As I prepare to leave my husband and children for four days to attend the MOPS Convention in Grapevine, Texas this week, it occurs to me that I am difficult to replace.
In fact, it takes about half a dozen people to do the job of one me. My kids need either a Mother, or an entourage.
In order for me to get on a plane on Thursday morning and be absent until Sunday afternoon, I have enlisted the help of no less than five people, not counting my husband. There is my brother who is watching Olivia (and frankly, let's also count my sister in law, for though I have communicated solely with Uncle over this, it is likely Auntie will do most of the work).
But first there is my neighbor who is watching Olivia for the early morning shift so that Hubby can get Sophia to Harry Potter camp and Uncle doesn't have to arrive at the crack of dawn. Then there is my friend Elizabeth who is picking Sophia up from camp and having her overnight (taking her to a dance rehearsal that night at church and bringing her back to camp). Then there is my mother watching Olivia on Friday and picking Sophia up from camp. Then there are both my parents who plan to entertain and feed my family on Saturday night.
And I suppose we could also count the Harry Potter camp staff (Headmistress Kathy and Professor Poppy), and all the people in the factory who supply Trader Joe's with the frozen foods my family will be eating every meal while I'm gone.
As I make copies of insurance cards, type out directions, phone numbers, and "consent to care" forms for various people, I am appreciating myself very much. Though I often feel that I do nothing all day, just my physical presence and my ability to drive are car are very, very important. I stand in the gap between my children and chaos, neglect, bodily injury, starvation, and boredom. Every darn day.
I have similar feelings of self appreciation when I get sick and stay in bed for, say, four hours, and see how quickly our home descends into filth and bedlam without me. I'm like the little boy with his finger in the dike. I pull it out and the whole town goes underwater.
It's frightening having children. Their very existence on the planet means that someone must take responsibility for them. And most of us mothers are aware that that someone is us. Moreover, we want it to be us. "Working" mothers and "nonworking" mothers alike. I remember one of my "working" girlfriends calling me in horror to tell me that the woman who operated the small school bus that took her son from school to occupational therapy while she was at work would sit in her bus and fall dead asleep as soon as she dropped the little boy off.
"This woman is responsible for my son's life, and I think she's too tired to be driving!" my friend howled. "I must make other arrangements." The horror she felt was this, simply: no one cares about my son as much as I do. True. I think she made sure to drive him from one place to another from then on.
And now, back to me. I am a one-woman entourage. Like they are little movies stars, I make the kids' personal appointments, chauffeur them, bring them drinks, fawn over them, make sure other people also fawn over them, pick out their clothes and do their hair, bring them food. I treat them like they are VIPS. Which they are.
I'm also very tired. And therefor very excited to be going away to rest, learn, worship, and eat barbecue for a few days (It's Texas, y'all, I'm assuming there is barbecue). I wish I could take all my mommy peeps with me. Pat yourself on the back. You do the work of at least four people every day.