Rob feels a greater need to heal and protect than I do. And because he feels it, guilt transfers it to me. Whether the result of having what he perceives to be a more important or at least higher paying career, or a simple matter of it being the woman's job (which isn't a characteristically Rob approach to marriage or family), there is some expectation that after he has unintendedly guilted me into feeling properly maternal, I will do the right thing. The "right thing" generally being sacrificing my personal and professional needs to do what
Yesterday Abby was on her fifth sick day, which started on Thursday with me staying home with her in the morning, and then abandoning her to be at work for an 11 a.m. meeting. During said meeting, Abby called me weeping to report that she thought she was going to throw up. Does it ever occur to the children to call their father at such moments? I called Rob and told him he needed to head home to be with her, and he did, because he had nothing that conflicted with him doing so. He left the next day for Spring Training. On Friday, Abby stayed home with Jess, our abandoning exchange student who was flying home that afternoon. For which I had to leave work early to handle the drop off. Over the weekend I missed everything I had on my calendar and by Sunday it was clear Abby wasn't returning to school on Monday. And Rob wasn't returning home until Monday evening.
With my calendar filled with back-to-back meetings on Monday, I seriously considered asking my husband to abandon his clients and catch an earlier flight home. (Couldn't someone else take them to dinner and drinks and make sure they made it to the airport? Wouldn't going home to his sick child score major sympathy sales points?) When we spoke on Sunday, however, it was clear no such thought had crossed his mind and that I was correct in not suggesting it. At this point I went through the always delightful internal dialogue that we full-time career moms suffer through:
Dammit. What do I do here? I can't leave her home alone. Even I know that that's not an acceptable solution. Maybe I can find someone to watch her. My parents aren't available. I don't know of any college students who are home on break. She doesn't much like any of the adult sitters her friends sometimes have. I could try to call in from home for all my meetings, but geez, I've only been in this job for a few months and I've already had to work from home on a few occasions. And I've taken time off for some minor medical stuff. And I'm leaving for Italy for 12 days just three days from now. And I have a new assistant director who just started last week. What are they going to think of me if I keep needing special treatment? Burt was an understanding guy; I'm still pissed at him for dying on me. Okay, even though it will cost me in the running for mother of the year, I'm going to have to find someone to watch Abby tomorrow. I'll send out an FA APB and see who can rescue me. Amen! Theresa is free this week. I can take Abby there. But Abby doesn't really want to leave the house. She'd understandably prefer to be at home. It's 7 p.m. on Sunday, who can I find to come over? I'm freaking out. Abby feels bad. She says she'll be okay at T's house. Damn, the guilt.Monday I make it to work. My meetings go well. One of them goes so well it runs late. I didn't bring my phone along. Obviously I'm trying to avoid any possibility of parental responsibility from interfering in my career. When I finally check my phone I have two messages from my son. Who didn't bring his house key. Who has been sitting outside on the front steps in the rain and the cold. For 45 minutes. Without a coat because kids don't wear freakin' coats anymore. He's weepy and sounds like he's dying. He's going to catch pneumonia two days before he leaves for Italy. This trip's going to suck. I should just stay home.
I call Angel Karen A. to ask her to pick up my son. She arrives at our house and he's gone. Angel-in-training Dave M. has picked him up and taken him to his house. This is my life. How the hell do single moms do it?
Fast forward to Monday evening. Rob is home. Ian is home and warm and dry. Abby seemed fine earlier, but now is a weepy mess because she doesn't know what to do to prepare for her field trip tomorrow. I sense another sick day on Tuesday. Rob gives no indication he could possibly step in and guard the castle if that turns out to be the case. Which it is.
Tuesday morning, the internal struggle begins again.
Em said I could take Abby there if I need to. Theresa said she'll be home again if I need her. But I know Abby would rather be home. I don't have any meetings today, I could work from home. But then I'll have to let the dean and my assistant know I won't be in today. I'll be asking for special treatment again. Did I need this much special treatment when I worked at Judson? Why is it so hard for women to ask for what they need? Do men have these issues? Probably not. But then again they never need special treatment because they expect the woman to deal with every child-related problem that arises. And Wednesday morning I have a doctor appointment which means I won't be in until noon. And did I mention I leave for Italy on Thursday? I wasn't going to come in at all on Thursday, but I guess I could work in the office until noon since we're not leaving for the airport until 1:30 p.m. Perhaps that would give me some brownie points to apply to my deficit situation? Damn, the guilt.I stayed home. And I threw in laundry, and dropped off paperwork for Ian at the high school, and went to the pediatrician to pick up a doctor's note for Abby. That's what moms do.
This story is not intended to make my husband look like a selfish bastard, which he is most definitely not. I know that in reality I have it much better than some women. I'm just fascinated by what seems to be a natural tendency or societal expectation that regardless of whose needs are actually more important at the moment, moms will generally find themselves in position to put theirs behind their man's. I'm curious to know if all women, regardless of their salary and job title find they have this experience, because frankly, it's been eating at me for almost 15 years now and I'd like to do away with the bitterness before the kids head off to college. At which time I'll probably be expected to personally deliver vitamin C lozenges and Gatorade at the first sign of a cold. Rob will make sure to let me know when the need arises. He's really good at that.