I love to complain about my employment status. For the last six years it has been a top-of-mind – all the time – kind of issue for me. I’m a working mom who is conflicted about that role on a daily basis. I’ll spare you the details of my feelings on the subject, mostly because anyone reading this has probably had to endure at least one conversation about it in real life. Basically, I flip-flop and it’s complicated.
Part of my wishy-washiness on the subject stems from the fact that, despite my complaints, I have a pretty good situation going with my employer. Over the last six years I’ve been able to work things out so that I’m not (technically) working a full 40-hours per week and I rarely have to travel overnight. I’m admittedly a little spoiled by that. I am able to take both the kids to their respective schools each morning and get back in time to pick them up well before most of their friends depart for the day. The schedule is the saving grace.
It’s also the big, fat problem when I’m out-of-town. My flexibility means that we’ve built NO flexibility, nor the expectation for any, into Mark’s schedule. That’s why when I realized I was actually going to have to travel to Washington D.C. for three days last week, it made me nauseous. We always have to rely heavily on the grandparents and sometimes even sitters to make it work. I am always sure that nothing is going to get accomplished correctly while I’m gone and that everyone left here at House Hondo is going to eat McDonald’s three meals per day and cry themselves to sleep at night. (That’s happened before. It’s not a totally unfounded fear.)
I left at o’dark thirty on Wednesday morning and didn’t return until after dark on Friday night. While I was gone I had, if I’m being honest, a really great opportunity to see our nation’s capital up close and personal, tour the White House, meet with Kansas’ elected officials and have a couple of good meals.
I returned after dark on Friday evening, fully expecting to walk into a sad scene – my deserved penalty for having left them all for three days. I anticipated being ambushed by two kids, mountains of dirty laundry and a dirty kitchen. Instead, I found two boys who were happy to see me but were, more importantly, just happy. Laundry had been done, there was food in the refrigerator, Andrew had been to soccer practice, both boys had taken share toys to school, and it appeared they had all even been bathed. Thomas reported that they ate Quizno’s every night but a little investigation proved that claim to be inaccurate.
I went to bed Friday night feeling a little like I wasn’t perhaps as important to the machinations around here as I had fancied myself and that my boys were growing up to a point I hadn’t fully comprehended. That felt bittersweet.
We got up bright and early yesterday to head to the KU football game. We tailgated – twice – and purchased the requisite $4 bottles of water and some nachos before we ever got seated. It was a beautiful day and the boys were well-behaved for our pre-game festivities and settled right into our seats, where they paid attention as the game started and seemed to be enjoying the beautiful day.
The Jayhawks got off to a bit of a slow start, which it turns out was a blessing, because we had failed to mention and/or prepare for the small detail wherein there would be a cannon fired each time KU scored. At first they neither one seemed to notice. Thomas was wearing his standard issue bright orange ear plugs so we assumed he hadn’t heard it and Andrew just didn’t care. You know what they say about people who assume…
By halftime, Andrew was literally begging to go home. He said he was hot, he was bored, he was all kinds of things that would preclude him from staying at the game, which is all a little unusual for him. Mark finally took pity on him and took both boys down to the concourse to cool off and find another drink. When they returned he had found more than a drink. He had also found out that the sudden desire to hit the road was all about the cannon. From there, things went downhill fast. The Jayhawks came out ready to play and Andrew went from anxious and quiet to sobbing and loud, and Thomas followed his lead. At little more than a few minutes into the third quarter we left.
I was furious.
I was selfishly absorbed in the fact that we were about to walk out of a football game our team was winning, on a gorgeous fall afternoon, because our kids couldn’t cope with the noise. Fortunately for us all, my husband was feeling more benevolent and saw the bigger picture. We ended up back at our original tailgate and eventually headed home, well before the game ended.
Andrew loved hearing about my trip and poured over the maps and brochures I brought home. Thomas has spent the last two days carrying around his official US Capitol notepad and pencil like he’s an ace reporter. They definitely got along just fine without me for a few days. The only constant is indeed, change. While I’m hoping not to travel for work again anytime soon, they can all three handle it if I do.
They’re also still little boys. They’re still scared of loud noises and sometimes just want to be at home. Thomas hugged me six times and kissed me eight before I left to go on a short walk yesterday and I was greeted just as warmly from that return as I had been on Friday night.
I should really learn not to jump to conclusions. It appears I’m not obsolete just yet.