By Eliana M. Perrin, M.D.
I am, and have been since the time of my first born, a working mother. I have read relevant books, always flip through the Working Mother magazine at the doctor’s office and join in the conversations that start and stop in the workplace and on playgrounds, always hoping for that secret recipe. But mostly I just try to live the dream – and get through each day.
Like any working mother, I have stories to tell, seemingly more over time – even though the days of wearing spit-up on work shirts and asking my team for a pumping break have ended.
On this particular morning, the balancing challenges of the last several years were brought into stark comic (and bittersweet) relief. My eldest had to be at school by 6:30 a.m. to go off on an all-day field trip. My 8-year-old needed a turkey costume (I found this out from an email I read last night while he was asleep) to be the lead in a classroom play – a school play I was not even able to go to because this past year I “leaned in”– well, fell in really – to an amazing opportunity at work. The opportunity’s first formal meeting was this morning at the same time. So, for one of the only times ever, I was not at one of my children’s key moments.
Thus, I was determined to make sure all was set up well for the day. The temperature in Chapel Hill was an uncharacteristically low 19 degrees, so I knew that one of the issues was going to be finding our gloves, hats and winter coats from last winter. I rounded them up, thrilled when my 8-year-old said he’d prefer to use his pockets and my 13-year-old said he didn’t mind the mismatch of soccer ball patterns on the right and left gloves. My husband drove the older one to school at 6:25 a.m., while I worked on the turkey costume. Apparently, according to Daniel, no turkey is as light in color as khakis (“I’m supposed to have already been cooked!”). The kid’s wardrobe is almost entirely Tar Heel blue, and according my husband, “Turkeys aren’t cyanotic, either.” We finally used a brown shirt from my husband and shorts from the older brother (did I mention it was 19 degrees?). Then, we did a Google image search for “drumsticks” and found a good picture of them to draw and make brown construction paper cutouts to tape onto each leg.
Then came the next problem. Despite the fact that the kids and I are fairly crafty and have a veritable household of supplies that would rival an A.C. Moore or Michaels store, I couldn’t find any brown construction paper. Do they seriously not come as part of the rainbow pack? Had we already used those sheets in some previous 6:30 a.m. Thanksgiving costume adventure? Never fear, I told Daniel. We surely have some brown paper bags to use. I headed downstairs hoping that at some point in the last year I have answered “paper” to the “paper or plastic?” question.
Fifteen minutes later, we were all eating breakfast together. Daniel was reciting his lines for the play. When they were off to school, I was taking a deep breath and getting ready for my big meeting. I was tired, and it was only 8:20 in the morning. But mostly I was thankful. On this of all weeks I wanted to write about the humor of the morning and remind myself of how much I have to be thankful for. This morning was full only of the “problems of privilege.”
I am so grateful to have a supportive husband (who went to the play!), a terrific job, plenty of money and food, and healthy – and flexible – children. And I am so grateful to be working … and a mother.
Eliana M. Perrin, M.D., MPH, is an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. She lives in Chapel Hill.