Working Mom

Pandemic Mom

A small spot that makes no sense on an MRI. Months of worry. It’s hard to make a 5-year-old lay perfectly still for an MRI. Even a short one. A 20-minute MRI. 20 minutes is an eternity to a 5-year-old who shows more signs every day that she may have inherited her mom’s anxiety.

Nana looks close to tears every single day while we wait. My husband is dad and he throws himself into work. He floats through the house pale, like a ghost. We wait we wait we wait.

I’m mom. I try to work. I just started a new job. What if I’m not qualified? What if my coworkers are more qualified? What if these coworkers don’t like me? What if they finally figure out that I have my entire life held together with generic brand gift wrapping tape? Hire a nanny? Ask family for help? After school programs? Before school programs?

What happens if a child goes to school at 7am and doesn’t come home until 6pm? 11 hours? What if the people I work with see? What if family sees? What if it’s not good enough? What if that’s not enough time? What about the small pauses on the phone that whisper, you should be able to stay later, you should be here for this call? What about the email chains from which I’m excluded? What is the correct response to, “we decided to meet without you, we’ll catch up later”?

How do I continue fighting?

A small spot that makes zero sense on the MRI film means a small spot that makes zero sense to a pediatric neurologist at a prominent university hospital. Everything should be fine. We have to wait and see. Maybe she inherited her nana’s migraines? We have to wait and see. Maybe it’s cluster headaches? Maybe it’s because she really likes chocolate? She’s 5, what 5-year-old doesn’t like chocolate. I love chocolate. She gets that from me. From her mom. We waited. We saw. It was fine. Pick your higher power to thank.

She’s 6 and she’s constantly sick. If it’s not a fever of 99 it’s strep and it’s colds and it’s vomit and it’s ear aches and it’s not sleeping…

So many, you should be here for this call pauses. I am her mom. I am a full-time project manager. I am a full-time wife. I am her full time mom. Who am I? I poke my stomach and it seems so empty. I am an empty vessel. My entire life is held together with generic gift wrap tape. I am waiting for you to need me to determine who I am.

It is 2020 and the entire planet of earth has been set on fire. She is 7. This mom has tried. This wife has tried. My stomach is a cold knot. Daily I face the tangled black lines of anxiety, worry, and fear that creep along behind me with their nails and teeth bared.

The schools are closed. The stores are closed. People are sick. So many have died. The hospitals are open and full, the only full things. People are screaming you are wrong and I am right. This must be what drowning feels like.

I am working. I am schooling. I am cleaning. I am worrying. I am fear. I am empty.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. They’re laying me off. Fuck. FUCK.

FUCK.

What do I do?

Do I say, “thank you”?

Should I say, “fuck you”?

They’re laying me off and now I am mom and empty and people tell me, it’s a blessing. It’s such a blessing. This is a blessing. Every blessing happens for a reason. When someone dies people say this. This didn’t happen for a reason. Which of course is not true.

The reason is systemic. The reason is insidious. The reason is the entire novel, that only I can read, written in the breath inhaled just after the short, ‘you should be here for this call’, pause.

This happened because my life has always been held together with generic brand gift wrap tape. This happened to me so that someone else could succeed. Someone like you.

Should you be at home too, sir? Maybe someone is holding things together with tape and maybe you should be off of this phone and at home.

I am the tape because if I am not, I am empty.

I am the working mom. I am the pandemic mom. I am your tape.

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