Last week, our toddler, Kellen, got his finger slammed in the kitchen door. The result was a small degloving of his right ring finger. A ‘degloving’ is exactly that. The skin rips off the tip of the finger as easily as if it were a glove as the finger is pulled back quickly when it’s caught in something. It’s never pretty. And the fab hubby was stuck solo-parenting, dealing with it on his own.
It’s a 9-hour difference from Cairo, and I awoke to his call. Kellen’s finger. ER. X-ray ok. Hospital doctor wanted to do general anesthesia on OUR TWO YEAR OLD. I was really awake by now. Don’t panic, the fab hubby said, being ever so fabulous. A fellow nurse from the embassy had gone with him and Kellen to the hospital and they had both said “NO WAY” when the ER doc (mind you, this is in CAIRO) said he wanted to do a cosmetic operation on the finger. But this kind of operation is delicate, and should be handled as a medevac (which both Jason and our RN friend knew). Kellen’s finger bandaged up, he had headed home.
Well, did you call so-and-so? And did you do this-and-that? And what did she/he think? And why didn’t you? <--- That’s obviously me, being both crazy Momma and RN.
Yup. Back off. I can parent. <--- That’s obviously the fab hubby. Being fabulously right.
I got off the phone and did exactly what any one else as crazy as I would do. I called my embassy RN friend. And asked her all the same questions. And got all the same answers. But somehow hearing it all again made me feel a bit better.
Because it gave me that feeling of control. Like somehow my making the extra phone call added to the situation and solution. But reflecting back, I was only fooling myself.
I (im)patiently waited for the fab hubby to call me the next day from the embassy, where Kellen was going to be checked by our RMO (Regional Medical Officer for all you non-FS’s). I received an email picture of the finger from the fab hubby, and so I knew he was there with our sweet little guy getting it checked out. I waited, not wanting to be pushy. I made it maybe ten more minutes before I was dialing the embassy switchboard, asking for the Health Unit. The fab hubby and the toddler had already left.
What the what??!! Didn’t he realize I needed to be called the MOMENT he found out anything? I spoke with our RMO. The toddler’s finger was good. Already starting to heal, in fact! Good tissue, no bone protrusion. No need to medevac. We chatted a bit longer, and I got off the phone. ::sniff:: I had wanted to be involved with the decision-making. Like somehow me making that call could/would change anything. I got ahold of the fab hubby and he gave me the exact same info. With a “back off, I can parent” attached at the end. Of course, I deserved it.
Deep breath. Let it out. Let it go. Because there’s nothing I can do. The phone calls. The worry. The going over the situation over and over and over again. I tried not to fret. But I keep thinking about it.
And then the messages trickled in.
“I saw him today, smiling and running around oblivious to everyone’s worries. He is one tough boy.”
“He is such a trooper. He was full of smiles and laughing with Jason. He is precious.”
“I saw him in the elevator today and he was running around smiling , beaming actually, like nothing was the matter. So cute!”
See, it’s not necessarily the situation that I’m so upset over; it’s that there is no role for me to make it better. I’m too far away to be a part of the solution. And I feel guilty for not being there, for not being the Momma who made it better. All our friends – all our wonderful, caring friends – were there and kept me updated. They stepped in and helped out. The fab hubby can handle these kind of parenting issues. Of course, he’s be happier if I’d been there to help, but he can handle it.
I have no control over this. Breathe out. Let it go.
A few weeks ago, it was Abby’s Birthday. We FaceTimed, and she was a bit sad at the beginning of the conversation, crying that she missed me. Oh, heartbreak! We talked for a while longer and made plans for when we reunited. She was pretty happy and looking forward to her day. Later on I spoke with the fab hubby – she had indeed enjoyed her birthday. He made her a special birthday treat and she got to go to a friend’s house for a sleep over. The perfect day for her.
I mentioned to someone at work that Abby and I had FaceTimed but that she’d been upset a little. I said how we were incredibly lucky to have great friends there to help out, and that the fab hubby had made sure she had a great day.
The reaction I received was “Of course she’s upset. You left her. I don’t know how you can do that.”
