The Working Mom Trap

Linda Sharps
Healthy Living
31

Three weeks ago, my toddler came down with a virus, and our house hasn't recovered since. He was only sick for a couple days, but he gave it to his brother, who upgraded a mild fever and the sniffles to a full-blown attack of ... well, whatever it was, it involved a lot of whining and an ever-present puke bucket.

As soon as Riley started getting better, naturally Dylan got sick again, this time with torrents of snot coming out his nose and a smoker's cough. I thought we were finally out of the woods this weekend, until Riley suddenly started behaving like the world's most sullen teenager, to the point where I found myself snapping, "Well, what WOULD make you happy then? Because I CANNOT TAKE THIS ATTITUDE, MISTER."

Aaaaaand sure enough, he woke up Monday morning with another spiked fever and a seal-bark cough to boot.

I'm out of sick time and vacation time, and I already had to take unpaid leave in May for sick-kid duty. My office is understanding but of course there are limits; at some point people stop being understanding and start wondering whether you're an asset or a liability. Meanwhile, my husband has all this enormously stressful stuff going on with his job, and missing work days makes things a thousand times more stressful. 

This is when the balance completely falls apart. This is when all the plates come crashing to the ground. 

I went to work on Monday and I didn't want to. I was leaving my sick boy, I was leaving a frantic husband who was going to try and deal with meetings and investor calls from home. But right now my salary is mission-critical to our household, so I didn't have a choice.

This is when I get jealous of families who manage to make it work on one income. I was happy to be a working mother for a long time, but things are so much harder now. My commute, juggling two kids instead of one, weeks like this one when I'm forced into decisions I hate. If I didn't need my office job, I could just ... take care of my child the way I'm supposed to, instead of being frustrated over temperature readings and engaging in a debate over whose turn it is to call their office for the frillionth time. Or worse, dosing a kid with Motrin and hoping against hope I don't get the call from school, because god knows I've done that too.

I've been round and round in my head like a rat on a wheel lately, trying to figure out how to make things easier. How to hold all the pieces of my life, how to rearrange them into something that doesn't feel like a failure on all fronts. I know things will get better, my kids will be healthy again, and Seattle's awful spring weather will give way to sun and I won't feel so trapped and angry, but right now I can't see my way clear of it. I can't find a way out.

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