July has been a wild month in our house. My never-gets-sick baby has had an ear infection which required a round of antibiotics, then a chest cold which required not only a round of antibiotics, but also twice daily doses of Albuterol. But I’m not here to lament the “oh, poor daycare baby” spiel again (because we’ve already done that). No, this month has brought a new revelation to light.
Earlier this week, I received a call from Miles’ school, letting me know he’d awoken from his nap and was running a fever of 101.4. Not high, but still cause for concern when you’ve already made three visits to the pediatrician’s office, AND we haven’t even had his 15 month check-up yet (that’s next week). An early pick up from school and a visit to our pediatrician was definitely in order.
Working parents, you know what happens next. You call or email the next higher person on your corporate food chain to let them know you’ll be leaving early. You change your voicemail greeting, and turn on the out-of-office response in your email. You let your co-workers know you’re heading out, to which many respond with comments like, “Oh, poor baby!” and “I hope he feels better soon.” Right? Riiight.
The problem with your departure is that it could inconvenience someone else. And you know this, because you can already feel that knot of guilt building in your stomach. But you hope that those who might be inconvenienced are at least understanding; after all, roles reversed, wouldn’t they want the same?
Suffice to say, one of those folks who could be inconvenienced just might be located in an office in which I possibly work.
Maybe a comment was made. Maybe it pissed me off. Maybe rightfully so.
Yes, my son is in daycare, the place where his teachers provide care. They are not, however, his parents, and there is an absolute difference between providing care and parenting. When his caregiver lets me know that a fever has reared its ugly head, Mama Cat (that’s me, obvs) takes over.
I chose his school for many reasons, one being its proximity (two blocks) from my office. It takes longer for Miley Cyrus to stick her tongue out when she sees the paparazzi than it takes for me to walk out my door and get to my son’s school. So that when the time comes for the daycare provider to step out, and the parent to step in, I can be there in a moment’s notice. And you, inconvenienced co-worker, should have seen that one coming.
My husband and I started a family, knowing it would bring many, many easy and wonderful sunshine days filled with smiles and rainbows, but that it would also bring challenges as well. I want to be there for each bruised knee, fall off the bike, broken heart and, yes, fever. There is no place in the entire world I would rather be than snuggling my sweetest boy, whether it’s a hug in the morning or an up-all-night in the rocking chair under a humidifier.
I realized that, no matter where we are, life happens. Whether you’re standing behind a stove preparing dinner, or sitting at a desk consulting clients, things occur that will require your immediate and full attention. There is no separating work from personal; these two portions of your life will bleed together, just like throwing a red sock into a washing machine full of whites. It’s inevitable that you’ll get some pink. And while we can hope that people are understanding, I have also realized that some people just aren’t; and even more than that, some people are going to be jerks about it. Not everyone understands that your life is still occurring (how dare you!) outside of those office walls.
After lamenting this via email to a good friend, I received a response that encompassed all of the thoughts and feelings I had, but could only put into four letter words…
Even though we have the careers we do, it never trumps our families. Our careers enable us to provide for our families, but the job is not a definition of who or what we are.
Yes, yes, yes…a thousand times, yes. I am blessed and thankful for my career, for it has afforded me the opportunity to do so much for our family…but my career is not who I am. Not by a long shot.
I am a wife, and I am a mama. (also, a cat mama.) I am here, present, involved and ready in an absolute instant for whatever life brings our way, no matter when or where it happens.
And those, friends, are the most important things of the very, very many things, that I am.
PS – Miles is totally fine, but we’d like for his molars to come in now, thankyouverymuch. I, however, am still possibly dealing with some static in the office that I just might have made worse by opening my slightly hot tempered mouth and maybe making a comment. Maybe. Mama Cat’s claws come out very easily, ya know…