It took me about a minute after hearing my sister-in-law's phone message to take action. I needed a moment to process what she was saying, and to get my head around the changes it would make to my day. You see, she was experiencing the "perfect storm" of the working mom: your child is sick on a day that both you and your husband absolutely, positively, cannot stay home. Where do you turn?
Some of the most stressful memories of my early parenting days revolve around this very dilemma. We didn't live near any family; not the ones you could turn to when your child is sick. My husband, Raj, was mired in surgical residency. Every sick day fell on me to figure out.
As irony (or fate?) would have it, in the days just prior to my sister-in-law's call, I had been working on my memoir of the time Raj was a resident, and had just finished revising the chapter on balancing kids with work. I had just been looking at these words:
When my kids are sick, which is always, I long for that kind of family involvement [I’m referring here to having parents or siblings nearby]. I have many wonderful friends, but most of them have their own kids and don’t want to share our germs, or they work themselves. There is no substitute for family when things get ugly.
“Thank goodness my mom could watch my son today,” says a co-worker one day. “He has a fever, so there was no way I could leave him at daycare.”
A big green wave of jealousy washes over me. I wish I had that kind of back up. I need that kind of back up... I end up taking the kids to daycare even when it would be better to keep them home. Unless they have a fever, or pus coming out of their eye, they go. They spend their days sharing snotty, drooled on toys with other kids whose parents need them to be there, too. The day care rooms sound like TB wards, little babies with chronic coughs, hacking away, germs flying.
So when I heard the words, "I wouldn't ask you if I didn't really need your help," I was happy to spring into action. Finally, after all those times that I was the one scrambling, I was going to be able to be the one to help! It was a wonderful feeling. But the Mom Network didn't stop there. With me an hour away, I would need someone to watch my own kids at the end of the school day. So I reached out to another mom, my neighbor and friend who understands and always says, "yes" whenever I ask for help. We need these people in our lives. It's what makes the Mom Network so powerful. Then, when her own son came home sick from school, my other sister-in-law stepped in to take the post. It was a round-robin of care, the kind of "village" pulling together that we need to have more of in this world.
Needless to say, my day did not go as planned. I had to cancel and reschedule some appointments. I didn't get any writing done. But I did something so much more important than anything I had previously scheduled: I spent the day with a little man I love, holding him quietly and letting his little body rest and fight the illness that he technically could have taken to daycare and shared (i.e. no fever, the daycare deal-breaker!). It was really special to have that time with him. The best part was, I was finally paying into the network that I've withdrawn from so many times.
So, today, I'm feeling grateful for the Mom Network. Sometimes you give, sometimes you take, and I don't know where I'd be without it! For all who need help: hang in there - we've got your back! For all who've helped: THANK YOU!