Saturday, August 19, 2006

Open for business

Mothers never get a day off.

Mothers can go to work, take weekends to go off with their friends for Girls Only adventures, or leave their kids with a sitter to run errands, but the "On Duty" light on the ol' mommy cab never goes off. We are always Open For Business. Sort of like LL Bean, we never close. A mother is a mother no matter where she is or what she's doing because she is always, in the back of her mind, thinking about her family.

Last week my husband was on a short business trip. He left early one morning and was back late the next night. He was away from home for less than 48 hours. No big deal. As business trips go this was not a bad one, but something happened, or I should say didn't happen, that will make this particular trip stand out in my mind for some time to come.

I did not receive one phone call from him that first day.

In 24 hours I did not receive one call to let me know that his plane landed safely. Not one quick three minute call to ask if I had left our child in a Salvation Army drop box. Not one call before bed to tell me that he loved and missed me.

In the BC days (Before Chicky) we often took separate business trips and, occasionally, circumstances would interfere with our daily check-in calls. At the time it was common. But that was four, three, two years ago BC. Back before we became parents. Now I cannot even fathom the idea of not checking in at least once to make sure that the person left at home knows the one who is traveling is safe and sound. I can't wrap my head around possibly being the person traveling (I could stop right there because I never go anywhere, ever.) and not calling home to make sure everyone there is in possession of all their limbs and most of their sanity.

Because I am the Mother.

Mr. Chicky was full of reasons why he didn't call - mostly good ones. But he is in possession of a cell phone, email, and as far as I know hotels still have phones in their rooms. You can't tell me that at some point, I don't know, maybe when he was on the way to the men's room, that he couldn't take a minute and say "I'm here. I love you. Is everything going okay? How's the baby? I love her too. I'll call you later. Tomorrow. When I have another free moment."

Is it Mommy Guilt? Obligation? Perhaps its control issues that make a mother feel as if she needs to be connected to her home and hearth and family as much as possible (says the woman who has been holding on to leashes for a living)? Maybe it's the stay at home mom in me that can't wrap her mind around the concept of being out of contact with her family for that long.

There are days when I want to chuck it all. I want to run away and just... Be. Just be me. Not Chicky Baby's mother, not even Mrs. Chicky. Me. Take some time for myself and find the woman I once was. I'd like to have a drink and a conversation with her. I'd like to inhabit her skin again and walk in her shoes. And not sensible shoes for comfort, ones with heels. I'd like to take some time to be the woman who doesn't have a child and act accordingly, without a care in the world for someone other than me. I'd like to throw caution to the wind. But I can't do that, because I'm a mother. And once you're a mother there is no on/off switch. You are a mother 24/7 even if you are not in arms reach of your offspring. You are always wondering, thinking, planning, worrying, longing, missing, loving. It may not always be at the front of your mind but it's always there, lingering, in the background. Waiting for it's time to engulf your thoughts.

Of course, a mother can always find the time somewhere to have a moment to herself. After arranging and scheduling and preparing, making meals and calling babysitters, consoling, assuring, and wiping away tears, a mother can go and find some peace with her self. However, when the family needs, she will always drop everything and go to them. Even if there is someone there to shoulder most of the responsibility, she will always be there. It is required of her. She requires it of herself.

Soon Mr. C will embark on another business trip. A longer one this time. I think after the last one I have impressed upon him the need to call, just once but at least once, everyday that he is away. I suppose that is the point to this post, the fact that I needed to make him aware that I expect him to call. I needed to remind him that he must find the time between meetings and phone calls, dinners and trips out with business associates to take a minute and remember us left behind. Me, languishing in obscurity. Chicky Baby, testing the limits of her power and will.

Does this make him a bad father? Uh uhh. No way. He is a wonderful father. However, it's never been his sole responsibility to care for and feed a small child. We have divvied up the responsibilities: Money making and yard work - him, Everything else - me. On the weekends he pitches in with a breakfast or lunch here, a diaper change there. A few nights a week he spends that last hour of the day caring for Chicky Baby while I run off to work. I don't have to remind him as much as I used to that he, in fact, can jump right in and get his hands dirty, but there are times when I wish I could just go on with what ever task I'm in the middle of and know that he was there to take over as needed. Without any help from me.

