You may have noticed that it’s somewhat feast or famine when it comes to the blog. Two weeks go by and…nothing, then all of a sudden there’s three posts in a week.
As it turns out, this is a fairly good reflection of my work schedule. As a hospitalist, I work for somewhere between four to seven days in a row and then have a chunk of time off. When I work it can be consumptive and then when I get to the breaks, it’s time for me to resume life as I enjoy it. For the most part, it’s worked well.
Lately, however, work has been nothing short of oppressive. Due to a convergence of circumstances, we’re short-staffed and busier than usual, especially for summertime. I’m so frazzled by the time that I get home, that I can’t stand for anything not to go perfectly. I mean, I leave work to go home and be with my family, which is what I really want to be doing, right? But my four-year-old and two-year-old clearly did not get the memo and proceed to behave horrifically, which means that I spend the one hour I have with the girl (who still goes to sleep at seven) and two hours with the boy–I spend this time irritated, annoyed, and angry. Voices are raised. Okay, my voice is raised.
Hospital work also occurs at a constant decibel level of about one trillion. This means that when I get home, all I want is silence. Again, my children did not get this memo either. I really need to work on a more effective intra-home mail delivery system.
Of course, this all adds to the guilt I feel in that I’m spending so little time with them when I work. In general, I don’t feel a lot of guilt as a working mom. Almost all of the studies I’ve seen show that parents (stay-at-home or not) nowadays spend more time with their kids than stay-at-home moms (because back in the day there were almost no stay-at-home dads) used to. For me, it’s important that my kids see that their mom works outside the home. I don’t mean to discount stay-at-home parents at all, and I know that this is a sensitive subject, but for me personally I want my kids to know that both mom and dad can have professional careers.
But when I’m feeling overworked, the guilt really sets in. I tear out of the house early, hoping that I can leave work earlier (which never happens) so I barely see the kids in the morning. Then, when I get home, I’m so exhausted and in such a bad mood that I can’t even enjoy any of the time I have with them because the kids fail to act as if they’re in an episode of “The Donna Reed Show” and act like normal preschoolers, which involves a lot of screaming and the word, “NO!”
To add to the plate fullness, I’m training for a sprint triathlon, and the girl’s Montessori teacher has decided that she’s ready to potty train, which means that our laundry load has increased exponentially.
I do my best to turn everything around, and realize that in every negative there is a positive. Perhaps my job is busy and stressful, but at the end of the day my work is meaningful and helps people, and moreover I have a job when so many are struggling to find one. My kids may stress me out also, but this means that I have two kids, when some struggle to have any. That I can train for a race means that I’m in good health and can find the free time to do so, even if time is tight. And even the laundry means that I have clothing to wash, easy access to a washing machine, and constant electricity and water that I never have to think about.
I’ve been away from work for two days now, and the depression is just beginning to lift thanks to a combination of hanging out with friends, exercise, time away, and just remembering how much I love these little kids.
Tonight, the boy was sick. Probably some generic virus, hot fever. He called for me. As he lay in bed and I daubed his forehead with a cool cloth, I said, “You know, kid, I love you more than anything.” “I know,” he replied.
I thought he had drifted off to sleep and I began to walk out of the room. I heard a scratchy gravel voice call after me, “Mom, I love you so much too.”
And that sort of brought everything right again.