as though you were on stage.
  • You asked your cherubs to find their shoes. You continued asking every five minutes until the end of time, and they still haven’t found their shoes.

Diagnosis: Parenting.

Symptom: Fatigue

Causes: Seriously?

In short, parenting is like a deadly disease or chronic illness. I, of course, encourage you to see a doctor if you have these or any other uncomfortable symptoms. But I also know that you’re a parent, and you likely don’t have time for that.

Maybe a sticker attached to a child’s birth certificate much like those on medicines would make us all feel a little better: “Warning: May cause nausea, trouble breathing, headaches, dizziness, mood swings, abdominal cramping, weight gain, weight loss, anxiety, heart palpitations, sore throat, confusion, chest tightening, fatigue, sweating…”

Related post: Being ill, Vertically

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