THE WORKING MOM TIGHTROPE
Is there anything worse than seeing a call from your kid’s nanny, daycare, preschool, or school in the middle of the day? They never call just to say ‘hi’ or to tell you how great your little one is doing. It typically means one thing - your day is not only about to get interrupted, but there’s a good chance you’ll have to throw your plans out the window.
Avi was sick constantly this past winter. Everyone said this was inevitable since it was his first flu season in daycare, but the inevitability didn’t make it any easier. We went through ear infections, the flu, HFMD, and pink eye. And because I was home with Avi most of the time, I got sick too. But it’s been months since his last illness and I had started to forget about that inconvenience and discomfort. I think that made it all the more surprising when my phone rang last Thursday.
It was 15 minutes before my workshop was scheduled to start and I was doing a practice run-through. When I saw the caller ID on my phone, my heart dropped. His teacher told me what I was afraid of, Avi had a fever and had been crying all morning. Someone needed to pick him up. It was the worst timing ever, but what could I do? One option was to do the workshop and pick up Avi an hour later. If I worked in New York City or had a long commute, that’s how long it would have taken me anyway. But since I work from home, 10 minutes from daycare, it seemed wrong to put my work-life ahead of my son’s well being. Thankfully, Jared was home and had some flexibility in his schedule that day, so he picked up Avi and brought him to the doctor, allowing me to do my workshop. I’m incredibly grateful that Jared’s schedule allows for that and I know how unusual it is for both parents to work at home.
Avi got home and was in a slightly cranky, but not terrible mood. He wanted to snuggle and insisted that I sit next to him on the couch while we watched Elmo. How could I say no? So the rest of my day got put on hold. I rescheduled my midwife appointment and my afternoon calls. I sent out a few emails saying that I wouldn’t be available the rest of the day. And Avi and I snuggled. Friday was more of the same - I got some work done during naptime, but for the most part, I had my attention on Avi.
Being a working mom is an impossible balance. I’m lucky that my job offers me a level of flexibility that not everyone has, but it’s still incredibly difficult. When Avi got home, I had to consciously switch my brain from work-mode to parent-mode and I had to make the purposeful decision to shift my priorities. And it wasn’t a one-time process. Multiple times throughout the day, I would think about a work thing or remember something I needed to do. It would lead to a moment of stress, but every time something came up, I would take a deep breath and tell myself, ‘Avi is your priority today and you made that decision.’ Looking at it as a choice that I made for myself helped me to not feel torn between two worlds.
As always in these kind of scenarios, I continue to remind myself that this temporary. It will only be for a short amount of time that Avi wants or needs my undivided attention when he’s sick. That snuggling with mommy on the couch will be the one thing that makes him feel better. I feel like it’s become a bit of a mantra, it’s certainly become a theme here on the blog. But I think that’s because it’s true. Toddler life isn’t easy. It’s emotionally and physically training. But it’s also a time of intense love and connection. A time when you are needed in a way that is tangible and unambiguous. And all of it, the good and the bad, is temporary.
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