Thursday, July 9, 2009

Expect the unexpected...

I got called into work on Saturday and pulled an 80-hour week that meant cancelling my vacation and Father’s Day plans. Now I’ve got projects to work on at home over the weekend and into next week. Let me explain.

If I were employed at a different address than the one I list as my home then most people would make sad noises about how awful my boss is and that I should be getting overtime. As I work and live in the same building, the assumptions seem to change and I become just another good hearted soul who maybe “should” do these things. The expectation that someone perform these duties can, in my experience, build resentment for the job and the patient. Maybe I am good hearted, but mostly it is what I do because my job here at the house specifically includes being available for emergencies. I take care of the people around me and that means that on a Saturday afternoon I can get called away from my scrapbooking and into the hospital to take care of a friend who had lived with us and celebrated holidays, birthdays, and occasional lunches with our family.

She began having seizures six or more times a day and could not be left alone in the hospital, so it became necessary that I stay with her. My job in the hospital included: managing her medical care, talking with doctors, assisting with meals, finding a dietician when the gluten-free diet was forgotten, contacting employers and family, and bringing the daily comforts that make life easier – like hazelnut creamer and really good coffee. I tried to keep her in good spirits and provide emotional support (and practical next-steps) when she felt discouraged. One of the things I did was begin to write down an abbreviated medical history and list of emergency / family phone numbers. At home I typed it up and it is now tucked in with the friend’s driver license. She cannot talk during the seizures and good samaritans might need that information. I have a similar but less detailed contact sheet for my son that includes his allergies, pediatrician, insurance information, and common phone numbers to find family members.

My home duties didn’t change very much during this overtime at the hospital. My son still needed to be dropped off for summer camp, picked up from summer camp and lunches prepared. The rest of the family still needed to eat in the evenings. Thankfully I had already planned what needed to be made for nutritious and interesting lunches at camp and the frozen dinners I’d made a month ago were just a quick warming away from dinner served. I’m so glad I listened to the advice about thinking ahead for busy times! The 20 min to make those meals saved me hours of stress while I was in the hospital room.

I couldn’t have spent the time at the hospital with our friend if my family hadn’t pitched in! I do my best to make such events as stress free as possible, but truly they stepped up to the plate. My family does a fantastic job of finding their own way around the kitchen and even picking up on some of my chores like laundry when I’m busy elsewhere.

I am the one who goes to the hospital because I’m good at it and because we choose to have someone (me) available for such events. There is no obligation to be at the beck and call of family (at least not in this system), but it is our choice to support the people who form our community because we believe in intentional community. I did not resent my time at the hospital with our friend and neither did my family. I knew that there were limits of what I could do and my family knew I would not abandon them. Knowing exactly what is expected of me as a Domestic Goddess (via my job description) put reasonable limits on the time I could spend away from home.

I did not get any overtime for my long week of work and I lost my vacation time in the process, but I reclaimed vacation time in small bits here and there over the next few weeks with the help of my family. My bosses appreciated my efforts and supported both my absence and my return. My family intends to live in a world where caretakers are given the resources to do their jobs because it is good for everyone. So far paying me to be a Domestic Goddess has allowed us to live our principles.

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