Out of Practice


Dear Courtney,

I can’t tell you how often I miss work in the exact ways you described in your last letter!   I often fantasize about how the house always seemed so much tidier, how I could stop at the store BEFORE I picked kids up from daycare,  how I had a house cleaner…

Last Friday I got to go to work again.

A local school asked me to present at their professional development day. If there is anything I love more than teaching kids, it is working with teachers. I spent a week of evenings planning my session, sifting through resources, emailing with the coordinator to settle an agenda. The night before, I tried on different outfits; school PD days are casual, but I wanted to look good. I finally settled on a white button down, a bright yellow cardi, dark denim, heels, and a chunky turquoise necklace. I went to bed excited; I felt prepared.

But I forgot. I forgot what it means to be a working mom. I forgot that no matter how prepared you think you are, something always makes you scramble.  In my experience, the word that best describes the working mother is HURRIED.

(Okay, in fairness, that word describes motherhood generally, but working motherhood especially).

Friday took every opportunity to remind me.

Overnight the baby got sick; he screamed for a half hour, every hour, the whole night. When the alarm rang I was beyond tired, but I decided resolved it wasn’t anything coffee and adrenalin couldn’t fix. I stumbled into the kitchen and discovered I didn’t set the timer on the coffee maker. Oh well, I thought, no big deal; I’ll just do it now.  We have one of those fancy pots that grinds the beans right before it brews. I love it. But it’s picky; you have to make sure it gets cleaned well or the grinder jams.

Yeah. Friday morning, the grinder jammed.

I was annoyed, but I still felt pretty optimistic.   I had this little “high” from all the time I spent using my brain to prepare for that morning. I felt confident in my presentation, and I was looking forward to the day, to feeling professional and intelligent.

While I waited for the coffee to brew, I reviewed the schedule. The sitter would arrive at 8:30– leaving pleanty of time to stop for a latte on my way; I would present from 9:00-11:30, then at 12:30 Bugaboo had a final playdate with her best friend, who is moving away this week.  Plenty of time for everything, I thought.

The morning flew. I rushed to get the kids up and dressed. J rushed to meet his bus, and I got the kids’ breakfast.

It was then I noticed how often Guy Guy was tugging his ear.

I wanted to ignore it.  I wanted to pretend the tugging combined with his overnight screaming didn’t add up to an ear infection. With a sinking heart I knew he needed to see the doctor.

I glanced at the clock, the office wouldn’t open until 9, by then I‘d be presenting. And even if we could get an appointment, when could I take him? I didn’t want to flake on presenting, and I REALLY didn’t want Bugaboo to miss her last chance to play with her friend. I texted J. “Any way you can take Guy to the Dr.???” I texted again, “And can you call to make the appt.?”

I waited anxiously for his reply.

My phone buzzed; I grabbed it, but the text wasn’t from J, it was the sitter, “Confirming you want me at 9:30, right?” I looked at the clock again, 8:10.


I could feel the stress move up my back as I responded to her.

After a little more back and forth, J and I figured out a plan to get Guy to the doctor; the sitter showed, and I still left the house with enough time to stop for that latte.  Success!

As I pulled-in to the school parking lot I felt pretty pleased with myself– despite everything I’d kept it together and made it to work in the nick of time.

Then my phone buzzed again.   It was the sitter. “Please tell me you have a key hidden outside.”  We don’t.

I looked down at the dashboard,   8:56 and 40 degrees.  Damn, I was going to be late after all.

In the end, it all worked out.  I rescued the sitter and the kids from the backyard.  I was a few minutes late, but I made it to my presentation (and I think it went pretty well!). Bug kept her playdate. Guy saw the doctor.  We survived the day.

As I went to bed that night I had a better memory:  When I worked, I could stop by the store before the daycare, but it was usually to pick up dinner because I’d worked late and didn’t have time to make something.    Our house and Bugaboo’s room were picked up, but she rarely had time to play in them.  I had a house cleaner who came twice a month, but only because when I didn’t, we never had family time on the weekends.

It’s funny how I remember the ease of those things;  I remember how they made my life more simple at the time,  but I forget the struggles that made them necessary in the first place.

There’s nothing wrong with working motherhood; many women have/ want to work.  Until recently, I did– we both did.  I enjoy work.  I enjoyed working this past Friday.  But it was a good reminder that whether you’re a working mamma or a SAHM (or something in between) there are stresses and hassles to be overcome.  The grass may look greener on the other side, but it only green because of the rain.  I have to keep reminding myself, the things that were good about working did not come without trouble; the same way that the best things about staying home don’t come trouble free.

Though, I wouldn’t mind if my side of the fence had a house cleaner!!!  And a sick day or two!



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