Being a working mom means that I sometimes miss important days with my family. Like Everly’s second birthday, my thirty first birthday and Arlo’s first steps. I spent each of those moments in meetings or on work trips. This week, I found myself with a new challenge. After a rotten Monday - a harrowing two hour drive south to the coast during a raging thunderstorm for a marketing meeting, I discovered that the bag containing all of my clothes for the week had been left behind in Raleigh.
I had shoes and underwear and toiletries but nothing to wear except my favorite printed wrap and a pair of yoga pants. I thought I had put the worst behind me as I pulled out of the local mall with a bag of clothes I’d grabbed hastily to get me through. My phone rang. It was Brent on his way to the emergency room with Everly. They were going to going to get her arm and shoulder x-rayed after an awkward fall from a stool in our kitchen.
And there I sat, on the phone 131 miles away from my little girl. Most people would say at that point the logical thing would be to get in the car and drive home. And trust me when I say there is nothing more I wanted to do - but there has been a lot happening within my group at work and this week it was important for me to be visible and to be a contributor and going home wasn’t as easy a request as it might have been a few weeks ago.
Brent and I debated on the phone. “I’ve got it under control,” he assured me “Everly is in great spirits.” I spoke to her on the phone and she told me “I’m brave mommy!” and a text from my mother in law assured me that Arlo had fallen asleep back at our house without issue. I went to our evening event, feeling guilty and clinging to my phone as I waited for an update from Brent. I wasn’t in the mood to chat with my colleagues, and I spent the entire event fighting the innate urge to get in the car and go home.
Brent called at 8:30pm. The doctor said it was a fractured elbow and that Everly would need to see an orthopedist by the end of the week. At 9:15pm, on speaker phone, we both told her that they were going to put a cast on her arm and that it would make her feel better. She was scared and cried, ” I don’t want that!” And at that moment, hearing her frightened cries, I wanted to say - just screw it. Screw the job and the obligation and the reasons I’m not already on the road and back to her.
But still I stayed. Because the reality is that this job- this meeting- my career- It’s just as important to my daughter’s well being as sitting there next to her on that hospital bed. It’s what I have to do for her and for our family. There are many days that I love the work I do and some days that I loathe it. But mostly, it’s a hat I wear with gratitude.
Whenever I want to feel sorry for myself for missing out on moments or beat myself up for not being there to comfort the kids in a time of need, I remind myself that Brent and I both have certain roles and obligations to fulfill for our family. This is mine and I have to buckle down and focus on doing it as well as I can.
Everly had a great day yesterday. She was up and playing all day long and Brent said she barely noticed the cast on her small arm. She chatted with me on the phone last night and I knew I had made the right decision. I promised her stickers and a trip to build-a-bear to honor her bravery when I get home.
I always think about the phrase that my friend Rachael once told to me when I was sad over missing out on something with one of the children. “You are doing important work.” she reminded me. It’s a powerful phrase and something I tell myself often these days.
Be it in an office. Or on a plane. Or the library. Or in the quiet of a baby’s room.
This is important work. All of it. What Brent does and what I do. It’s not always easy and it’s not always fair, but every day we do the best way we know how.