Thursday, April 15, 2010

When Not Being There for Your Kid is a Good Thing

Yesterday morning I found myself in one of those typical working mom dilemmas. The Boss woke up with a sore throat.

In my decade of being a working mom, I've been in this situation dozens, maybe hundreds of times. Normally it's not a big deal -- I can easily work from home. But yesterday happened to be one of those rare times I really needed to be in the office.

Thanks to my decade-honed mommy super powers, I knew this sore throat was likely just a viral thing. There was no fever and although her tonsils looked swollen, I'd definitely seen worse. But I felt it best to at least get it checked out.

"Boss, we'll go to the doctor this morning, but if you don't have strep, we'll get you some Tylenol and drop you off at school."

Her little face fell. She had counted on staying home for the day. My inner mommy voice and the working mom guilt immediately kicked in: Look at her. She doesn't feel well. Her throat hurts. Maybe I should let her stay home. My poor baby!

But then something else kicked in. I don't know what it was. Maybe it was the frustration of being caught in that situation for the gazillionth time. Maybe it was my inner professional voice screaming "But I really need to be at that meeting! You know she's perfectly's just a little cold!" Before I could stop myself, I turned around and these words flew out of my mouth,

"Listen, Boss. You're not the only person in the universe. Other people have needs too. I have to work!'

Oh, boy. Of course I instantly regretted it. I watched with trepidation as a wide-eyed Boss looked up at me. I waited for the eyes to well up. I waited for her to crumble.

Instead, she said, "OK."

"OK, what?" I asked, surprised at that response.

"I understand," she said.

"You understand what?"

"I understand you have things to do at work. You can work," she said quietly.

My heart broke into a million pieces. I was all at once proud and sad that my baby, now 7, wasn't so much a baby anymore. She understood. She was growing up and had just learned a valuable lesson about being sensitive to others needs. And about the fact that sometimes you just have to push through even if you don't feel quite 100%.

Of course she didn't have strep. We stopped at the drug store on our way to school and got her some Tylenol and a great big chocolate bar. Even though professional Amy won out this time, mommy Amy just couldn't resist somehow indulging and rewarding her baby for being such a big girl.

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