I know there will come a time when my daughter is less dependent on me for her basic care. There will come that day when our routines are easier and Mr. C and I have all our ducks in row. We'll have taken the years to figure out our roles as parents and hash out what each one expects of the other. It will get easier and more hectic and easier again. But until then there will always be his questions to answer: What should I feed her? What should I dress her in? And I will always be watching, meeting schedules, keeping routines, kissing boo boos, making sure there are vegetables on the dinner plate. Even if I am not physically there.

Because I'm the mother.

And mothers never take a day off.

***************************************************

Added: Mr. C just called from a southern airport to let me know that his plane arrived safely. His exact words were "I'm here. I'm safe. Okay?"

Smartass. He's lucky I got the joke and he's doubly lucky that I love him.

36 comments:

carrie said...

You are completely, utterly right. Even having "me" time, for this mother at least, constitutes a call to "check in" with the hubs to make sure there isn't anything he needs on my way home. Can you imagine if we got a call like that every time we were alone with the kids for a couple of hours?

And, similar situation over here when my husband didn't call after a meeting and following "outing" with the guys that I was unaware of. Hello, I thought he was dead on the side of the freeway and the ironic thing is that he always preaches to me about not answering my cell phone--follow you own advice man, that's all I gotta say.

Carrie

The Zero Boss said...

IMO, you need to plan some days when you flee screaming from the house and give him sole responsibility for 24 hours or more. The days - sometimes weeks - I've been on duty with the chilluns while my wife has been out of town have contributed greatly to the respect I show her.

mothergoosemouse said...

Usually, this is me too. To a T. Always on duty, always paramountly concerned for the health and well-being of the rest of the family, even the other adult.

Something happened at BlogHer though. I think I called home once. Maybe twice. And when I did call, it was extremely perfunctory - hi, I love you guys, everyone okay? I WAS that "me" again - not someone's mommy or wife, but myself alone. It was pretty surreal.

Ashley said...

i wanna go be me too. just for a day or so. but i don't want to leave my little girl. darn that mommy guilt!

Marni said...

Are you inside of my brain today? *sigh* I've been feeling like you for a while now - I can't get a break. And when my hubby does come home and takes my 8 1/2 month old, I want to be right there with him too! He's changing so much now that I don't want to miss a thing - and yet...I WANNA BE ME! Some days I wonder if this is what I signed up for. And then I remind myself...YEP, IT IS! :)

Mom101 said...

I think your point is true even for me, where I'm the one on the business trips and Nate is the one home all day. Mothering is still on my mind, far more than fathering is on his mind if he's, say, on the golf course, or slipping in a puddle of beer in the Redskins bar in town. I wish I could make him understand this. Maybe I'll just email him your words.

Epic post, Mrs C!

PS The not calling? That would have made me crazy. The second the plane hits the tarmac we're always on the phone to each other. Even it's just to say "i'm ok, gotta go." Whatever other issues we have, I'm grateful for that.

radioactive girl said...

Ok, did you channel me for a minute? I went out last night with some friends and before I did, I fed the kids, bathed them, etc. My husband never thinks to do these things. He isn't a bad parent at all, he just doesn't think of the things that need to be done like I do. As I drove home from the mall with my daughter today, I started writing my post (in my head) that would have ended up very similar to yours (only maybe whiney a little bit!)

Great post!

Mommy off the Record said...

*sigh*

I totally hear you. Totally. I feel exhausted all the time from feeling like I'm THE ONE. The one that has the primary responsibility for parenting. It's not that Husband doesn't help. He does. But it's not the same. I take most of the burden. That's just how it is. And it can be exhausting. *sigh*

P.S. I'm sure he'll call you next time. These men are always in "training" so to speak. :)

Her Bad Mother said...

I was JUST trying to explain this to my husband. That no matter what I might be doing, with or without baby, I am always ON CALL. And that I envy him sometimes for being free of this.

But this is motherhood. Would I change it? Truthfully, sometimes I feel that I would. But I wouldn't - WOULD NOT - change the fact of WOnderBaby and that means we're stuck. Happily, mostly, but still. Stuck.

kittenpie said...

