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.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Mothers never get a day off.