Two weeks back I took one of those “emergency” vacation days. Made the call at 7 am. I felt like a school superintendent calling a “snow day” except 1) I’m not a kid and 2) doing it only provided a tiny bit of relief, not the euphoria we used to get as kids with a snow day. Nothing particularly bad happened. Just everything hit the fan all at once it seems.
Honestly, I don’t know how people do it. For starters, the evening before I drove our puppy and two youngest kids home from a visit to see family, taking four hours in the nightfall, snowy slush with bad windshield wipers for what should have been a two-hour drive home max. I’m a pretty good driver in the snow, if I say so myself. Even my Utah-born husband, who knows a thing or two about snow, is amazed at my nerves of steel and skill driving in snowy weather, inclement weather of any kind, or heavy traffic, all honed from years of travel across the country for work. But still, four hours of 40 MPH, the constant sound of your tires cutting through massive amounts of slush, and skittish drivers on the road with you is enough to unnerve anyone. I collapsed in a heap once I got home.
On the way home, our daughter announces that her grade school Art Club is meeting Monday morning at 7:30 am, instead of its regular Wednesday morning, to make plaster masks they will decorate so she needs 1) a shower cap, 2) hand towel, and 3) jar of Vaseline. This is the art equivalent of hearing your kid has a science fair project due the next day. All this would be fine if we were getting home at a decent hour but I heard it in the middle of an evening snow squall and I wasn’t sure what time we’d be getting home. Then I realize that art could conflict with her orthodontic appointment at 8:30 am (which turns out was really 9 am) but being a mom who understands how FUN the whole project could be, I wanted to make it work for her. We would try to do both, and I tried not to panic or lose it.
My husband was supposed to take her to her ortho appointment, and I was counting on it for weeks, but he had missed Monday morning work at one of his three contracted schools for three or four weeks in a row, and that Monday would have been yet another incident. We’d rather he not get fired from that school contract for being a no-show (reputation and integrity matter a lot, you see….), so I sat at home late the night before and very very early the morning of the impromptu vacation, trying to figure out how I could work from home and do all I needed to.
It feels a little backward to find ways to help him with his work with me being the breadwinner, but there are days when I have flexibility at work, and that has not always been the case, so I hang my hat on that thought and try to make it work.
Our sitter, who usually takes the kids to and from school in the morning, works another job and often has appointments for her own personal life. She’s entitled to a life outside of the help she gives us. I just couldn’t ask her at the last minute to be late for her obligations to help us out. It makes me sick to my stomach to ask for help. It really does. I just couldn’t do it.
Did I mention that my husband said to me, also late the night before, “Oh, [our oldest] has an orthodontic appointment in the afternoon to get fitted for a replacement retainer,” he lost last weekend on our trip to get the puppy, “and I don’t think I can get him there after all.”
And then I realized, OMG, I had an eye appointment that same afternoon myself.
Really? Really. Really?
I was not ready for it to be Monday. Really I wasn’t.
I have the flexibility to work from home in situations exactly like the one described above, but I feel GUILTY doing it, even with my boss’ blessing and her boss’ blessing, even though it’s perfectly acceptable to do on a periodic, as-needed basis, or even a routine basis…but nothing about the way I’ve been doing seems to fit either category. I don’t want to abuse the working from home capability, you know? And God knows I don’t need anyone at work to feel resentful about what I’m fortunate enough to be able to do, especially if their current role does not allow for the same, because believe me, not everyone’s role allows them to do this.
I mean, for heavens’ sake, I had just spent the week prior working from home to acclimate a new puppy to our house! I jokingly called it “PETernity leave” (see Puppy-Parent Pooped), which is just a play on words because honestly I was working. True, it took me longer to put in a full day’s work any given day, and then there was a point on both Wednesday and Friday where I just passed out on the sofa because: EXHAUSTED? (Seriously, we bought this sectional for our family room that is better than a Tempur-pedic mattress. I can’t sit on it even a tiny bit tired because it wraps its soft, velour upholstery around my body and lulls me to sleep.) I HAD to claim a half day of vacation just from that time I am not going to make up in any way.
Are you starting to grasp what I’m dealing with here? I mean, WHAT? How does all of this just RAIN down on us the way it does? I guess I knew about the ortho appointments, both of them. And my eye appointment. But I didn’t realize they were all the same day! And throw in Art Club….
How do people actually work with kids? My husband’s missed a ton of work lately, visiting his mom, being sick himself earlier in January (or maybe that was December…I can’t even remember because it’s just a big, giant blur), then there were snow days…
We DO have an official policy on workplace flexibility, and I am very fortunate I’m in a role where I am no longer in the back to back meetings daily like I used to be, in a job that had an unrelenting pace. That’s when I felt compelled to push-off doctor’s appointments as long as I possibly could, or even sent our sitter to take the kids to appointments I should have attended as the parent… That’s just wrong, but when you have no backup…what do you do? In the meantime, my employer has loosened its grip on a cultural norm that all meetings were to be held face-to-face. They’ve provided a number of technology tools to facilitate remote/work from home meeting, so not only is it ok, they enable it.
So my impromptu vacation day? I spent it at home, writing most of what you’re reading right now (to let off steam), and then running to appointments throughout the day. I got about two hours of effort in for work because there were some things that I absolutely had to tackle that Monday, but otherwise I took full day of vacation.
And why did I put in those couple of hours of work? The very next day, Tuesday, I would show up late for work because I had a two-hour diagnostic breast imaging/mammogram in the morning. Here we go again. For the 2nd year in a row the medical team found interesting stuff they want to explore further. I went through a needle biopsy last year (see The Biopsy Blues) and they found nothing but there I was hearing that maybe something is going on after all. I didn’t even have time to think about it. I figured I would deal with whatever that would mean for me when the time comes, but karma has a way of kicking you in the butt. More on that in a post yet to come.
I mean, I know I need to take a deep breath. Pray. Meditate. Clean the house. Something. I missed about a month of church at this point, traveling for two of those weeks, dealing with a snow storm a third, and just flat-out run-down a fourth. Gosh, run down? Imagine that.
I know I’m preaching to the choir. I know this is what having kids is like. This is what working is like. Plenty of people have it WAY worse. I have several friends who’ve lost a parent recently, friends who are dealing with illness that runs the gamut of mildly inconvenient to life-threatening, and loss of income that goes with it. That stuff is REAL. I’m just an overgrown baby, whining…
It’s just, I haven’t been working out, I’ve been eating terrible food, I’m sleep deprived, I have a headache, and I’m feeling hugely guilty about not being on-site at work when we have a tough issue I’m trying to help us solve and the answer just isn’t coming easily. And I take things WAY too seriously. I can’t wait to get back to a normal schedule.
I think I need a nap. Thanks for letting me vent. If you see yourself in me, and that makes you feel better, good. If you don’t see yourself in me and you think I’m crazy, but it makes you feel better about yourself, good!
I leave you with this thought from Dr. Brene Brown, who has so much to teach us. I heart her. And courage is my word for 2019.