Those words came from my friend as we took a few minutes to chat via Skype one day. Shrinker? I sent back the question puzzled as to what she meant.
This was in the middle of a chat on a prospective assignment I was considering, that would take me away from home and children for at least a month. We were discussing the pros and cons of the job and really the only point against taking it up was being away from family for that period.
It was then that she brought up an earlier two-and-a-half-month adventure I had undertaken barely a month before. I had done the unthinkable, at least to me at that point in my life. I had signed up for a job that was 631 km driving distance away from home. It started of like really…can we do this? With the initial discussions being 6 weeks, the other half of my parenting equation aka husband and I decided that it is doable. It was bringing in an income that was needed and we had friends who could easily step up if we needed help with the kids. And so in short order I found myself buying six weeks’ worth of weekly tickets between Arusha and Dar es Salaam and reported for work.
I began my routine of give it all on Monday to Friday. Fight my way through crazy Dar traffic to the airport and catch my budget flight home on Friday nights where I would find the young soldiers back home valiantly battling sleep as they waited up for mommy. During the weekend I would try to catch up as much as possible with everyone’s week. Sometimes this did not go very well because I was trying to cram a week’s parenting into the weekend and so I would vacillate between being super strict and maybe too permissive. Sunday night would come too soon and shortly I would be saying my farewells and discovering personally what a red-eye flight means. I would arrive in Dar in the wee hours of Monday morning and redo that routine all over again.
During this time, I discovered that homework could be supervised on Skype and guidance for school projects given over the phone. Amazingly the girls would even have their own prayer times and somehow we all made it…just. The most telling however was one Saturday afternoon taking a walk with girl No. 2 when she asked me if I could shrink her the following day and take her with me to Dar es Salaam. We had around that time watched the movie ‘Honey I shrank the kids’ where an inventor accidentally shrinks his and his neighbor’s kids to a quarter of an inch with his electromagnetic shrinking machine. My daughter and I talked and laughed about this possibility and then left it at that. But later, possibly the next day as I prepared to leave, the same girl asked if I had acquired the shrinker and I realized she had meant it. This told me without so many words how this girl felt about mother’s absence. We were therefore all excited when my business away from home came to a wrap never mind that the initial six weeks had become eight and ultimately ten.
It was this then that my friend was alluding to when she cautioned me to remember the shrinker and the need to remember my mom responsibility even as I engaged in discussions about another possible assignment.
This last two months have found me on the road again. This time doing a cross country commute. Hopping off and onto buses and matatus on Fridays and Sundays. Endeavoring to keep track of what is happening at home via phone and skype J. Trying to cram my bit of one week’s worth of parenting in the weekend. Marking down days on the calendar to the end of the assignment.
I find myself torn…on one part I really like and enjoy what I am doing and it does feel like I am living my dream. I feel I am making a significant contribution and bringing in a much-needed income. On the other hand, I feel this desperate need to justify my actions. So, I keep explaining…I have a good and faithful helper at home, its only for a short while, I am able to be home over the weekends and the other half of this parenting equation is very involved (when they are present)…
But maybe most important is to press the stop button on my anxieties which are; my children will be totally lost without my daily guidance!
So, I sing that old hymn…He leadeth me he leadeth me…. Whatever I do, wherever I be…
So, I don’t have a shrinker yet! And even if I did I doubt that I would want to use it.
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