As a full-time working mom, I’ve gotten used to dropping Beanie at daycare five days a week. I’ve gotten to know his teachers and the other babies in the nursery. Truth be told, I look forward to spending a few minutes every day in the nursery with Bean. It gives me a chance to see how he’s doing developmentally and I’m able to chat with his teachers about Beanie a little bit. I’m proud of both of us for having lives away from each other.
HAVING SAID THAT… I’m convinced there is nothing harder in my world at this moment than having to put Beanie in daycare when he’s sick. Its one thing to have someone else playing with him during the day while I’m working. But having someone else take care of him when he’s not feeling good just un-glues me. That should be my job. I’m his mom. You are supposed to be with your mom when you don’t feel good.
I find though that I have the problem deciding if Bean should stay home from school as I do deciding whether I should stay home from work when I’m sick. On one hand, he’s not dying. I mean, he could actually go to daycare today and be fine, I’m sure. But he’d be coughing on everyone. He’d be tired and he doesn’t nap well with all the nursery commotion all day. And he’d just feel sick, you know?
After a long night of poor Bean waking up coughing and finally ending up sleeping in his swing in our bedroom, I let him sleep in this morning. I sent an email to my boss saying I would be in a little late. When Beanie finally woke up around 7:30, he seemed more rested and he looked happier, but that darn cough was still there. And it was nasty. So I did what I always do in these kinds of dilemmas.
I called my mom.
For some reason, I still feel like I need my mom’s permission to stay home from work. Every time I don’t feel good, I call her and tell her what’s going on. I know it must seem to her like I’m calling to wallow in my sickness, but really I’m just waiting for her to say, “Kate, you should probably stay home today.” Only when she suggests it do I really feel like its okay for me to stay home. And with Bean its not any different. I just need my mom to tell me what to do and then I feel legitimate.
When I talked to her early this morning and told her what was going on, she and I both decided that I can’t stay home every time Bean has a cough. As much as I want to, I’ve got to learn how to live and work with a baby. And part of that means he’s going to be sick sometimes. But he’s not running a fever and this seems to just be a cold, so it is best if I take him to school and I go to work and save the day off for a day when he really needs it.
After we talked, I let Bean continue sleeping and I jumped in the shower and got ready for work. I was completely dressed, fully made up, jewelry’d, shoe’d. I was ready to go. But when I went to wake Beanie up and get him dressed for school, I stood in front of his swing and I started crying. (Give me a break…I had been up all night and I was exhausted!) I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take him to school and drop him off with his teachers – however wonderful they are – and go about my day. For one thing, this pig flu thing is going around and as stupid as I know it sounds, I am a little panicky that Bean might get sick. So if he’s showing ANY signs of a sickness, that becomes even more of a concern for me.
But more than the pig flu, there is the guilt. Ahhh…always the guilt. I used to feel guilty about missing work. Even if I was sick, I felt like I wasn’t pulling my weight if I wasn’t there and the guilt got me every time. But NOW, that guilt is still there but it is dwarfed by the guilt I have of putting Beanie in daycare when he doesn’t feel good. So in these guilt-ridden situations where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, I’m going to always err on the side of Bean.
So, I got undressed and put on jeans and a sweatshirt and now I’m sitting at my office at home with a sleeping, sick Bean next to me in his swing. And I think we both feel better already.
Being a mom on even the easiest, most normal days is hard. But being a mom when you have to use your judgment for more tricky decisions is really, really hard. Finding the balance of working and being a good mom and doing what’s best for my son is not easy. I’m sure it will take a while before I make the choices with more confidence. I know that somewhere deep down, I have that mother’s intuition. I just wish it had a little louder of a voice so I could hear it better.