After what seemed like six years, Mama returned home this week. And it was none too soon.
She traveled with her dad and sister to her father’s 4,768,345-year class reunion in West Virginia, and from there, they took a week-long side trip to Ohio, where both her brothers and their families live.
It was, by all accounts a very good trip. We have all attended her father’s class reunions in the past and they are fun. With apologies to my friend and colleague Sarah Nagem, I never really knew there was much to West Virginia other than an interstate highway to be used for traveling through the state.
But that trip about five years ago convinced me otherwise. It’s a beautiful place with lots of friendly, engaging people. My daughters and I were a bit jealous that we wouldn’t be able to attend this year’s reunion.
What’s far worse, though, is that we had to hold down the fort while she was gone.
That’s a big job. A heckuva a lot bigger than I ever realized. I’ve washed more laundry, done more dishes, put children to bed more than I have in years. I’ve picked up behind children who have yet to realize the floor is not a repository for every little thing they bring home from school – bookbags, shoes, empty soft drink cans, chip bags. At one point or another, I’ve toted all those things to the proper place and put them away.
All the school meetings have fallen to me for the past couple weeks. Getting kids to band practice and picking them up. You guessed it. Me again. Playing the role of disciplinarian. Yep. I got that one too. It’s no fun.
Hell, I even cooked a meal – that everyone had to eat.
For her whopping salary of $0, Mama handles all those things.
I try hard not to abuse what Mama does for us all at home but, like many people, I can quickly settle into a pattern in which I expect dinner on the table and clothes freshly laundered. It’s jarring, to say the least when you realize just how much we take those things for granted when someone else is handling it for you.
I’ve seen summaries of what a mother’s salary ought to be – you know, those things that take into account all the things a mom does, from being a doctor and a child psychologist to a taxi driver and chef. When you total it all up, being a mother is a seven-figure job.
I have no doubt that moms like ours are worth all that and more. It’s fascinating that second-string quarterbacks are making millions and business people with ethics like Attila the Hun are getting big bucks, but some of the most important jobs in our society earn just peanuts.
Of course, our stay-at-home mom isn’t likely to see that kind of paycheck. At that rate, I couldn’t afford her and I’d have to lay her off.
But the truth is, I can’t afford to be without her. What’s even better is that she knows she’s missed and And that makes this week’s homecoming all the sweeter.