Wednesday, January 19, 2005

That Maternal Tug of War

I just had a conversation with a 40-something-old mother which brought back vivid memories. She related that it had taken her two hours to get to work today because of a sick child. Hers is a 12-year-old special needs child who can’t stay with just anyone and who is difficult to manage at best. When the last chance babysitter bailed because of the weather, my friend drove the child to her house and then called her husband and vented.

The most dreaded words for a working mother as her child wakes up are “I’m sick.” All of a sudden, your day’s planned schedule of meetings flashes before your eyes and you start thinking back to whose turn it is to stay home, provided you have a spouse/partner who participates. I’ve been known (and I am not proud of this) to reach for the Children’s Tylenol or even offer special bribes to ease a sniffle or sore throat or reduce a marginal fever. It’s always tricky determining if this illness is real or just an invention to stay home.

My worst fights with David have been over precisely this issue. Inevitably he had an important course or trip or something that trumped my insignificant schedule (or so it seemed). I have a lingering memory of the time when Rachel had chicken pox at age 4. We searched high and low for a babysitter and finally ended up with an 85-year-old woman who could barely move. I was totally shamed when I came home that day and learned that Rachel had cooked her own lunch in the microwave. Bad mother!

Now that my children are grown, I no longer have them to invent reasons for my missing work. There are days when I would like to stay home and have a child to blame it on. We can’t ever seem to get the timing right on some issues!

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