… but the little green feminist who lives in my brain shook its finger at me.
If this were an episodic television drama, the beginning of this week’s episode would feature me on the phone, mascara dripping down my cheeks, bloodied knife somewhere in view (without explanation, since clearly no one is stabbed), monotonously answering the automated prompts on the other end of my call to the United Airlines 800 number. As I reach a human being on the line and utter, “I need to cancel my trip to the trade show next week”, words fade in at the bottom of the screen that say FIVE DAYS EARLIER.
Last week, Greg and I came up with a schedule of nights for me to work on the book until my deadline next month. Wednesday was to be my first work-night, which I would embark upon after he got home from work. Cut to Greg returning from work having had a minor bike accident; Owen and I took him to the emergency room and ate McDonald’s for the kid’s first time. Not that that evening was about me and my not working; poor Greg will wear a cast for four weeks and should fully recover. But he can’t drive with the cast, and heavy lifting is out of the question.
I had plans to attend The National NeedleArts Association trade show next week, but we didn’t even think of altering my trip. Greg is remarkably capable with one hand out of commission, and Owen’s been really cooperative.
Cut to Thursday night of last week. The phone rings while we’re eating dinner. It’s The Daycare Call. After thirteen months on the waiting list, our first-choice program has a spot for Owen beginning July 1st. This is wonderful. But it will be a disruption. Possibly a major one; who knows till it happens. But suddenly, we’re planning to start daycare a week after I planned to return from a five-day trip, which trip would be a major disruption to Owen during his very testy two-and-a-half phase of freaking out when I cut his bagel in half and when I give him a whole bagel and when when I give him a bagel upside down.
This daycare situation did not make us consider altering my travel plans.
Cut to Sunday evening. I get an email. It’s about the business I was going to be focusing on at the trade show. It’s not good news. The timing is awful. The project must be delayed. The meetings I’d lined up must be cancelled. A close-up to my face reveals my dawning realization that after my book deadline in July, I’d planned to spend the rest of 2013 working on this project, but now the project is significantly delayed and I have no freelance work lined up.
There is some freaking out. There’s an intense conversation with Greg. There’s some advice sought from close friends. I sleep on it.
Which brings us back to my phone call with United. The mascara was a dramatization. I wasn’t actually crying. And clearly the bloodied knife was a prop leftover from the last episode. I cancelled my trip.
I feel compelled to write about this because as the title of the post implies, I was inclined to make excuses. I was inclined to tell the people I had to cancel on, the beloved hotel roommate I was screwing over at the last minute, and all the friends and colleagues I was eager to see that I was cancelling my trip because Greg broke his hand and Owen was going through a rough patch of growing up. I was inclined to do this because I know people would understand this. “Yes,” they’d think, “she’s a wife and mother first.”
But that would have been a lie. And the little green feminist in my mind reminded me that it’s important to talk about the challenges we face – all of us, men and women alike – when balancing our personal and professional lives.
In making this very difficult decision, I wore my professional hat. I did not make this decision as a wife or a mother. My family, even with a broken hand and an unusual tendency toward meltdown and hysteria, would have been just fine in my absence. Greg didn’t ask me to stay home. Owen would not have become permanently scarred if I’d gone away.
No, what happened was a very badly timed culmination of business stuff. It’s going to take some time for us to figure it all out.
For now, I have an extra five days to work on my book, which is a tremendous relief. I’ll be working my scheduled nights come hell or high water. I feel very good about this. Professionally, I am first and foremost in love with Mighty Ugly, and I’m glad for the opportunity to focus on it fully.
We’ll figure out The Holocene. I’ll keep you posted.