By Angela Breslow
It was just a few days until Christmas. Motherhood had been tough for Kristen. Matthew was a colicky baby, and he had woken up with his mouth wide open, screaming every two hours since he was born. He would wake up, want to eat and then spit up 90percent of what he ate. This had been going on for three months now and she didn’t know how much longer she could take it.
Kristen and Matthew were home together a lot during the past six months. Kristen could count the times she had been out of the house on her two hands. She didn’t have any help because her husband Jack really couldn’t handle Matthew’s endless fits of crying. He just didn’t have patience for it.
Before having Matthew, she had an exciting career as a wedding planner with a lot of variety. She met interesting people and traveled to both urban and exotic locations. She was well respected in her field and really enjoyed her work.
This job was much different than that. Now the most exotic place that she traveled was the neighborhood grocery store, and she was lucky if she got to talk to another adult during the day. She sometimes even picked up calls when she knew they were telemarketers just for someone to talk to.
But, she had wanted this. She had tried unsuccessfully to become a mother for many years. Finally, her wish had come true. Now, she felt guilty for wishing to get away from Matthew or to do something more exciting. She was getting tired of the never-ending routine of feeding and changing diapers. It left her feeling depressed. She would take Mathew out in his stroller for a walk and would sometimes encounter someone to talk to, but he always started to cry after a few minutes, and she had to move on.
The phone rang and Kristen answered it. It was her boss Diane. She sometimes called to ask her a question about work or just to check in. Kristen was surprised that Diane hadn’t called to invite her to the big holiday party they had every year for the staff. It was a big deal, and she’d helped to plan the event in the past. She felt like maybe they’d forgotten about her. She had agreed to work on a part-time basis as needed, although she didn’t want to return full time just yet. She was still part of the team.
Diane asked, “So how are Matthew and Jack?”
“Jack’s fine. Matthew is still having a hard time holding food down, but I hope he’ll come through this.”
“Oh I see. That has to be hard.”
“Yeah, it is but I’m trudging my way through.”
“Kristen, I’m sorry to say that there’s another reason for my call. We’re going to have to take you off payroll.”
“I don’t understand. I thought we agreed I would still do some work for you when you need me.”
“Well, the thing is we haven’t had a need in the past five months since you’ve been off work…and with the economy, we don’t see anything coming soon.”
“Oh.” Kristen felt her emotions taking over. She was being let go. She wasn’t worth keeping on payroll. She was completely shocked she was being let go right before Christmas. They never let people go right before Christmas. It was generally considered too harsh to do that to someone at that time of year.
“Of course, if you want to come back full time, we’ll find something for you.”
Kristen wondered how she could do that when Matthew was still struggling. He needed her. She responded, “I can’t…not now”.
She got off the phone with Diane and her eyes welled up with tears. She didn’t want to go back right now, but she felt like her lifeline had been cut. Her identity as a professional was disappearing. It was scary to think that all she was now was a wife and a mother. This was hard to swallow. She had been raised to be a career woman not a stay-at-home mom.
She battled with herself for hours. She would have loved to go back just to get out among the living. But how could she desert Matthew? He was depending upon her. The pull to her child was stronger than the one to her career. She made the only decision that she could, but it seemed strange: like she was somebody else.
Christmas Day came, and Kristen was exhausted as usual, after being up half of the night with Matthew. She lumbered down the stairs, carrying him. Matthew caught the view of a little stuffed puppy’s head sticking out of the top of the stocking and smiled. Kristen laughed and smiled back at him with the biggest smile she had in a long time.
“Merry Christmas my angel.”
Angela Breslow is a nom-de-plume. Mother and former business executive, she now works with parents who wish to improve their family lives.