Do you ever hope that you'll get in a minor accident so you can rest up for a few days in the hospital? If your answer is yes, you're not alone.
I recently conducted a poll asking this question. Of the 141 people who took the poll, almost half of them said yes, they have a "hospital fantasy." Thirty-nine percent said no. The 16 percent who answered "other" left comments like this:
I just want to have the flu for a week or so.
Sometimes I wish for a migraine so I can take my meds and sleep for a day.
I'm scared of surgery. But perhaps a nice stay at a mental wellness place?
Whoa. What's going on here? For me, it all started one evening after dinner at my friend Lee's house. Lee* and I have kids about the same age, and since she's a single mom and my husband often works evenings, we take turns cooking dinner for each other after work every week or two.
Our kids were in the living room, playing a game that involved a lot of giggles and crashing sounds. We were in Lee's kitchen, cleaning up the dinner dishes, when Lee sai:
"I'm so stressed out. I have this fantasy that I'll get in a car accident so I can rest in a hospital."
Lee is one of the most cheerful women I know; this confession seemed completely out of character. I must have looked alarmed because she quickly continued.
"I don't want any permanent injuries. I just need a break. Just a couple days in the hospital. No work, no kids. Can you imagine? I could catch up on sleep. I could read a magazine. I know, it's ridiculous, right?... But doesn't it sound great?"
When you put it that way, it does sound kind of nice.
I have two kids, ages four and eight, and a step-daughter in middle school. I adore them, of course. They and their father are the loves of my life. But like every parent I know, I crave time to myself, and between work and my family, there's never enough of me to go around.
I never had a hospital fantasy, but I can relate to people who do, because a few years ago, I seriously burned out and had to quit my full-time job. Burning out was a blessing in disguise. It forced me to slow down and reprioritize. I'm lucky that I can work part-time now, but I know that not everyone has that option.
I'd almost forgotten about my conversation with Lee when, a few months later, I got an email from someone in Baltimore named Ami. Because I write about the mismatch between the workplace and home, I get a lot of emails from stressed out parents. But this one struck a cord:
...I stumbled back to work when my son was 6 weeks old. He had colic and chronic ear infections, so I really didn't sleep for a year. No exaggeration. I would fantasize about having a minor car accident on the way to work. Nothing serious -- just enough to lay me up in the hospital for a few days so I could sleep! After 11 years of this life, I'm starting to have those fantasies again...
Another hospital fantasy?
Ami explained she was working full time, and trying to take care of a child with special needs. She desperately needed a break, but for a variety of reasons, couldn't imagine how she would get one.
I began to wonder how many other people had this same fantasy. That's why I put together that poll.
What are we to make of this? Obviously it's not a very scientific poll, so we can't say half of all parents have a hospital fantasy. But it's fascinating. Everyone knows our health care system is broken. How much worse, then, is our work culture, if so many of us have this fantasy?
I suspect it has something to do with being massively overworked.
Americans, after all, work some of the longest hours of any industrialized nation in the world. Studies show our workplace stress has doubled since 1985. Those of us with caregiving responsibilities outside of work feel squeezed on both sides. Parents in America experience more work-family conflict than any developed country in the world. Which would explain why many of us are beginning to think like soldiers sent to a war we don't believe in -- we'd rather break an arm or get shot then continue fighting.
I'm curious to hear from Huffington Post readers. Do you have a hospital fantasy? Is this just a working parent phenomenon, or do other people have this fantasy, too? And why is it so hard to give ourselves a break, without actually breaking something?
*Not her real name.