The Hardest Part About Being a Working Mom

I’m at work and my phone vibrates. I anxiously look at the caller ID information displayed. Crap. My fears are confirmed; the incoming call is from one of my sons’ schools.  “Hello?” I manage to get out as worst-case scenarios run through my mind.  Is my oldest having an anaphylactic allergic reaction? Is my youngest sick? It’s the school nurse. My youngest son has a 102 fever AGAIN. The routine begins. I leave work in haste (after attempting to create meaningful lesson plans for the substitute teacher taking over my class), rush to pick up my son, try (in vain) to nurse him back health only to inevitably wind up in the doctor’s office a few days later and find out he has an infection. He needs to go on yet another round of antibiotics. Poor kid. I hate to see him sick. This has happened five times in the past few months and this routine has gotten very old. This is the hardest part about being a working mom.

I work so hard taking care of my children. I work so hard teaching my students. I do too much and run ragged too often. I used to wish the work-home balance would be easier. After juggling the two for the past seventeen years, I know the work-home balance won’t ever be easy and I accept that.  I’ve learned to enjoy, even thrive in the chaos…that is until one of my kids gets sick. When my children are sick and need me, I feel like my job suffers.  When my job needs me and my children are sick, my children suffer. I feel like I can’t win and that I don’t do either job well. This is the hardest part about being a working mom. If only I could split myself in two and be in two places at once.

Getting a call from the school nurse isn’t fun.  My oldest son, perhaps determined not to be outdone by his younger brother, managed to pass out in school a few months back. When I received that call, I frantically left work to take my son to the doctor. While the doctor confirmed this incident was a harmless vasovagal syncope episode, it was still down-right scary. My two kids have certainly given me a run for my money lately.

It turns out tonsillitis is the cause of my youngest son’s illness roller coaster ride of the past few months and he had his tonsils out last week.  Deciding to put your child under anesthesia and have surgery isn’t an easy decision to make, but oddly enough, I looked forward to the surgery. Most importantly, I hoped the surgery would reduce my son’s constant illnesses, but I also looked forward to having only one job in the days following the surgery. I didn’t have to be a working mom during the post-surgery recovery period, I could just be a mom. It was GLORIOUS to just be a mom. I made sure my son sipped plenty of water, ate ice pops and ice cream, and took Tylenol around the clock for the first few days, and I did it all with a smile. I didn’t care that I was tired. I wore comfy clothes, whipped my hair into a ponytail, and took care of my son in peace. I didn’t think about work once. I didn’t feel torn. My purpose was crystal clear: take care of my kid. It was that simple.

Pre-tonsillectomy photo. Photo credit L.B.

My son is still recovering from his tonsillectomy and I have two days left with him before I return to work. I’m going to savor these last few days, but I can feel myself repressing the fear that the chaos is about to ensue again.  Hopefully, my son won’t get sick so often after his surgery.  And hopefully, just hopefully,  the work-home balance will get easier and I can leave the work-home-constant sick kid chaotic imbalance behind me. A girl can dream, can’t she?

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