February snow blows into town with a vengeance. And with it comes many unwelcome three-word combinations, like ‘shovel the walk,’ and ‘scrape your car,’ and ‘major traffic delays.’ But perhaps the dirtiest, filthiest, most dreaded of three word phrases that can be uttered from male to female during the long, cold days of winter…
Working From Home.
I imagine this prospect presents conflicts for the dual-working couples with stand-offs over shared DSL lines and whose conference call earns the louder voice. But the true pain and suffering is felt uniquely by the stay-at-home mom. While normally the Queen of her castle, the master of her domain, she is suddenly and unapologetically dethroned from her post and stripped of her royal garb. Sometimes she’s even made to pack up her earthly possessions and small loyal servants into a Jeep and travel to a far-away kingdom, crown clattering on the street like a discarded tuna can.
As one such Queen today (and yesterday), this weather-induced coup is bringing the castle walls in. We’re all used to seeing the King in his bedclothes at night, but there’s something unsavory about it on a Thursday at 2pm. We’re accostomed to being asked, “what’s for lunch,” on a weekend, but to hear those words on Friday, by 10am no less, is something different altogether, particularly when followed by “what’s for dinner,” 15 minutes after lunch is finished.
The near-constant (and far too casual) presence of the King confuses the subjects, as well. Questions like ”Daddy, milk? Daddy, play?” are met with rejection for he’s too busy, working. And when I ask for a few minute’s aid so that I might do something exotic and liberating, like laundry in the basement, I, too, am rejected. See, while working from home may seem like a lot of sofa-sitting and genital-scratching to an outsider, it always becomes a dire and mandatory duty when confronted with a request to change a diaper, scrape a windshield, or permit the wife a private toilet experience.
One might think this rare peephole into the day to day rigors the Queen experiences might give the King some added respect for her role within the royal hierarchy. No. It doesn’t. Instead she’s met with questions about the way she manages the Prince and Princess. “Do you let him play with markers on the counter everyday?” “Are you allowing them to touch my guitar when I’m not here?” “Do you think they need to pour applesauce all over the floor?” Before I can even defend my position – “Hold that thought, conference call. Can you take the kids upstairs?”
That’s the worst part of spousal work-at-home, the exile to a bedroom. With inclement weather, the upstairs bedrooms become like the holding pen of a castle tower. Inevitably the 15 minute conference call (promise!) becomes a 2 hour one. The kids and I start jaundicing and withering like the family from Flowers in the Attic. By the time the tower door is unlocked, the kids seem like the cooped up and jittery dog from There’s Something About Mary, ready to pounce at the crotch of their captor.
So I close this entry plotting ways to get him to take his horse-drawn carriage to a Starbucks for awhile, and my heart goes out to the ultimate Queen and King and work-at-home example, the Obamas. At the end of a grueling week in the White House, I wonder if Michelle sneaks a call to the Queen of the United Arab Emirates, pleading for an urgent summit in Abu Dhabi: “Please, Mrs. Nahyan, I just need him out of the house for a couple of days. I’ll take the Sheikh next month for you…”