As you all know, it is winter break for schools all over the area and I am not sure exactly if, because of the economy, fewer people than usual went out of town or if it is just a busy illness year but this week has been BUSY! Between influenza, RSV, and strep throat, I have had a consistent and steady stream of at least 28 people every day with a near record breaking 38 on Monday! What I am most pleased with though is how well the scheduling system has worked. Although very, very busy, I have not been more than 20 minutes off my schedule yet! Woo Hoo! My staff is amazing and work hard to make the office run smoothly and since we are a good team it all goes well.
What also made this week particularly challenging for me is that not only have the kids been off school but Kevin has been away at a conference for a couple of days. For those of you that don’t know, Kevin has been an at-home parent since Mairen was born and although he has been out of town before, this was the first time I had the sole responsibility for both work (without other docs to lean on) and the kids while they are off school. I was uptight about it early in the month, and as a result I decided to expand my lunch times for yesterday and today to be able to come home and be with the kids each day. Mairen is in 8th grade and babysits a lot so I wasn’t uncomfortable leaving them at home but it is a big burden and responsibility for her to have to bear.
What an experience these last two days have been! I would dash to the hospital after getting the boys up and then head to the office from 9-1245 seeing patients, go home from 1-330 and return to the office until 530 or so. Yesterday, the kids had signed up to partcipate in a Lego building contest at Baldwin Library in which they were to design and build a ‘green’ Lego creation. So I raced home, swept up the kids and headed off. The boys spent an hour or more building and Mairen perused the books and studied her words for the Scripps Howard spelling bee (she’s in the regionals this weekend). The first mini crisis of sorts I had as a newly minted single working parent was when I realized that the event ended at 5 but I would have to leave at 320 and wouldn’t be back until 530! Yikes! Thinking on my feet I decided I would just take the kids with me to the office but then discovered the judging for the event was happening around 430 and awards to be given at 5 and Declan wanted to stay! Conall agreed to come to work with me, even though he would miss the awards portion, but Mairen and Declan could not be budged. Soooo they stayed. It felt incredibly funny to leave the kids at the library without me there. They are there all the time and the librarians know them by name but still….what kind of mom leaves her 4th and 8th graders at the library for a couple of hours alone? Apparently I am that kind of mom.
Soooo I went back to the office and at the end of the 2 hour marathon from 330 – 530 , I learned that I had a new set of twins to see at Royal Oak the next day. This would normally fill me with glee but this time, it threw me for a loop. I had to be at the office at 745 today for our first all office meeting with the staff and in order to round and get there in time, I would have to leave the house before 7. The problem, of course is that I wouldn’t even see the kids in the morning if I did it that way so I had a flash of brilliance and decided to take the kids to The Red Coat Tavern for dinner and see the babies that night! Stunningly brilliant, or so I thought.
Now all of you two working parent or single parents out there, try not to laugh yourself silly…..but when we got to the restaurant, there was a 20 minute wait and my kids were already about to eat my hands off they were so hungry but I made us wait. and wait. and wait. for a table. The kids finally got their burgers and fish and onion rings (they really do have the BEST burgers and rings) and by the time we were done, it was nearly 7. Bear in mind, the boys go to bed at 8 and they had been having a relatively stressful day since they were without an adult for so long so when I announced the possible plan of going to the hospital to round, there was a loud cry (literally and figuratively) of opposition from the kids and the plan was scrapped.
While at dinner though, before the rounding debacle, I had this huge and strong sense of joy and accomplishment. I was close to my kids in a way I don’t always have the opportunity to be and being completely responsible for all the decisions, big and small, was suprisingly liberating. I felt as close to them as I ever had and couldn’t wait to come home today for my extended lunch and share our time together again. Of course today, they were whiney and bored and annoyed with each other after having spent so much time alone…not Lord of the Flies mind you but definitely not the idyllic picture I had painted for myself all morning at work. Even with that, and the laundry, and the dishes, and the cleaning and the meal planning I loved today. I loved the snuggling and scrabble. I loved then coming home a couple of hours later and having the kids calmer than they would have otherwise been. I loved feeling like I was close and connected to them.
Often my evenings after the boys are in bed are spent typing away this blog or the News blog and answering email and for a change last night, I didn’t even open the laptop. Mairen and I watched ‘Prince Caspian’ (the second of the Narnia series) and just snuggled up together. I still attended to my email by using my phone and I may do something like that one weeknight each week and spend more time with Mairen. We both really enjoyed it and it was one of many ways I can say ‘Thank you’ and ‘I love you’ for all she is and does.
Turn off the laptop once in a while, parent alone and juggle the challenges and joys, and eat a juicy burger with onion rings at The Red Coat Tavern and each day will be your best!
Molly O’Shea, MD Birmingham Pediatrics + Wellness Center