Case in point:
I got back from a conference last week and met up with my family for my husband’s business trip. The plan was that our 3-year-old would be with a babysitter every day for the week while I met with clients and got caught up with my work. Plus I’d get the chance to see friends and arrange play dates so my daughter could see her friends.
Enter good old Murphy.
On Sunday night, my little one came down with a sore throat with a barking cough and fever. Plus my husband’s chronic cough was getting worse. So on Monday, I set up doctors appointments for both of them. When I learned that our daughter had The Croup, I had to put the babysitter on hold.
Suddenly what was going to be an uber-productive week for me turned into 24/7 mommydom.
I began sending out messages to clients to rearrange or postpone calls and meetings even before we checked into our hotel. I was already drowning in work, however, could no longer see the life preserver of a babysitter in my sights. Instead of having seven uninterrupted hours of work every day for a week, I was couped up in a hotel room with Nickelodeon playing in the background, sequestering myself in the hotel bathroom during really important calls that I felt I couldn’t cancel or postpone.
Putting a 3-year-old and a working mom in a hotel room for hours on end is a recipe for disaster. Eventually, she began deliberately doing anything at all to get my attention, even things that she knew would annoy me like hanging on my arm if I tried to type on my computer and banging on the bathroom door when I tried to get on a call.
Our nights were filled with hacking coughs which kept waking us all up so sleep deprivation was added to the general cabin fever and malaise. I finally went to the doctor myself because I was feeling terrible.
“You’re exhausted,” he said. Really?
I asked him if he could write me a prescription for a trip to Hawaii. Alone. He laughed. I was dead serious.
By Thursday, I was cross-eyed with frustration and practically catatonic from exhaustion plus I had a small speaking gig that day. I had no other recourse than to bring my daughter with me. And it was then that she announced to me that resistance was futile.
“I don’t think I’m going to be on my best behavior, Mommy,” she told me with a glint in her eye and smirk on her lips. And she proceeded to prove herself with carefully orchestrated bad behavior. How was I going to get through my presentation?
Luckily, my husband called moments before I was going to speak to say he was on his way to help out during his lunch break. Right before he arrived, I started my presentation only to have my daughter walk up to me with one of her dolls asking me to dress the doll.
“I will in a moment, honey. Mommy’s speaking.”
“Dress Snow White, Mommy!” she insisted. I proceeded to dress tiny princess dolls while discussing blogging for business. I was already to far gone over the edge to think of a logical solution other than biting my tongue until my husband arrived.
That afternoon, our daughter’s cough changed from a bark to a horrible sound full and thick with gunk. I brought her to her pediatrician again and it turned out that she had developed RSV. We headed back to the hotel with a nebulizer and dashed hopes that she was no longer contagious. The hope of a babysitter on Friday was gone. I had a sick child, and I was her mommy and that was that.
Looking back at the past week, still exhausted and drained from it all, I don’t know why I didn’t just shut down the work side of my life and devote my entire time and energy and attention to my daughter. I was so entrenched in work mode, panicked that I would fall even further behind on deadlines or frustrate my team or let a client down that I couldn’t shift into full mommy mode.
Then I think of how “lucky” my husband is because he is so entrenched in old societal stereotypes that the man is the breadwinner and the woman is the homemaker and mommy that he gets to go to work - or in this case, a training conference - and not think twice about leaving me to be with our daughter while she’s sick, even if it means that I missed a full week of work. Somehow, because I don’t go into an office and don’t have a “boss” since I own my own company, my work just isn’t really work in his mind. I know he felt bad about the situation to a certain extent but not bad enough to miss a day of training so I could get something done with my job.
I’m convinced yet again that there is no such thing as work/life balance. I have often called it a “juggle” rather than a “balance,” but in this case, I dropped all of the balls.
What would YOU have done in this situation?
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