For mothers, every day is Labor Day

Categorized as 09/22/08 Goshen News column

It all begins the day that little package arrives. They don’t call it labor for nothing. I don’t know about you, but my four didn’t exactly walk out. In fact, there were a couple that I’m pretty sure were holding on with both hands. It was only when their father thundered the classic Schrock line, “Now it’s time!” that they finally gave in and showed up.

I’m always a bit tentative about asking another mom if she works because I’m never sure how to phrase the question. Every mother works, but some happen to have jobs besides. Maybe “working besides” mother is a better term, and it’s this category that I find myself in.

As a “working besides” mother with two freshmen (college and high school), a fourth grader, and a two year old, my job description is colorful and diverse. I’m a medical transcriptionist, telecommuting every day from my upstairs office. My tiny assistant is very busy, driving trucks and cars on my desk as I work. If I leave my office unattended, it’s likely that I will return to find that he’s climbed over the desk and is sitting in my chair, “typing,” scribbling on patient lists, and drawing graffiti on his legs.

Often he treats my desk as a drive-through snack station, peering over the edge and begging for goldfish crackers or Teddy Grahams. When he toddles up with his hand on his bottom, saying, “Ginks,” I’d better drop whatever stat dictation I’m working on and run for the wipes. A Pampers stat trumps a cardiology stat every time.

Kitchen duties, of course, fall to me. In the morning, it’s making sure that number three gets some protein while putting lunches together and fending off insistent queries as to why the sandwiches had no cheese the day before. At noon, there’s a pint-sized piranha to feed. In the evening, there’s a hungry horde milling around, foraging in the fridge and lifting lids to see what’s for dinner.

Laundry detail is also mine. While the buck stops at my washer, I simply cannot explain who or what is eating half the socks in our house. I have no answer for the child whose underwear count has mysteriously dropped from a more than adequate six to a completely inadequate two. I have a few theories, having found dirty socks and skivvies in some pretty strange locations, including the toy box and under beds. Who knows what lies moldering among the dust bunnies up there? I’m scared to look.

No one ever mentioned the whole taxi driver/counselor angle to me. These are actually two separate jobs, but for some reason they often intersect. We’ve had some incredible conversations while driving. For one thing, you’ve got a captive audience. If you lock the doors and go with a rolling stop, they can’t get out. For another thing, they just seem to open up in a vehicle. These kids have brought up some topics in the van that have nearly put me into a coma. Not wanting to act surprised and forestall further inquiries (I’d rather they ask me this stuff), I try to fight the blackness. By the time I drive back up out of the ditch, I have usually formulated a coherent reply. Where does a mother go for a raise?

Regarding my maternal taxi duties, lately it’s the college freshman’s keys that I’ve had to haul. When he called me from campus this week saying he’d locked them in his car for the third time in nearly as many weeks, I immediately diagnosed myself with hypertension and went to lie down. Then, when I asked him for directions to the campus, he mumbled something about a bridge, two lights, and a Wal-Greens. Having no internal GPS whatsoever, these were wholly inadequate. If I hadn’t been banging my head intermittently on the steering wheel, I would now be able to map out a 20-block area of South Bend in great detail. That doesn’t include the campus.

Another uniform I wear has black and white stripes and comes with a whistle. Why is it that boys don’t feel loved if they haven’t traded punches and rug burns? And why is it that sometimes dads are the worst? Some days I tell Mr. Schrock, “I don’t know who to spank first, you or them, so I’ll just start at the top and work my way down.” He just rolls his eyes and goes back to wrestling.

If I were president, I would declare each mother’s labor days (i.e., children’s birthdays) a personal holiday for her. I would begin drafting that legislation, but judging by the thumps and howls I hear, there’s some love and affection being shown in the living room, and I’ve got to go blow my whistle.

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