I try to be a good mom and good at my job. It means you have to be flexible at times – like when you leave work early to be with the kids after school and you have to get your work done late at night or in my case early in the morning. (I work hard not to send emails before 7am, but sometimes I stockpile them and hit send all at once. So gratifying…). I am fortunate to have a somewhat flexible job, so I can take time off, for example, to take the kids to appointments or see an afternoon presentation if it works with my schedule. Sometimes I don’t even have to try to be a good mom – one night in Vancouver, I woke up out of a deep sleep and texted a reminder to Kevin about Kathleen’s orthodontist appointment. When I eventually woke up, I texted again to ask if he would have remembered without me, and he pleaded the fifth. My point is that I believe there is some mechanism deep within women that helps us be good Moms, without always trying.
But all of this runs off the rails when someone gets sick. Now I have already written about the time Jacob barfed at boarding school, and about the time I barfed when we were first married, so it is only fair that I write about Kathleen’s barfing at home experience … clearly this is a theme for me! Something about that experience that forces the big questions…
So there I was Sunday night holding back Kathleen’s hair as she lay with her head in the toilet. Poor thing knew it was coming and, based on what was going around, I knew it would happen all night. I was faced with a choice: I knew my Mom (who typically drops everything when the kids are sick) was not in town; I knew Kevin had a big meeting but could be home for parts of the day (I had already checked); and so I had this dilemma. If I canceled my trip to Vancouver, I could be an excellent Mom to my teenaged daughter. But this was a pretty important trip for me, with two days of meeting with students, admin and boards…which are tough to reschedule….my board chair was joining one of the meetings… never a good idea to reschedule a volunteer….But then what if I got sick? Do flights still have barf bags? Do they even call them that?
I decided that this was not a life-threatening illness; her father would be there with her at some points, and she would be fine to stay home alone. But the motherhood guilt about leaving had kicked in, so I got up three of the next four times she got up, which meant I was in pretty rough shape myself when my alarm went off at 4:45am. As I left the house, I felt incredibly guilty. Then, when I got her first text, and she told me that she was hoping to watch Dance Moms, I felt ready to nominate myself for Worst Mother of the Year Award…
My point is that doing both requires a strong support network and tough choices.
Much as I would have liked to be home to bring her soup in bed, I think she benefitted from taking care of herself and filling her day – she actually chose to watch a documentary on North Korea so she could understand the hype about The Interview. (If you haven’t checked out the free-range kids movement, Skenazy’s new show aired last night.) I hope she will come to learn that women – in particular – have to reprioritize sometimes when things don’t go as planned.
As for me? I am trying to focus on the recent discussions about the need to take a long view of “balance” in our lives, and hoping that the same can be said of parenting.