I was away from home once since Pumpkinpie was born - less than 24 hours, just a perfect taste of me time, knowing she was fine with her dad. Yes, I checked in that night, but amazingly, I was so busy running around, there were hours where I didn't even think to worry about them, I was too busy and having too much fun. Amazing. But definitely had to check in before bedtime. I'm human, you know.

Mama of 2 said...

AMEN!!

A mother is a mother until the day she dies. And most days I'm okay with that since I love my kids and hubby dearly but every once in a while....I like you would enjoy having a drink and conversation with the woman formerly known as me.

SUEB0B said...

The other day my mom remembered fondly a vacation that we took when I was about 11, where I got dropped at a friend's house for a week and my brother went to camp.

She said "That was the first time your Dad and I had time alone since your oldest sister was born." 25 years before. Yikes.

Elizabeth said...

I have a hard time relinquishing control over to my husband. He is perfectly capable of doing any and every thing that the kids need, and sometimes I have to step back and LET him. I have a tendency to micro-manage.

BlogHer '07 will be an excellent opportunity for Mr. Chicky to get some exclusive parenting time, don't you think?!

Heather said...

That was a beautiful post! My husband is a wonderful father (and husband) too, but as they say, "a mother's work is never done".
And Mike would be in big trouble if he didn't call on a business trip too! I would just worry about him. I'm a worrier. I've always been a worrier (even before I became a mother)!

Mamacita Tina said...

I asked my hubby how he sleeps so solidly every night, and not hear the stirring/crying baby. "I know you will," he says. Ugh, sometimes I hate mommy radar.

sunshine scribe said...

My husband and I just and a huge..HUGE..fight about this exact thing yesterday. Mommy's never get a day off. Ever.

Irreverent Antisocial Intellectual said...

Shee-it. I still call from the grocery store to make sure Genius Child is OK. I have finally trained KAATN to call immediately after one of his SWAT calls was over just so I knew he wasn't dead or shot up too badly. But when he's away? We're still working on that, but we are making progress ... after all, he is still an old dog.
But about the mommy always being on-duty? Right friggin' on. I used to not understand why the man, who has lived with our child for her entire 19 months, could not figure out what she was supposed to eat at what times. Then I realized, it's because I was always telling him - I never allowed him to think for himself.
Perhaps we need to let them figure out on their own, let them play a totally active role for a while and see how that goes. Oh wait, I had to do that for a week in FarsiLand. The child ate PB&J sandwiches and apple slices once the pre-cooked real food was gone.
Sigh.

mamatulip said...

Oh, how I can relate. On so many levels. I often think that I just need time for me -- to strip it all away and just get to the inner me.

It's funny -- Julia asked me today if I was being a mommy and I said, "I'm always a mommy, Julia." I meant it too -- even when I'm sleeping, I'm a mommy. I sleep with one ear open...I know you do, too.

JEnny said...

I totally feel this post. I can't switch of being a mom no matte rhow much I'd like a few minutes off to think solely about me. Sometimes I wish I could change it for awhile...but I don't think I would if I actually had the chance to.

Waya said...

Amen, Amen to this post!! You have summed up in so many words of what I feel every time my hubbie travels, and he'll be off again in Sept. But one good thing is that he never forgets to "check in" even if he's sitting on the runway waiting to take off.

It's up to us Mothers to do every single thing for the children, it's ingrained in us somehow. And I just hope they appreciate what we do for them once they fly the coop.

Pattie said...

Mothers NEVER take a day off...boy, that is the truest statement ever.
I have been upset with my husband for not calling me before on a business trip. He says "Well, don't worry...if something bad happened to me SOMEONE would call you." OK....that makes me feel sooooo much better!

Pendullum said...

Ohhh... I know this one...
A big huge sigh...My husband travels a great deal over the 'pond'... And with time changes and the like... There ae slips...
He now knows how important it is for me to check in...
But his need to check in is entirely different than mine...

But I think Mrs. Chicky you need to take a 'me' break...
You need to take a wee time for yourself...
Plan a we getaway with a friend...
Have Mr. Chicky be the soul caregiver...and make certain that you are at least a 2 hour journey away...
They will be fine...
And it will be a break that will help you rejuice...
It does not matter if it is a cabin or a city... Just take a bit of Mrs. Chicky time...
And of course you can call in...
But that's all...

