Employee of the Year
I know the moment I wake up that it is not going to be an especially good day. My throat is raw, my body sore and it is all I can do to get us all downstairs and fed when what I would really like to be doing is hibernating under my covers. As the hours progress, things get worse. By noon, I'm barely functioning, shepherding the kids through their daily routine with the minimal amount of effort possible. I feed them lunch, encourage some independent play and finally throw them into bed early for naps, collapsing on the couch as soon as they're down.
The early nap plan backfires, of course, and they're both up way too early, cranky from lack of sleep and bored with the prospect of an afternoon spent hanging around the house. They both want my attention and repeatedly request books, songs, games, the whole nine years. My throat is on fire. It hurts to talk, hurts to breathe even. My body feels like I am walking under water, pushing against heavy resistance with each move I try to make. By late afternoon, I've given up on even trying to make an effort and we're all curled up on the couch watching television, something we rarely do on a normal day. My eyelids are heavy and I'm afraid I'm going to fall asleep. Julia would be fine, but Evan's in a particularly unpredictable and innocently self-destructive stage and I fear for his safety if I happen to drift off. I struggle to stay awake.
Finally, at 5:30, I give in and call Paul. He usually works until about 6, then starts his hour to an hour and a half commute home, arriving sometime between 7 and 7:30. I can't make it that long. "Is there any way you can leave now?" I feel guilty even asking, despite the fact that I know his workday is essentially over anyway. He promises to leave right away, reminds me that the kids won't care if I throw an easy dinner at them rather than a well balanced one just this once, tells me to hang in there. I really must sound like shit.
He arrives home just after 7, delayed by a winter weather commute. I've fed both kids by then, shoveled a few bites into my own mouth and spent the rest of the time lying on the floor watching them play. When he walks in the door, I'm in the bathroom helping Julia to wipe while Evan precariously balances himself at the kiddie table and chairs set, orchestrating a tea party for one. I wash my hands, scoop Evan up and hand him to Paul. "Bring him to me at bedtime and I'll nurse him in bed," I mutter, kissing Paul hello on my way upstairs. "How are you feeling," Paul calls up after me. I'm pretty sure my lack of a response is all of the answer he needs.
I lie in bed, sucking on a throat lozenge, unable to move a muscle, listening to the sounds of my household below. The kids are delighted to see their dad and he's clearly going the extra mile for me. Everyone is happy and well cared for -- pajamas are put on cheerfully, teeth are brushed thoroughly and Julia comes to give me a good night kiss rather than the other way around. I'm unbelievably grateful to my husband -- there is no way I could have done any of this. I nurse Evan lying in my bed as Paul puts Julia to bed, then he comes to retrieve Evan. I drift immediately off into the deepest sleep, not even hearing Paul when he comes to bed later.
The next morning, Evan awakes at about 6:45 and Paul goes to retrieve him, putting him beside me in bed to nurse. Mercifully, Evan dozes off beside me when he's full (something that almost never happens these days) and we all sleep until 7:45, when I look at the clock and realize we all need to start moving if Julia's going to get to school on time. "What do you want me to do," Paul asks. I pause to take stock. My body is still sore, but I can move my limbs without agony. My throat still hurts, but there are embers resting there, not flames. "If you can drop Julia at school on your way to work, I can take it from there," I reply. I force myself out of bed and go to wake Julia, to change Evan, to help Julia get dressed, to feed us all.
In 3 years of motherhood, this is the closest I have ever come to taking a sick day. In all, I missed about 45 minutes of my daily routine and fudged probably another 4 hours or so. If I were this conscientious at a regular job, it would probably earn me Employee of the Year. When I want to return to the workforce some day and potential employers ask me how my years at home will benefit their organization, I'm going to cite this day. Unfortunately, only another mom would know enough to hire me on the spot.