This Thursday it happened. I was walking from my office to my car reveling in my accomplishments of the day. I’d given a great presentation. I was creating a valuable partnership with our CIO. My curling offsite the day before had been a really great team bonding event. Kudos were flowing. Yep, I was pretty awesome. Then my phone rang. It was my husband asking if I had remembered to pick up our daughter. Our daughter who had finished play practice 15 minutes earlier at school, 40 minutes away from where I was. Our daughter who I hadn’t forgotten in 6 and a half years.
My stomach dropped as I realized what I had done. The other line rang. It was a friend of ours who’s daughter was in the same class. (We’ll call our friend E.) I clicked over. E was calling to tell me that another mom, S, had called her because S didn’t have my number. My daughter was with S, and S was willing to take her home, or E offered for my daughter to go to her husband’s classroom to wait for me. (His name is K.) I took her up on the offer of going to the classroom. I called S, thanked her for saving my daughter and asked her to take her up to K’s classroom. S agreed and said she was happy to help. I then called my husband who headed out to get our daughter from school. All this happened in less than 10 minutes, and by the time I was in my car, 30 minutes from school, I knew she was safe.
As I drove home I felt horrified at myself, awfulized what could have been (my own specialty), and then realized that it was all okay: really honestly okay. The village had made sure my kiddo was safe.
This is the schizophrenic life of a working mom. There are a lot of balls in the air. In one half of your life you are a rock star and in the other half you cut corners. Then you flip it. This week I missed my daughter’s weather presentation and forgot to pick her up. The week before that I skipped out of work two days to help take care of my sick brother. Two weeks from now I’m missing spring break for a work trip, but that Friday I’m skipping another work meeting to spend the last day of spring break at home. It’s constant negotiation, and I am so lucky to have a job and a family situation that gives me this kind of flexibility. My mantra is “You can have it all, but you can’t have all of it all the time.” That’s easy to say and hard to live. I make mistakes. I cut corners. Sometimes I totally mess up. I am way too hard on myself, but I’m working on it. Perfection just isn’t a reasonable expectation anymore.
I wouldn’t trade it though. I wouldn’t give up my job to ensure that I never missed a pick up from school. (Because the truth is, I probably would forget her at some point. My mom forgot my brother once and she stayed home with us.) I love my daughter, but I know if I was home all the time I would get sucked into her life. I’d become a helicopter parent because I wouldn’t be able to separate my life from the most important person in my life. I also know that one of the things that helps me be the best mom I can is my mom network and lots of those ladies are in the office. I couldn’t give up my deep, meaningful conversations about our families in the 2 minutes it takes to pee.
Stall 1: “My daughter was diagnosed with a severe learning disability.”
Stall 2: “Oh no, how did you find out?”
Stall 1: “Testing at school” FLUSH
Stall 2: “Do you have someone you can talk to?” FLUSH
Sink 1: “No. This really sucks.”
Sink 2: “I am so sorry. I have a friend who is a child therapist. Do you want her number?”
Sink 1: “That would be great.”
Sink 2: “I’ll send it before my next meeting starts.”
Sink 1: Drying her eyes with the wet paper towel, “Do I look okay.”
Sink 2: “A little red-eyed, but no one will notice.”
Being a mom is hard. I have harshly judged others for mistakes I then made. I strive to be patient with myself and all the other parents I know because all the choices are hard. All the decisions have upsides and downsides. We all do our best, and then help others when they aren’t doing their best. A working mom, a stay-at-home mom, another working mom, and two working dads all helped make sure my kid was safe this week. While I don’t EVER plan on doing that again I’ll sleep a little better knowing that my nightmare actually had an okay ending.