Well, I was working, but I wasn't, technically speaking, at work.
There were six of us hanging around in an underground garage, waiting. Not really talking much. Just standing there, staring at the entrance.
My cell phone vibrated in my pocket, but before I could check on it, I heard a noise coming from the entrance. Sirens. Engines roaring. And around the corner came the motorcade: car after car pulled into the garage, right in front of where I stood.
From one of the vehicles, just a few feet away from me, a DS special agent leapt out and pulled open a car door, stepping back to allow the Secretary of State to exit the vehicle. He walked right past me and into the building, followed by an entourage of agents and foreign service officers and all sorts of hangers-on.
No, he didn't notice me. And I didn't follow him in. My job was to escort the travelling press into the building and into the press filing center after the Secretary had gone in and gotten settled.
I did just that: I walked them in and got them set up in the filing center, where they had just a few minutes to work on their stories before we had to dash back to the motorcade, which was leaving for the Palace shortly.
Back in the underground garage, I could feel my phone buzzing again, but it was my personal phone, not my work phone, so I decided to ignore it for awhile longer. I stood and watched the hive of activity, trying not to pass out from the exhaust fumes all around. With the reporters back in the press vehicles, I had nothing to do but stand around and wait for Secretary Kerry to rejoin the motorcade.
He eventually returned and hopped back in his car. The entire motorcade peeled off for the palace in a blur of flashing lights and squealing tires and blowing exhaust.
It was 7pm, but I wasn't going to be finished working for hours: I had to staff the filing center until well after dark.
I finally had time to check my phone though, and I found a message from the nanny:
"What's for dinner?"
I should tell you that my nanny is great, and the kids love her, but she cannot cook. This wasn't a problem when I hired her, because I had no intention of working full time and cooking is one part of parenting that I take great pride in. I love to do it, and I do it well. When I make dinner, my kids eat healthy food and mostly enjoy it. So I didn't want a nanny who could cook. My plan was to take care of that myself.
But now? Here it was 7pm, an hour past dinnertime, and there was no food in the house that she knew how to cook (read: no mac n cheese or rice). I scrambled to think of something I could order that would get there quickly, and I finally settled on a chicken kebab place. I texted her what to order (from memory - do you think I'm ordering take out too often these days?) and trudged back to my now-empty filing center to wait for my reporters to return.
The kids mutinied.
My husband texted to tell me they did NOT want the chicken. They did not want the leftover pizza from the night before, either. They did not want anything at all in the fridge. And by the way, he texted again: we're out of peanut butter.
Sigh. This working mom gig is really not easy, is it? I spent the night in my filing center, feeling like a total failure, chewing on tootsie rolls and wondering how to find a better balance between being a decent mom and being a good-enough employee.
I never did think of a way to do it right. Does anybody really know how? But this morning, the first morning of the weekend, I holed up in the kitchen and got to cooking frantically, trying to catch up, to build some food equity so that next week goes better. I made a batch of black bean soup, a double batch of chicken stock, and a triple batch of Turkish lentil soup before it was time to leave for the baseball field.
I'm still not quite sure how to balance it all. And what little balance I have now will fly right out the window in four weeks, when Bart leaves for Baghdad. But for now, tonight, I'm feeling better, knowing as I do that those containers of soup are stacked neatly in the freezer, awaiting the next time my work becomes all-consuming and my kids rebel against the idea of soggy cheese pizza or boxed mac n cheese. My own Tupperware talisman, keeping disaster at bay...