Oh girl, I get it.
I took three days off from work after Sam had his tonsillectomy a few weeks ago. Combined with the weekend, I felt good about being home with him for five full days post op and confident that he would be in good hands with Grandma after that. But, by day four, the guilt had already started settling in the pit of my stomach…
When he was doing well that morning: “This is silly. I should be at work. He is fine. I feel like I’m ‘cheating’ or ‘lying’ by being home when he is, clearly, doing well. Besides, my students have a big state test next week, I must be the worst teacher ever for being out right now.”
And when he was doing not so great that night: “I can’t possibly leave him and go back to work yet. He just needs his mom. What if he freaks out and can’t be calmed down? What if his medicines and dosages get confused? I must be the worst mom ever for even thinking about going back to work.”
This is the paradox we working moms live in, isn’t it? Perhaps you know it too.
In my heart I KNOW my kids always come first, and – when push comes to shove – they do. But, the everyday, non-emergency stuff of caring for a sick kid? It’s the worst.
Try as I might to be fully present at home, my mind is always running through the four sets of essays that have yet to be graded: “I should be doing something productive… I’m just sitting here watching Daniel Tiger for the fourth straight episode, but there’s a warm little body on my lap making it impossible to balance a stack of papers, much less focus enough to give them my full attention.” I worry that my supervisors and colleagues think I’m a slacker, and I question – deeply – whether it really is possible to be good at work and good at home.
But then, morning comes, and I drag myself out of bed – bone tired from five straight nights of around the clock medicine dosing and restless sleep – and get to work.
I teach grammar and discuss Of Mice and Men, but in the back of my mind I’m still at home. I’m worrying how he woke up. Was he in pain? Cranky? Did he ask for me? I’m stealing glances at my phone for panicked text messages and watching the clock for a chance to call.
I am never completely at work OR at home. Frankly, it’s exhausting.
Finally, it is lunch time. I call to check on things, and he is eating homemade jello and painting with watercolors with Grandpa. YOU GUYS, he is having so much more fun than he would have been if he’d been home with me. He is in such good hands. He is loved and cared for and known by so many great people. I don’t think he ever has a minute where he questions how much I love him… He just knows – without a single bit of doubt – that I’m not the only one.
Being a working mom is HARD. It’s probably never harder than on the days when your little one is sick. If you’re there right now, I hope you know that you aren’t alone. And you aren’t bad – at either job. You are tough. You are a multi-tasking CHAMP. You, friend, have defied the odds and figured out how to be in two places at once. You do it almost every day. Basically, you are a superhero.
Hang in there, momma… Spring is coming. 😉 #godspeed
P.S. March has come in like a lion at our house if ever there was a lion…Just as Sam was getting back to normal from his surgery, the STOMACH FLU hit. It started Sunday with a very public performance by Nora (motherhood rite of passage?), was followed by an equally elaborate encore from Sam – at my poor in-laws’ house where he was spending the night to avoid getting said virus from his sister – and Jeff, and the grand finale was when it hit me – for only the second time ever in my life – Tuesday morning. Not fun, folks. Not fun at all. Fingers crossed, we are all well now. Sam went back to school today after a full two weeks out. The sun is shining and things are looking up.
One more thing… If you’re a teacher and you liked this post, you should check out this one too: The Pros and Cons of Teaching for Moms