It was 10pm. I was out of town. I wouldn’t say I was still working, but I was out with the people who had hired me. Which means I was still ‘on’.
So, when my phone rang, I noticed who was calling – my cell said, “Smith Home”. That’s my in-laws. I figured they were calling me because my husband didn’t answer. They were watching the small people while we were out of town. Since he was standing right next to me, I simply handed the phone to him.
But it wasn’t his mom. Or his dad.
It was my sweet, croupy, just-figured-out-how-to-use-the-phone, 6 year old daughter. And she was coughing and crying. And she? Was four hours AHEAD of us. Which means our 10pm was her 2am. In between one horrible seal bark after another, she whimpered, “Mommy…. I just want you to come HOME.”
And my heart shattered into itty-bitty pieces.
We sat on the phone with her for about 45 minutes. She didn’t want to wake anyone else up. She just wanted to talk to us. She was lonely. She missed us. Her cough was hurting her.
With each cough… each whimper… I fought the tears that were threatening to expose me.
We excused ourselves and headed back to the hotel, the guilt heavier than the humidity of our locale. Sitting on one of the beds in our room, I began to polish my Mother of the Year trophy. How could I possibly be gone when she was suffering? What kind of mother was I anyway? And I was FAR away – as in, I can’t be home in 6 hours or even 10 – even if I got a flight RIGHT STINKIN’ NOW.
I am familiar with guilt. It is the bedfellow of all mothers. We carry it with us from the moment we find out there will be a child in our home. But, I mean to tell you – being away from a sick child? A child that is sitting alone in a bed at 2am – CRYING and COUGHING. It hurt my soul.
She called again at midnight and 2 am our time. It was at this point I realized that the novelty of dialing my number and just chatting was coming in to play. There was less coughing and more, “what are you doing now, Mommy.” This helped the guilt *a little*.
But I still worried. And I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was failing her by being away. We chatted again in the morning and her cough was markedly better. And she seemed to be back to her spunky self. I assured her I would be home the next day.
Now I’m home. And she is fine. The cough was gone before I stepped foot in the state. And yet my guilt is hanging on. I know I can’t be here for every single moment. But I feel as though I should be.
Do you experience this? And, oh my…. what do you do about it?
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