"You're going to work?" says my three-year old daughter, taking a break from the business of a blueberry waffle and yogurt. "Why?"
("Why?" is the most repeated word in our house for the last few months.)
"Because there's a lot of sick people and I need to help them get better, " I say, as I kiss her on the top of her head and give her a hug from behind.
"Oh," she says, unfazed, her focus again on the waffle.
I slip away, blowing kisses through my lowered car window. Trading "air hugs." Just like any other day.
But today is Sunday. I also worked Saturday.
Today, it stings to drive away, as it always stings on a weekend day. You would think I'd be used to it by now, after three years. But, no.
Working on the weekend is by far, the hardest part of my job. It feels so anti-mother, leaving my babies on a day that is supposed to be time off with the family. I think of families everywhere, doing the usual weekend things. Brunch. The park. Even running errands. Do they realize how special uninterrupted weekend time is? Do they have any idea?
My job, while it does require some weekends, allows me flexibility at other times. During those other times, I really appreciate the flexibility as it relates to mothering. I can head into work a little later, after fitting in an extra nursing session with my 7-month old. I can get home earlier if I need to, to meet with my daughter's teacher. This flexibility, I often reason, makes the occasional weekend day tolerable. But, always, my reasoning and appreciation evaporate the instant a working weekend day rolls around. Poof. Like magic.
I always just want to be home. Like a "normal" mother. I always feel a twinge of guilt. Like a "bad" mother.
Yet, I love what I do. I love every other aspect of my job. I can still find joy in talking and joking with my patient's wife on a Sunday afternoon as we all talk about his progress, his recovery.
I think my daughter understands her mother is taking care of sick people and sick people need help, even on the weekend. I think she knows how much I love her, and how much I miss her when I'm away. Hopefully, my son will know this too, one day.
And when I have the luxury of an entire weekend to drench with family, it is all the more precious.
I soak it up.