Poison Ivy Gratitude

by Gig Girl on May 17, 2010

Gig Girl counts her blessings

On Mother’s Day, Owen ran a fever of 101.8 so I kept him out of school on Monday.  He recovered quickly, only to learn the age-old, hard-knock lesson discovered by countless generations of six-year-old boys before him:  Poison ivy is friend to no grade schooler.  Endlessly red, puffy and itchy, he stayed home with me again on Friday.

Like many moms, when my child hurts, my maternal instincts heighten and unfailingly force me into slight panic mode.  However, once I examined the poison ivy and deemed him safe from the threat of his windpipe swelling shut or tumbling into the abyss of anaphylactic shock (is that even possible with poison ivy?), my anxiety subsided and was quickly replaced by an emotion I couldn’t immediately identify.  I finally did put my finger on it: Gratitude.  I felt wholeheartedly grateful to have Owen just stay home with me.

A few short months earlier, as a full-time working mom, staying home with a sick child twice in one week would have proved stressful beyond normal rationale.  Unless you’ve ever worn the “working parent at a non-sympathetic company” hat, you will never fully understand the anxiety that follows every sneeze, cough, sniffle and weekday snowstorm forecast that may cause daycare/school cancellation.  If there’s no fever, you send the sneezy, coughy, runny-nosed child off and console yourself with the knowledge that every working parent does it.  (Heck, it was probably their kid that got your kid sick to start with!) If there’s a fever, you play Rock/Paper/Scissors with your spouse to see who stays home.  You loathe yourself for it but you feel powerless to revolt against the mentality many of us inherit from our employers when it comes to work vs. family.

At my last job, the attitude towards family obligations started at the top and trickled down to the rest of us.  We took our cues from a GM who literally never shut off his blackberry and could promise making only one of his children’s athletic games per season, a CFO fond of chanting of “As a salaried employee, you are entitled to unlimited overtime!” as we’d put in 50, 60 and sometimes even higher hour work weeks (often spread out through nights, weekends and holidays) and a President who, when a member of the Executive Staff once asked for his wife’s 40th birthday off on a day that conflicted with a meeting, responded with, “It’s going to be her birthday all day, right?  We’ll need you at the meeting.”

For the record, I don’t blame these men one bit. In fact, as people, I genuinely enjoyed them.  Yes, they set the standard, but they also unyieldingly followed the standard themselves.  And let’s face it; Their attitude is very common in corporate America.  What angers me is how long I participated in a mentality that so violently clashed against my own personal view of parenting and the importance of family.

This internal dichotomy came to a roaring head one day in January.  Still raw from my second miscarriage the month before and working consistent 10 hours days (plus nights and weekends) at the expense of precious family time, I spoke up to one of my bosses.  He gave me the uber-polite version of the “You’re-salaried-and-as-such-you-will-work-whenever-we-need-you” speech.  Emotionally, I broke.  And then I exploded.

I realized the conversation had gotten somewhat loud (on my part only.  He was actually a perfect gentleman) when he silently got up to shut the door to his office so none of my colleagues witnessed my animated bursts punctuated by much staccatoed first-finger pointing.  I then realized the conversation turned the corner from assertive to confrontational (again, just me) when he tried to interrupt my tirade and I angrily gave him the universal hand-puppet gesture for “Shush!” while stammering, “Lips moving, still talking.”   Not my finest professional moment, but a definite turning point.  I went home and cried to my husband.  We had been seriously discussing me leaving the workforce for the past few months, but our plan worked around a May/June departure timeframe.  After this episode, we prayed hard and realized that now was time for me to quit and try on the stay at home mom hat I’ve longingly stared at for years.

My SAHM hat feels simultaneously resplendent and awkward.  I adore having this opportunity to stay home, but I also have moments of fear/doubt on whether we’ve made the right decision.  Ironically, O’s killer case of poison ivy soothed some of my internal conflict.  No covering him up, sending him off and hoping for the best.  No Rock/Paper/Scissors or staying home and frantically working remotely/responding to emails to ensure my bosses understand just how dedicated and accessible I am.  Just mom, son, a bunch of Scooby Doo’s, a few “Stop scratching!” admonishments and a boatload of gratitude.

{ 1 trackback }

Getting Giggy With It
June 9, 2010 at 6:46 am

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Shell May 17, 2010 at 10:28 pm

It’s hard to know which is the right choice to make, but it sounds like it is working out for you!

Stopping by to welcome you to SITS!

Betsy May 18, 2010 at 9:12 am

I love how animated you get when you write. I can completley see you telling him to shush! Hope Owen is feeling better.

Gig Girl May 18, 2010 at 10:48 am

Bets, I even did the hand gesture with it…very awkward! I really liked this particular boss too and I appreciated how well he handled my rantings.
Oshow is completely mended…must’ve been all the Scooby Doo’s!

cheri May 19, 2010 at 3:15 pm

i can totally relate to your story! when i was pregnant,i worked for an BPO company that has very strong corporate ideals. i was pregnant and i worked 10-12 hours a day. i dont drive,so i take the bus on the wee hours of the morning. when my son got very sick 6 weeks after he was born, i figured the unhealthy system for a pregnant woman was the culprit.

ever since we decided that i would stay home to take care of my son, our faith is tested daily. our finances dwindled, but my son is healthy and alive. there are days that i doubt our decision, but the happy 2-year-old says it is the best decision i’ve made in years.

with owen getting better, i think you have made the right decision, too. not everyone has the freedom to make this decision.

shuttling in from SITS :)

Erin May 20, 2010 at 10:48 am

There are constant mommy wars on some blogs regarding the SAHM vs. Working Mom debate – and I think you’ve perfectly illustrated that it is a family decision, with tons of moving pieces and environmental factors, and I’m so glad that you found the perfect option for your family. Poison Ivy sounds like the worst, by the way. I must have blocked that childhood memory. Mosquito bites are hard enough for me!

Stopping by to welcome you to SITS!

Gig Girl May 20, 2010 at 12:20 pm

I’ve seen some of the SAHM/WAHM wars on some of the sites. It saddens me that as moms and women, we can’t just support each other in the decisions that we make both willingly and out of necessity. I worked full-time for six years and single parented for 3 of them so my whole attitude is if you are lucky enough to stay home in any capacity, don’t judge. Just wake up grateful every single day for the opportunity!
Thank you for stopping by, Erin. I checked out your blog. Great stuff!!

Leave a Comment

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.

Previous post:

Next post: