Baby Talk: Zen and the art of motherhood

Balance is not just the key, it is everything.

motherhood amanda 88 ima (photo credit: )
motherhood amanda 88 ima
(photo credit: )
'It's a viral infection, so there's no point in continuing to put in eyedrops. He'll just need to stay home until his eyes get better," said the doctor as she carefully scrubbed her hands after examining two-year-old Yaron's bloodshot orbs. "And how long do you suppose that will be?" I asked nervously. The moment's elation at hearing we would stop our thrice-daily wrestling tournaments dissipated. (With two parents on one toddler, we were almost evenly matched; Yaron just barely had the upper hand.) The doctor took out a disinfectant and some cotton and systematically wiped down every surface that may have absorbed a mere glance from my plagued son. Her actions, much more than her words, convinced me that she was sincere in that his infection was very contagious. Looking at me sympathetically, she replied, "Oh, anywhere between three days and three months." I must have blanched. Perhaps even gasped. She quickly changed the subject, "How is it that a two year old is such a good boy during a checkup?" Waving away her attempts at mollification, I asked again, humorlessly, "Do you have a more concrete estimate of when it will get better?" She'd seen my type before; most mothers work here in Israel. Sighing, she said, "I assume within a week we'll see some improvement. But it is so infectious that it should be 100 percent cleared up before he returns to day care. As for home, chances are very high that other members of the family will be infected too. Just try to wash hands frequently and don't let anyone use his towels or bedding. If someone else does get it, well, there's not much that can be done. You just need to wait it out." "This is very bad news indeed," I said in too formal Hebrew, trying not to cry and trying harder not to whine. "Don't worry, we'll send a letter to your home so you can be excused from work." Noticing that I still looked shell-shocked she tried for another angle, "And there's always Savta!" Poor Savta. She is one and the grandchildren are many - and frequently ill it seems this winter. Last week alone I believe she spent every day taking care of various combinations of her seven grandkids. And this week again she's stuck taking care of Yaron. THE LIVES of working parents are webs of intricate timetables, tasks and tradeoffs. The multilayered relationship between childcare, home and work is a concurrently mutualistic and parasitic one. And attempting to keep my work and home lives separate but equal is a high-wire act fit for Barnum and Bailey. My shopping lists are jotted on magazine runsheets and future story ideas. Vital information on diaper sales compares with scoring a sensational scoop. The kids' day cares are partly chosen by lack of vacation and where they lie on my route to the paper. In my life, balance is not just the key, it is everything. Mornings are pressure pots of corralling the kids toward the door and on to day care. Work is spent juggling urgent emergencies and organized planning for the future until - Bing! Three fifteen, must rush rush rush to get the twins, talk to their caregiver, exchange quick pleasant quips with the other parents and - whoosh - slide into Ya'ir's preschool by the stroke of four. I treasure my hours with the kids and love every exhilarating minute at work. But last week, horror of horrors, I fell ill and was forced by fever - and my good husband - to take a day off. Though my throat was throbbing terribly, the catastrophic idea started growing on me over the course of the sleepless night. Fantasies of staying in bed with a good novel and steaming cup of tea danced through my head as I waited for the dawn and my 8 a.m. doctor's appointment. When I rose I noticed however that poor Yaroni's eyes were looking more rosy than the sunrise. "Yes, that started yesterday," said my irritated husband (annoyed because I'd been working till midnight for the past week, made myself sick and not been at home to notice things such as budding eye infections like a proper mother should). Pop! My fantasy bubble burst. No selfish sick day for me. By the next day when it was more critical for me to rejoin the workforce, both Yaron and four-year-old Ya'ir were at home with my throat infection and fever. But never fear: By the early afternoon the doctor, antibiotics and super Savta had arrived to once again save the day! MY PARENTS phoned to wish us a Happy New Year. How thankful I am that Israel does not yet mark New Year's as a national holiday. I am the Grinch who hates all holidays - they throw off my carefully constructed balance. When growing up we didn't live anywhere near a great grandma who could help out during these "medical emergencies." I asked my parents how they managed with their pack of four closely spaced kids. My wise mother said, "Ah, the teeter totter of life! "But maybe balance doesn't always mean equal time in all areas, rather putting more time into something that needs it the most, like tending the sick. And I mean including you." The writer is the mother of two-year-old twins and a big boy who will be four next week. [email protected]