by Aimee Carson
Six years ago I tried to take control of my life (ha!). After eight years as a working mom in a busy pediatric clinic, I decided to go part-time. And not just a three-day workweek kind of thing. Nope. That would be too normal. Cue me traveling once a month from my house in the Black Hills of South Dakota to the Alaskan bush to work as a hospitalist. It was gonna be GREAT. One week on, three weeks at home being superdeeduper, June Cleaver, stay-at-home mom. *cough*
Delusional dreams are wonderful, aren’t they?
Now on paper all this sounds wonderfully exciting. And it is. Mostly. Well, sometimes anyway. But for those of you who are thinking “wow, I wish I had HER schedule” (and trust me, I KNOW it’s great), I thought I would post a 24 hour snippet from my diary (had I been ambitious enough to keep one).
6pm, Friday night: exhausted and irritable after eight days of almost nonstop work, check out to oncoming doc. Make sure they know to follow up on the kid in room 103. Cranky kid. Crankier mom. Me, the crankiest of all.
6:30 pm: rush back to apartment to pack and get to the airport on time. Ticket messed up again. Smile at Alaskan Airline attendant who knows me by name and how to fix my chronically screwed up travel. Thank her profusely and promise to send her wine, cuz—hey!—it’s a dry town. No damp, actually. But mostly just really, really cold.
7:30 pm: through airport security where I must unload my TWO laptops, my bag full of (supposedly) potentially lethal cosmetics, my shoes, my belt, my mongo-sized coat, oh . . . and my pillow. Everyone behind me in line is now complaining. Honestly, a not-so-friendly frisk or a we-can-see-all scanning machine sounds like heaven.
10 pm: arrive at Anchorage airport with three hours to kill. And I know JUST what to do. Whip out pillow and traveling alarm clock and sleeeeeeeeep!
1 am: feeling like one of many dazed and drugged farm animals, shuffle aboard plane bound for Salt Lake City. The airline staff is NOT as friendly. But who is friendly at one am? And why oh why, with my travel often made MONTHS in advance, do I wind up in the ninth circle of hell middle seat? Passenger to my left doesn’t smell so nice. Then again, I’m sure I don’t either. Passenger to my right is taking up her seat—and half of mine. Three hours later my neck hurts, my back aches, and I’m exhausted and too uncomfortable to sleep. With one more hour to go, enter into “I would sell my liver for a bed” phase.
7 am: two hour layover which is just long enough to wish I were dead.
9am: board last flight bound for home. Manage to catch fifteen minutes of sleep. Or maybe I simply slipped into unconsciousness.
11am: crawl out of last plane and into the arms of my waiting family!! Three teens talking at once while my husband and I are trying to hold a conversation. Nonstop chatter ensues on the forty-five minute ride home. My ears have NOT acclimated to the constant talking. Husband smiles at me, sensing my pain. “Welcome home,” he says. My beautiful house comes into sight, and I hear my bed calling to me like a siren. And as we all tumble out of the car, my twelve-year-old son turns to me with his trademark impish grin, happy I’m home (absence does make the heart grow fonder, you know) and says . . . “Mom, come jump on the trampoline with me!”
So what do I do? Well, I’ve been gone for eight days, so guilt prevents me from putting him off. So I spend the next hour pretending I’m not an over-the-hill mom in desperate need of nap. When play time is over, I gratefully drag myself to my glorious, glorious bed.
Now, I love being a mom and I enjoy my kids. But some days are harder than others. And although the above example is pretty extreme, every time I fake the joy, I feel guilty.
So how often do you pretend you’re having fun with your kids? Once a week? Once a day? Every thirty minutes?
And what I really want to know is this: am I allowed a certain number of I’m-not-really-having-fun moments before I DON’T have to feel guilty about it?