My partner and I were at a retreat the first weekend in May– weekend before this one that is just coming to a close. It’s something we go to almost every year, on eliminating white racism. It’s a powerful retreat and is worth writing about in itself but I mention it here simply for context. The retreat was Friday to Sunday but we were there some at the same time and some at different times, to accommodate our childcare arrangements. On Saturday afternoon I took a walk with the retreat leader who is an old friend of mine and who now lives on the West coast. My partner organized a basketball game. She broke her finger playing.
I knew as soon as I saw her that this was bad and that it was, in some sense, the result of the strain she’s been under since I took the job I am doing now. It wasn’t her fault and it was just one of those bad luck sort of things and hell, it’s a finger, not a femur or a heart attack, but still …. I had a bad feeling about it.
That was Saturday afternoon. I came home late Saturday night and she got home Sunday and the very earliest appointment she could get to see an orthopedist as she had been advised to do, was Wednesday morning. Wednesday morning my daughter was quite sick and my partner’s appointment was early in the morning.
I started to write every detail of this– but the long and the short of it is–my daughter spent a long day in my partner’s office on Wednesday and I had an important budget-related legislative meeting that I was staffing at 1:00 with preparation and briefing to finalize and provide to my legislator. There was last minute jockeying and politics around various issues some of which involved me and most of which did not.
I had said that I’d try to leave work early and come get my daughter from my partner’s office by 3:30 to bring her home to rest. When I finally extricated myself it was 5:45 p.m. and she had been at an office hanging out with her sinus cold since about 9:00 a.m. At 5:45 I felt like both a lousy mother and, given what was going on in the office and what was still to be done, like I was skipping out early.
On Thursday the schedule was less crazy and I put my foot down and stayed home with my daughter who was still really sick. I spent well over two hours on the phone with work. So on her sick day home with Mama– my little daughter (who is not little at all, but is still a young girl in need of care from her Mama when she is sick) fixed a meal or two for herself, fixed her own hot tea and was on her own way, way too much. On Friday, I was back in the office at 9:00 and stayed until a cool 8:30 p.m.
In many ways my daughter and I are doing well– though she is vocal about missing having me there. As for me, I just come home and burst into tears some nights about not being there. Missing her, missing both of them too much.
Then one night, late at night, something happened between my partner and me– I can barely remember what except that I was mad and she was completely checked out. When we talked she finally admitted that being the backstop for everything– the nights I work until 7:00, the nights I work until 8:30, the nights I work until 10:00– the sick days I can’t take off, the teacher conversations I’m not having, the science project, the early pick-ups, the Hebrew school– well she said juggling all of it had gotten to her. Of course it has.
She’s frayed and fractured, and her little finger is simply a metaphor. But it’s also a broken finger. That has to heal. What I do know is that when I’m not working on my job, I’m working on this question– how to un-fray us and whether there is a way to do this job and still be the mom and partner I so want to be.