When parenting goes viral
Into every stay-at-home parent’s life comes that transformative moment. Maybe your kid is finally old enough for you to go in search of a reentry point on that career path you left behind, or maybe that irresistible job offer comes in, or maybe your family just needs more money. So you get back to work.
It’s a juggling act, of course. You’re still trying to be a good parent and give the beastie plenty of attention, and the spouse can’t be neglected, but you’re also dedicated to doing your best and proving that you still have what it takes for the new gig. Sooner, rather than later, assuming you don’t fuck it up, you hit your groove and settle into a demanding, but do-able schedule.
And then the shit hits the fan.
That expression is all too literal in my case, since I came down with gastroenteritis, probably courtesy of norovirus, three weeks into a new job for Reason magazine. On a Tuesday morning, to be exact, with the rest of the week yawning ahead. There I was, running a fever, weak, nauseous, bed-ridden, and very much with something still to prove. So I propped myself on pillows, put the laptop on … well … my lap. And tapped away.
And then, two days later, Tony got sick. He had the same gut-wrenching virus I had, but magnified by his youth and relative lack of experience with maintaining a death grip on a cold, porcelain disk. What was horrible for me was a tour through hell for him. I was still sick at this point. So my wife rented movies, bought gatorade, and basically tossed them in our direction while holding her shirt over her face and mouth and wielding Lysol wipes like sacred relics.
I literally worked in 15-minute spurts between sessions spent propping Tony over a tupperware bowl, rubbing his back and uttering soothing reassurances. Then off to the porcelain throne for my own turn at misery, and back to the job. All of this accompanied by endless repetitions of Ice Age: The Meltdown, to which Tony clung like it was a lifesaver of joy in a sea of bile-flavored suckage.
On Friday, I kid you not, the laptop got sick. It picked up some pernicious version of the Google redirect virus that resisted Unhackme, Windows Security Essentials, Malwarebytes, SuperAntiSpyware, Combofix and some unnamed stand-alone product from Avast. The wizards of Bangalore employed by OfficeMax finally dug it out, but by this time, I was ready to pursue my old fantasy of chucking it all and living in splendid solitude in a shack in the desert. No computers, no kids, and no shortage of receptacles the next time I came down with stomach flu.
I didn’t do that, obviously. Frankly, I haven’t yet recovered the energy to flee into the wilderness, and I’m well aware that, by the time it returns, my mind will have blissfully blurred the sharp edges of last week’s memories, making the events less immediate and more tolerable.
But with work, parenting and the ever-looming prospect of random disaster, the juggling act continues.