Thought No. 15: Sunday / by Jennifer Wisniewski

"A rock and a hard place."

There is a saying in our business that “you call off dead”, if you are not coming in for work.  Sounds harsh, but fair enough. If you call off sick in this business, you can potentially put your fellow co-workers in a tough spot, because the people left behind are forced to make up the difference. In other lines of work, meetings can be cancelled or moved around – project timelines can change. Not in this business. The customer is coming and its Valentine’s weekend – so they are definitely coming.

So, as fate would have it, my daughter was running a 104 degree temperature the day before Valentine’s Day, Saturday night. This is the “between a rock and a hard” place part. I’m not a server or a cook, but my absence does affect my manager and business partner. 

This week has been eye opening for me, as far as what is the ethical and moral action to take when you have a sick child. Stella has come in second to my restaurant more times than I want to count. When do you put your family first, even if it’s at the risk of your business? As a mother, I’m the only one to make the call if she needs to go to the emergency room or not. It’s hard enough that I feel I am never there for Stella when she really needs me. It makes me ponder what kind of future relationship I’m fostering and what are the lasting effects of always putting her second?

After her fever went down, I was able to go to work the next day. But, after a few days, it was clear that she required medical attention. She was listless and pale and her coughing was incessant. That morning I had to be at work, but there was no one to cover me. My gay was busy. I had my nanny take her to the doctor – and lets just put it this way: when the doctor called me, she was not happy about my absence – and I could feel the judgement coming through the phone.

I thought, “what a strange week”. I feel the pains of guilt when I’m not at work, and judged if I am at work. I have a country music song that I have written and the first lyric goes like this, “If I was a man” … No disrespect towards Stella’s father, but I’m pretty sure he went through his week with no preconceived notion from anyone on how he should deal with his daughter’s illness. He helped when he was able and went to work, and the doctor wasn’t asking where he was.

The bizarre part of this week was the realization that society’s perception of what a mother should be hasn’t caught up to the reality of what a mother has to do in order to survive. When I told my sister Mary about my new discovery of the double standard, her response was: “Duh! Where have you been?! That’s why being a mom sucks!”, she exclaimed.

I despise those catchphrases like “finding balance” or “having it all”. I think they are out of touch with the reality of what is really going on, and there isn’t a conversation on the real struggle. I’m not looking for balance or having it all, I’m just trying to make a buck and keep Stella off the pole as an adult.

How can I run a successful business and be there in a real way for my child? I would like to avoid the altercation of her telling me to “fuck off” and that I was never there for her. I mean, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I can see that day coming.

Anyway – that’s what I want to talk about. In my race to achieve some form of success, am I simultaneously selling my daughter out? I did the best I could with the hand that I was dealt this week – and to be even more honest – the worst part of the week was Stella being home for six days from school. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.