Thursdays are my days off. “Off” makes it sound as if I can spend the day lollygagging in playgrounds and on playdates. Other working parents know that a weekday not at work is crammed with errands and housework. For doctor-parents, the weekday not in clinic is crammed with errands, housework, and clinical responsibilities.
Because if you’re not at work… you’re logged in to work.
Someone once suggested that I “choose” to log in to work on my day “off”. Well, like I tell my kids very often, it’s not a choice. Clinical decisions need to be made, and unless I’m completely signed out and on vacation, I better not leave my patients hanging, and make my colleagues resentful.
And, for the most part, I don’t mind. It’s a heck of a lot easier for me to address a problem, refill a prescription, or act on a lab result on a patient of mine, who I know, than it is for someone else, who would have to look into the chart and figure it all out from scratch.
And, for the most part, it doesn’t take up that much of the day. I try to log in to work at least twice on Thursdays: late morning, and midafternoon. Believe me, I much prefer this arrangement over going into work five days a week. It’s a good thing.
Today was tough, however. The kids are both off: Babyboy’s summertime Special Ed program is over, and there’s a two-week break before his Pre-K classes start. Babygirl isn’t in daycare on Thursdays. Hubby needs to prep for a big sporting event tomorrow (Sports broadcaster/ writer. Football. NFL Preseason game. Lots to do!).
I structured the day. Thursday mornings, I volunteer at the local animal shelter. This is sacred. This is something I do that makes me happy. It also makes seven or eight shelter kitties happy. Babygirl comes with me most Thursdays, and Babyboy cries about it, because he usually has to go to school. Today, he was up first, so I whispered, Hey! Do you want to come to the animal shelter with me today? And he popped right up from his Legos and ran upstairs to get dressed.
We flew through the kitty routine. He was very good: he picked out catnip mice and jingle balls for each cage, and stayed away from the mean kitties on my warning. We flew home. Babygirl was up. My plan was to get some housework done, log into work, get Babygirl dressed, and then take both kids to the gym, where I had booked an hour of child care (it’s an awesome gym that has a daycare on-site! Just need to book time in advance).
But there was alot more clinical work than I had anticipated. And, an urgent case that needed some thought, and likely a specialist referral, on short notice. There was alot of back-and-forth with my staff who were handling it on the ground. I got bogged down in it, totally absorbed. Hubby managed the kids: monitoring Babyboy up on the chair at the kitchen counter, cutting tomatoes with a plastic knife, salting and peppering them in a pot, to make ‘vegetable soup'; and chasing Babygirl around with her clothes. I ended up being stressed, and late out the door.
The kids were happy to play in the gym daycare, but I was distracted throughout my whole workout, fretting about my patient. Would the staff be able to carry out the action plan we had settled on? My heart rate was up, and not just from the spin bike.
By the time I picked up the kids, they were several hours away from breakfast, and headed towards hunger meltdowns. I wanted to give hubby more protected time, and the kids love the casual neighborhood blunch place (breakfast food served until 4 pm), so we walked over.
The kids were so, so good. A four-year-old and a two-and-a-half-year-old sitting eating a hot dog and french fries and a pancake, respectively, their little hands managing big-people forks. Nicely asking for more ketchup, more butter, more syrup, please. An elderly woman came over at one point and gushed, Your children are beautiful, as good as gold! So mannerful. I smiled, because I knew it was because they were starving and couldn’t shove the food in fast enough. But hey, positive public praise, I’ll take it.
[An aside- Babyboy, who started potty training last month, successfully used the toilet in the gym and the restaurant! No accidents for one week!]
We strolled from the restaurant to the local grocery, and the kids picked out fruit. Babyboy insisted on carrying the basket, and when it became too heavy, he pushed it on the floor in front of him, slid it all the way down the aisle to the checkout. I let him. No positive public praise on that.
Through the parking lot, to the car. Drove to a playground, let the kids run. Hubby called. I had forgotten all about Babyboy’s speech therapy! Babyboy is difficult to understand sometimes; he’s picked up his own way of saying things. The speech work is important. Hubby drove to the playground and picked up Babyboy, promised balloons (they use balloons, hard to explain) and brought him to the speech appointment.
I brought Babygirl home and logged back in to work. Held my breath to see what had happened with that acute case. Our admin had worked minor miracles to get this patient a tomorrow appointment. Our nurse had spent a good chunk of time on the phone with the patient. But there was still an issue, some questions, not clear if it was better to wait to a different specialist next week. I had to think about this. I thought about calling the patient directly. But Babygirl had not napped, and was especially needy. Plant her in front of the TV and make a phone call? Hmmmm… Babygirl held on to my leg, Mommy, pick me up! Pick me up! Nope.
I looked up a couple things, researched, typed out explicit instructions to the nurse, several options for the patient, and let the nurse make the phone call, from the office. I held Babygirl in my lap, read her a bunch of books, fretted more about the case.
Hubby and Babyboy came home, with balloons. Babygirl immediately popped one and everyone started crying. Hubby and I decided to aim for a six p.m. bedtime. Dinners were prepped, theirs (sunflower butter sandwich, milk, strawberries and whipped cream) and ours (grilled chicken, salad made from Babyboy’s earlier ‘vegetable soup’ experiment, ice water, not wine).
I logged in one more time. A plan had been made. But then, the patient emailed me with concerns. I was almost relieved; I felt bad about not being able to call them myself earlier. I emailed back. I think we’ve got a good plan. Shut the laptop.
Upstairs. Everyone got a bath, a warm milkie, and into pajamas. We read a gazillion books. Babygirl melted down. I did one-on-one, this-is-not-a-choice bedtime with her. She fell asleep in my lap after twenty minutes of rocking and shushing. Meantime, Babyboy was bouncing off the walls with Hubby. We did a mellow bedtime with him; Hubby told him stories about skunks (Babyboy’ strident request; skunks are a current fascination), and we ended up reading more books. He finally fell quietly into sleep, snuggling with his stuffed kitty, murmuring about skunks, 8 p.m.
Somewhere in there, several loads laundry got done and folded; the dishwasher was emptied and then filled; the grill was cleaned and put away; the birdfeeders were topped off with seed and sunflower butter sandwich crusts; the mail was opened; the junk mail was shredded; the bills were paid; and we ordered 75$ worth of new kids’ books from Amazon, including two about skunks. (Yes, we belong to a wonderful library, and yes, we buy new books, and if they’re not destroyed, they’ll be handed down or donated. I can’t stress about keeping library books in good condition.)
Hubby didn’t get as much protected time as we had planned, and he’s looking at a late night. I feel kind if bad about that, but good about the day.
I will gladly take a day like this, over going in to work. It’s hectic, and work overlaps with life not infrequently; but it’s also a break in the routine, and a chance to spend more time with my kids. It’s flexible, and I almost always get some good recharge activity in: the shelter, the gym. Yes, it’s a day “off”, but hey, it’s a day off.