September 3, 2014 by Melanie L.
Twenty-one years ago, my boss, the assistant manager at CVS/Pharmacy store #813, expected me to come to work everyday with a work-issued box cutter in my apron pocket. Most times, though, I disappointed her. I always misplaced it. Frustrated, my boss finally scribbled “goober” on the sheath, “because you are,” she exasperated, “don’t lose this one.”
I haven’t. It’s a small thing but it fills me with a sense of pride that I finally stopped losing my box-cutters. I keep it buried in my office desk drawer beneath the box of paper clips, a stack of sticky notes and a tray of pens.
Between that first job and my current one, I’ve held so many jobs that my mom once joked I could write a book. I’ve been a telemarket-researcher, a popcorn concessionist, a trash can scrubber, a designer clothes salesperson, a camp counselor, youth group leader, religious school teacher, receptionist, professor’s assistant, law clerk, lawyer, college adjunct, and civil court arbitrator. As diverse as these jobs were, they were all jobs that I could see coming a mile away.
There is, however, one role I never expected to fill. That is the role of single mom. As early as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be a mother. And I cherish it. My bosses are gorgeous, smart, and all-around awesome – if I do say so myself. The benefits are heavenly. The perks are equal parts hilarious, cathartic, educational and heart-warming. Best of all, the job security is unrivaled.
I just never thought I’d be doing it alone. Most days, mercifully, I hardly notice. Other days I feel like I did when I showed up to CVS without my box cutter multiplied by a thousand: woefully under-prepared and scared sh!tless. This past Labor Day weekend was one such occasion.
My daughter, 3, came home from preschool with a scary-high fever and, I suspect, a touch of febrile delirium. The next day I had a single-mom dilemma. Staying home all day with my sick child meant caging my healthy wild child. Going to the playground with my healthy child, on the other hand, meant subjecting my ill child to the elements. I couldn’t very well split myself in two.
I opted for a compromise. I bundled my daughter and her blankie in the stroller, reclined the seat, and spent the afternoon indoors at the Academy of Natural Sciences. I get that my day was not necessarily unique to single mommyhood. Nonetheless, I felt guilty that day. Unable to do right by both kids, I did right by none. I was a bumbling goober.
And that was a good day on the job. It is an utter nightmare when my kids leave to go to their father’s house. With the addition of the holiday on Monday, I had to endure three nights away from my children. It’s not that their father can’t handle it. He can. It’s that this was the longest I have ever been separated from my children, and it killed me. I dread being away from my children when they’re healthy. I was heartbroken to have to part with a sick child.
Unlike that job at CVS, as a single-mom, I’m never off the clock, and I’m always looking for that damn box cutter. Unfortunately, there’s no one to hand me another. Despite all the difficulties that come with the job, or maybe because of them, I’ve never felt prouder. I got this.