On Monday afternoon the 23rd, I flew up to Washington. A week after I helped Robin, Dylan, and Carson move into their apartment, she landed a terrific job, as director of communications for the Interactive Travel Services Association, the group that represents the interests of Expedia and other online travel services (growing up in an airline and travel family may have been helpful!). That Monday was her first day “on the job” in nearly four years. She had hired a nanny to look after Carson and Dylan, but the new caregiver was transitioning from a job and could not work the three mid-week days. Pots to the rescue!
It was great to see our granddaughters again. We headed home and they went off to sleep. I followed soon after, because I knew Carson would deliver the wake-up call Tuesday morning, and she did, at 6:15. Robin departed an hour later (taking the bus and Metro into D.C.), and I was in charge. Yow! First task, breakfast. Then dropped Carson at what I call “pre-pre-school,” and took Dylan to a swimming lesson. In no time it was noon, time for lunch. The afternoon sped past, with a little respite during Carson’s short nap. Oh, yes, and I had to take Henry the terrier out for bathroom breaks. Speaking of that, quite a bit of Carson poo to manage, oh yeah, all part of the job.
Which of we three were happiest when Robin walked in the door at 6:15? She took charge of baths, and I made dinner for her and me. And I uncapped a bottle of Starr Hill ale from Charlottesville, much deserved. Before going to sleep, Dylan told her mom, “I wish Potsy could stay here forever,” which was my paycheck for the day.
Wednesday was pretty much a repeat, kids’ activities in the morning, playing at home in the afternoon. Carson’s speech therapist arrived at 2:30, an interesting bit of learning about speech development (the tot is a bit slow, but I think is making good progress, maybe even beginning to catch up). At the end of a warm and sunny afternoon, we went for a walk with the big double stroller, Henry tugging in various directions. After dinner, quite a bit of roughhousing and fun, and then Mommy was home. Made dinner, clocked out.
It was a bumpy night. Carson threw up a couple of times, and again Thursday morning, but Pots’ nursing care that day worked well, drip feeding her juice and water, and after a long afternoon nap, she seemed to be back in the saddle. Dylan was having some trouble that day with her mom’s absence, and my job was to provide hugs and love and reassurance, that “Mommy now needed to work to be able to give you and Carson the things you need.”
I was nearly done with my assignment. Just before six, we jumped in the car (they sold a very expensive, very large, and very thirsty Volvo SUV, and Robin leased a fun and lithe Jetta “Sportwagen”), picked up Robin at the Park and Ride, and drove out to Dulles Airport. The role I dreaded three days earlier was becoming easier (emphasis on the –er!), but it was time to head home. The paycheck that day came in the morning, when Dylan declared that I was “a really funny nanny.”
Flying home, I thought a lot about what had just happened. I’ll share two thoughts. First, a week earlier, when I agreed to help, (because there really was no alternative), I confess that I was a bit cranky, even complaining to Linda that “I didn’t sign up for this.” Now I saw it differently, and it was more like, “I didn’t think I signed up for this, but earlier I was not focused on the fine print, which says that when you become a parent, you agree to help in all the ways that you can.”
Second, these were among the hardest three days of work in my life, right up there with trying to deal with the pilots’ strike in 1997 or the aftermath of September 11. Seriously. Even when I was a new father of two, I don’t recall being responsible for Robin and Jack for three consecutive days. So this was reminder to me and all other men that women’s work in the home is undervalued and underappreciated – as I wrote in 2010 when I was helping out after Carson’s birth, if men had to be moms that species would vanish. I believe that now more than ever.