One of the best things about having an early morning job on the radio is that my schedule tends to be flexible and often allows me to get away late mornings and early afternoons to do the “mommy” thing at school. If you are a working mom with a traditional 9-to-5, you know how many programs, teacher conferences, field trips, etc. seem to be planned to fit perfectly into the stay-at-home mom’s schedule. What working mom hasn’t had to juggle, sneak, lie and sometimes get docked pay to see their child make their acting debut as an asparagus in the school play?
So, If one of the best things about my job is getting off early enough to attend my boys’ functions, it’s also one of the toughest parts because unlike the stay-at-home mom, being “off” work for me is never a reality. As senior producer of a nationally syndicated show, I’m always on call to put out fires, run meetings, and prepare for the next day’s show. Radio never closes.
But I’m also always on call for my sons. I won’t even pretend that I answer every single one, but I’ve learned to carefully choose my, um, battles. I hadn’t been on a school field trip in a while, and my son Jr. had placed a high priority on this mission. Let’s just say the security threat was at level Orange – and I knew I was committed to accompanying his first grade class to the pumpkin patch. It even sounded funny in my head. The last thing I needed was for a company emergency to occur and for me to have to reveal my whereabouts.
So as P-Day loomed closer, the more nervous I got about being out of the office while not really being out of the office. (Figure that one out!) The morning finally arrived, and I could already tell it was going to be a rough one, but my son had already called me three times to remind me to pack a lunch, wear a white shirt and bring enough money to buy a really big pumpkin! He also reminded me not to be late – didn’t really nail that one.
I meant to leave the studio on time, but after firing off a couple of emails, confirming show topics for the next day, checking audio for the end of the show and stopping by Starbucks to get a shot of first-grade fortification, I wasn’t exactly on time. This prompted the fourth call.
No way was I going to get out of this one, busy schedule or not. Believe me, the sad eyes of my six-year-old trumps a mandatory meeting by the boss any day of the week.
And that’s exactly what I got – a mandatory meeting memo, that is – almost as we took our seat on the yellow school bus. My son turned, accusing eyes toward me as soon as my BlackBerry chimed indicating a new email message. Not to mention the heads of all of the moms whipped around, perfectly in sync.
Slumping slightly in the seat, I quickly tapped out a message, responding that I would call in and listen, but I doubted full participation would be possible considering my location. I wasn’t exactly camping in the wilderness, but as the bus started to roll past open fields filled with long blades of grass that swayed gently in the wind, it was close. But a working mama has got to do what working mamas are famous for – and that is “working it out.”
So, yes, I was at the pumpkin patch with Jr. in body and spirit, but for much of the time, my mind was at work. I try my best to play it off and engage the stay-at-home moms in conversations about healthy casseroles, the hottest mommy and me spots and head lice, but I think I gave myself away when I had to participate in a conference call in the middle of a hayride – something that’s highly overrated, I might add.
I’m not hating on stay-at-home moms. As we say around here, “You like what you like.” But after just a day hanging out with grown-ups who spend a whole lot of time with six year olds, I was reminded again why I go to work every day. I know I may miss out on some cute morning moments, and my sons would love it if I could be the homeroom mom for a semester, but it’s just not going to happen. If it did, I surely wouldn’t be the me that they’ve grown so fond of. I would be a mess, and I know it. For our family, a working mom is a happier mom, and that works for everybody.
I’ve mastered the art of multitasking at work, at home, and even at the pumpkin patch. And any judgmental looks I got, real or imagined, by moms engrossed in recipes for apple cider will forever be trumped by the smile on my baby’s face. The part of me he needed most was right by his side.