I was taken aback. My head all but exploded. I hadn’t left her! Sure, I was gone for a bit, but my kids know very well we’ll all be back together. They understand that this is unfortunately how life works out for us, moving so often – sometimes we have to spend time apart. But I couldn’t shake it, and I didn’t have a response other than “please don’t say that. I already feel badly enough as it is.”
There it was. Raw and out in the open.
I had left them.
But I didn’t! My head screamed. My eyes misted.
Breathe out. Let it go. Time to walk away.
Tackling those feelings deep inside where I secretly worry that the kiddos feel like I abandoned them. Those demon thoughts of what if they forget about me? And what if they don’t love me as much? What if they don’t think that I love them?
But I know it’s not true.
I often wonder if anyone would question this transition of me in the U.S. and the fab hubby overseas if it were reversed --- if he were the one gone for a period of time for his work.
Looking back, I realize that during the entire time he was in Baghdad, no one – NO ONE – said to him, “I just don’t know how you can leave your kids.” NO ONE questioned the stability of our marriage. Instead, it was support for his job, his mission, and his courage. EXACTLY AS IT SHOULD BE.
But it’s been said to me, and honestly I think it's really a sexist question. Questions about my ability to be a Mother. How can you leave your kids? Why would you leave your kids? Of course they are angry with you. And my personal favorite: I could never leave my kids. Or how about the questions about our marriage and my status as a wife? Some people just can’t fathom having a strong marriage when distance is a factor.
Doesn’t matter the reasons I give – work related (the need to take care of my specialty RN certifications renewal and to get my ER experience back up to par), medical related (my arthritis – which is doing well, thank-you-very-much), or my military career service (to be completed this summer). Or how about the fact that the fab hubby had once been a stay-at-home Dad? How about his awesome abilities as a parent and his ability to handle this temporary situation?
No, it’s that I LEFT my kids. I LEFT my husband. Questions about my ability to be a mother and a wife.
Doesn’t matter that I’m a great role model for my daughter. Or that I have a rewarding career that demands timely renewed certifications. Or that my kids have as much love for me as I do for them. Or that the fab hubby and I have been together fourteen years. Fourteen solid, amazing years, of mutual support and unconditional love.
It’s simply “you left your kids”, “you left your husband.”
Breathe out. Let it go. Walk away.
Because, honestly, the ONLY people who feel this way are those who are 1) not close family, 2) not in the Foreign Service, or 3) not close friends. People who are only willing to look at this in the traditional family view.
Every single one of our FS friends have been nothing but supportive. Whether by helping out the fab hubby with the kids or by sending me pictures of the kids and lots of updates. My closest friends have listened while I cried – upset because of the things I miss at home (like Kellen’s finger incident) and while I talked about how frustrated I feel that I have no control over it. They get it. And no, it's not just my mom friends who work --- but also all my really cool stay-at-home-mom friends who don't feel that my decision to continue my career is a contradiction to their choice to stay-at-home with their kids. Friends like us who are comfortable with the decisions they've made regarding their own families. Who recognize what's right for one family isn't necessarily right for another.
And how about the fab hubby, who, I absolutely maintain got the short end of this “TDY”? He who works a grueling job and has to solo parent? In a challenging-to-live-in foreign country??! He’s 100% supportive – of course! We made this decision together. And our marriage is stronger than ever.
It’s hard, not letting the negative, emotionally challenging comments get the better of me. And I’d be remiss if I said I was easily able to just walk away from them every time. Sometimes, that little voice in the back of my mind challenges me as well. What kind of mother am I? What kind of wife?
Breathe out. Let it go.
I don’t have control over what others think about me. And if they matter, if they are people we want to have in our lives, they support us and understand choices like this weren’t made easily. They know how amazing our children are. They know how strong the bond is between the fab hubby and me.
Jason and I love what we do, and we love our children. We’re happy to show them the world, to be role models for them. Yes, This FS lifestyle has certainly been a challenge, in many, many ways. But the rewards have been well-worth it.
One of my favorite quotes is something I’ve heard the fab hubby say so often:
Nothing worth doing is ever easy.
Nothing worth doing is ever easy.
How very true this is. Two months done on this TDY, and four left until we’re all united again. But I have no doubts about our ability to weather this transition. And I will no longer allow others' negativity to impact the way I look at myself or the choices we’ve made.
Breathe out. Let it go. Walk away.