Robin said...

NO hour lunch break, no clocking out at 6. It seems unfair and it probably is. And as for visiting that former self, it would be great, however becoming mothers has defined us further, our person continues to develop and grow and change and that other person is still in us only somewhat older, wiser, less self involved. You're so right about even if we let her out to play, it's not really her. I sit here blogging to enjoy myself, yet I am listening for a sleeping baby to wake and telling myself I should be cleaning and doing laundry and not leaving my 3 year old to his own devices. I will always be jealous of my husbands freedom, but I will be grateful for the things I enjoy as well. What a great post we can all relate to.Sorry for the novel of a comment.

beth said...

New to your blog. This is so true. We are the mother 24/7. Even while away they are in our minds CONSTANTLY. I really relate to that wanting to get away, even just for a few hours, and be me, the non-mommy version of myself.

I went to a movie actually at the theater - I know, unheard of - and when I got up to go to the bathroom I thought as I opened the door "wait, I'm a mom." I'd forgotten for about half an hour as I paid attention to the movie instead of my baby. And I was relieved when I remembered.

Christina said...

It's so true. When I was at BlogHer, my mind was still drifting to Cordy at least once an hour, wondering what she was doing, what Aaron was feeding her, etc. Even though I was on the West coast, I still felt the need to parent her, even from afar.

lynsalyns said...

Last night my hub called from Illinois and for the first time in our entire relationship he said, "I wish you guys were here. I hate this hotel. I don't like being here without you."

For the first, oh, EIGHT years of our relationship he never called when he was away.

Parenthood changes you, huh? And yeah, Mr. Chicky seems like a smartalec!

julia said...

Wow, I could have written almost this exact same post. TCBIM doesn't do much in the way of child care. In fact, he doesn't do much in the way of anything, really. I'm about ready to start mowing the lawn myself - it's more than shaggy at this point.

Lisa said...

I get pissed at my hubby for doing the same thing. Its just cause I want to know he's safe. So now even if he's crabby as hell, I still get a call. Its a snotty, short call, but at least its a call. :-)

Mommy off the Record said...

Yahoo! At least he called. That's progress!

Mother said...

And don't expect thanks for it either, right?

It's amazing that we choose to procreate. Damnit. We should be rulers of the world right now with all the shit we go through.

something blue said...

Your words are right on the money. There is no mommy off switch. The neon light might flicker a few times before glowing bright green again. (Hee hee I'm a tacky motel!)

Thank you for expressing this so perfectly. I'm adding this to my husband's required reading list.

mo-wo said...

Just simply the most straightforward and accurate description of the motherhood familiar to me! No crap, no apologies.

See this is why you'll never write for Blogging Baby :> and why I love to read da Chicky Chicky Baby.

Jess said...

We're 24 by 7 that's for sure. It never stops.
N. used to travel a lot, and many times overseas. Between the time differences and the crappy cell service I got used to not getting a phone call right away.
Not that I was happy about it, but it's another thing that you accept I suppose.

Michele said...

I know I am probably commenter #99 but thanks for this. I do want tp print it and show it to my husband. I feel like you read my mind.
Its not that I dont want to do it all, but I feel like I have to do it all and do all of the thinking too. I am so very tired. And I completely undersatnd the urge to rewind back to when it was just you. I love my life, but i miss my old life sometimes.

lildb said...

dude, I had that epiphany yesterday. the one that was a flash of light, and a resultant head-spinning fear, wherein I saw my future; the one where I never get a break.

and I tried to figure out how I was not aware of that until yesterday.

(or how I've had so little sleep so as to forget something so mind-bending.)

I'm glad your husband got the point. being left behind is bad enough, w/out having to miss the phone calls.

Michelle O'Neil said...

Good for you for telling your husband clearly what you need from him. My life is so much easier when I do that!

I went on a 7 day retreat last summer. No phones. No electricity. No cell phone reception. I had to completely trust my husband and the Universe to take care of my little ones.

The first night I almost had a panic attack. Literally.


I came back knowing myself better. I came back more trusting, and more in love with my husband. He also was more in love with "me" the adventurer than he had been with "me" the grumpy disappeared woman.

Giving up control was such a good lesson for me (though I'm in no hurry to go to that extreme again)!