This summer didn't seem easy, what with moving for the second time in nine months with five kids and moving into a house where the kitchen ceiling collapsed, a toilet exploded and there was no air conditioning for us to cool our jets when things got too hot to handle. Which was often.
The jets are the thing, though. I didn't realize how easy this summer actually was in that it offered me a respite from business travel. No jets meant no delays, no being herded like cattle from one standby line to the next and no worrying about what ills I may have acquired while shuffling barefoot through security at LaGuardia.
I admit that business travel as a working mom has its perks -- room service, going to the bathroom alone and no one waking you up in the middle of the night, just to name a few! But, as glam as that all sounds, the reality is far more grim.
This week, I had to travel for the first time since May. That trip to Chicago caused chaos at home thanks to massive flooding in the Midwest that cancelled hundreds of flights and extended my stay for days. This time, I had to fly on September 11, which needless to say, was a tough day to fly. However, I cleverly booked my return trip for the September 12 in an effort to spare myself the angst of flying on Friday the 13th. Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans? So much for that!
Once again, I found myself miserable among the masses. "Cancelled" read the departures sign for my flight -- and every other flight heading to the Northeast from Dallas. I had arrived at the airport with hours to spare, optimistic that I would get on an earlier flight. No dice. I stood in line for hours -- with a full bladder and rapidly-draining phone battery. My discomfort and anxiety were extreme as I pleaded "New York please, anywhere even close to New York, please. I have to get home. I need to get home. And I have a picture to prove it."
That's when I flashed the kind-eyed, beleaguered gate attendant a picture of our identical triplets. Not because they are any cuter or more important to me than our other two children, but because I had their kindergarten conferences the next day. Teachers had rearranged their schedules to accommodate mine. I HAD to get home. I had to be there for them. I had to prove that I can do this -- that I can juggle our busy family life and work full-time and somehow manage it all, especially this fall, the first that all five of our children are in school.
As it turns out, I can't. I surely can't control the weather that cancelled my flight. No more than I can control the tortured triplet who clings to my leg each day when the school bus arrives I was desperate to get home to him, to them, to all of them. But, as I waited in that line, and later sat on the "distressed passenger" (understatement!) shuttle to the Holiday Inn, I realized that I'm no different than anyone else. Everyone has a story; everyone has a reason to get home.
I met one man who feared for his job if he didn't make it home that night; I met a woman who feared for her patients if she didn't make it to the hospital the next morning. I listened to the people around me. I was stunned by how angry some were and shocked at how drunk one was; I don't have the energy these days for getting angry or drunk. I just wanted to go home.
As my jet-setting week turning into a jet-fretting fiasco, I realized it's OK if I miss the kindergarten conferences and just how grateful I am that my husband can cover them. I'm also grateful that I passed on the option to fly to DC, land at midnight and then rent a car to drive the four-and-a-half hours home. I seriously considered doing this thinking it might -- just might -- get me home in time for those conferences. Which would prove to everyone -- the teachers, my kids, myself -- that I can do it all. You know what I proved, in addition to the fact that you can fly on Friday the 13th and live to tell about it? I can't do it all. Not even close. But I'm definitely not planning any business trips anytime near when those first grade conferences roll around!