Thursday, January 17, 2013

life in the fast lane

This morning, our preschool teacher who has been looking after Henry for a few hours while I work in the afternoon, called to tell me that her daughter was home sick with a temperature of 101.


Whether or not we wanted to bring Henry over was entirely up to us. No sooner did I hang up the phone with the teacher, when it rang again with the pediatrician's office calling to tell me that the strep culture they ran on Henry this past Monday, came back positive.  He was in the doctor's office for something totally unrelated, but they did a culture while he was there because he had been complaining of a "little" sore throat. So this morning, Henry is running around the house pretending to be Spiderman - and I'm thinking about the big meeting I have at 10 AM in the office and I'm stuck with the dilemma of a sick child and work and no support and ....

What do I do?  

I could drop him off at school and pick him up when it's dismissed at 1:00, instead of working until 3:00 like I've been doing every day this week.  Or, I could take the day off.  But I'm in a new job with a new boss and a meeting today to discuss my new responsibilities. Unable to think straight, I call Charlie in California for whatever wisdom and guidance he could offer at 5:45 AM, local time.


My groggy husband suggests that I bring Henry to school because he's been acting fine all week. Then, he suggested, I just go by and pick him up once school is dismissed instead of letting him go to the preschool teacher's house so he's not exposed (or exposing) to the next round of illness.  "Sounds like I plan!" I agreed as I scooped Henry up and dashed out the door.

But on the way to Henry's preschool, a little voice in my head called a Maternal Conscience bellowed, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? You can't bring a child who has been diagnosed with strep throat to preschool!" And then I suddenly remembered that there are two children at his school who have recently undergone chemotherapy and their immune systems could still be suppressed and um, no. So instead of making a left to his school, I instead banged a u-turn and drove straight to my office.    


Henry came with me to my big meeting. In the conference room, there were men in suits and my five-year-old with his little backpack and coloring books. He sat at one end of an 18-foot long table and alternated coloring pictures of pirates and rolling a snack sized apple the length of the table.  My new boss was understanding and accommodating and extremely appreciative that I made it to the meeting, despite my circumstances. 

Following the meeting, I left the office - had lunch with Henry - stopped to pick up his prescription, did some grocery shopping while we waited - and the whole time felt like I was suppressing a panic attack. There is work that I'm supposed to be doing. People are waiting for me, looking for me, needing something from me. This feeling, it's not uncommon. It's so common it's damn near constant. 

Be in the moment, I keep trying to tell myself, as I'm looking at my beautiful child but not really seeing him ... hearing his chatter, but not really listening. Touching his hand, but not really feeling his touch. 

Last night, when I probably should have been managing my time better, I was reading Becca's blog. If you remember, Becca lost her little sister, Julia, this past July in a tragic auto accident.  As it turns out, Becca's father and I worked for the same company.  He retired soon after his daughter died because he probably woke up one morning and decided, "There are much more important things that I should be doing with my life."  Becca, who is expecting her second child any day now, had linked to a post she had written last year about her decision to be a stay at home mother. Her decision, it turns out, wasn't entirely hers.  She was reflecting how ashamed she felt that she couldn't find a job ... and my comment to her was that I'm so ashamed that I haven't given mine up. Especially when I know how much angst it causes me every day ... why do I keep doing it? 

I've overanalyzed this situation to death. Believe me, I know.  But what I've concluded is that there has to be some kind of middle ground. I'm just trying to find it before I have a stroke. 

It happened recently that Carolyn lost the blue ice block that goes in her lunchbox and I told her that she needs her blue ice because without it, her food can spoil and she can get very sick.  I don't think I was very compassionate in my explanation though, because my daughter is crying that she doesn't want to throw up and I'm telling her Well, She Needs To Keep Better Track Of Her Things Then.  

Charlie is informed of this conversation and he gives me a puzzled expression as he says, "Jen. Listen. You can't talk to the kids like they are your co-workers. They aren't PEOPLE they are CHILDREN. You expect way too much from them."

I'm not sure when he got so smart.  But it struck me: the more time I spend with the children, the more I understand them. As a result, the higher my tolerance and the lower my expectations. The converse is definitely true which is that the less time I'm around the children - the lower my tolerance and the higher my expectations. Having a patient demeanor around children isn't something that just happens. It's a characteristic that comes with exposure and experience. And possibly medication. 

On the upside, I spent the entire day with my son and there were some definite highlights.  Like when our security chief gave him a lollipop and he thought the model race car in our lobby was the coolest thing ever... 


Until ..... 


I showed him the real one. 


  1. "showed [Henry] the real one."

    who could ask for anything more ?~!

  2. Being a working (outside the home) mother is so hard, being a single working mother is so hard. I feel your pain. I live in a town where I really don't have any support for emergencies like this either. I am lucky to have an employer that is as understanding as yours though. Not working is not an option for me even though sometimes I wish it were. Don't be too hard on yourself, from what I "see" you are doing a great job raising wonderful children. We are our own worst critics and I am guilty of the same feelings as you sometimes as I'm sure are many, many other working mothers. Best wishes....xxoo

  3. Childcare is SO difficult when they are sick! I swear when we lived in VA the whole month of January I used up half of my vacation time!
    I use the agency Seeking Sitters here in San Diego as a supplement for my lack of childcare days or if the kids are not contagious, but I feel they could really use one more day at home. They are franchised and have 5 in the DC metro area. I can not say enough good things about how professional and responsive they are. My kids have enjoyed all of the girls we've had.

  4. I'm shocked this post doesn't already have a hundred comments because I'm quite sure every working mom knows EXACTLY how you feel. I know I do. It's so hard to change gears from focused, productive member of the workforce to relaxed, in the moment mom. Here's a virtual hug from one split personality to another ;)