When I worked at law firms, it wasn't the long nights in the office, the ruined weekends, or the canceled vacations that really got me down. In reality, those things didn't happen too often. No, the scary thing - the thing that caused me the most stress - was the threat of all of those things.
All it took was one all-nighter in the office to put the fear of God in you that it would happen again - anytime, at no warning. (For the record, it only happened to me once, which I wrote about here). If you heard that some associate in some other department in some other office had to cancel their vacation, the seed was planted that this too could happen to you. Having to cancel plans once in a blue moon meant that you never knew when you would have to cancel again, at a moment's notice, and so every dinner reservation, every concert, ever planned weekend away, came with an underlying caveat - "... unless things go crazy at work." Since leaving my job, I obviously don't have to worry about this happening to me anymore. But this weekend, I was reminded that I can't say the same for my husband. And so that the fear continues to follow me.
Last Friday was my husband and my 5th anniversary. To be honest, we have never been big anniversary people - we usually do a card and a dinner out. But this year, my husband actually splurged and bought me a decent piece of jewelry. I was so touched and surprised. And though we aren't having our "official" anniversary dinner until next week in California (details to come), we still had a night out planned. My husband's firm had a corporate department dinner, and spouses were invited. I was so excited for a night out with my husband with free food and drinks, and also to be able to hang out with his co-workers that he talks about so much, but that I barely know.
We had known about this event forever, and my dad had agreed to come into town to be our resident babysitter for the evening. He was going to arrive at our house around 4, and by 5, I would be decked out in non-pajama attire and on my way downtown. I had chosen my outfit carefully, as I wanted to wear the new necklace my husband had gotten me, so I chose a shirt with the perfect neckline to show it off.
My husband had mentioned that things were going crazy at work, so we might have to arrive at the event late. I was annoyed, but whatever. I got ready and wrote out instructions for my dad. I ordered in food for him and the kids. I was awaiting the call from my husband to go ahead and make my way downtown. I waited. And waited. And waited. Until 5:30 pm, when I got a rushed call from my husband saying: "It's not going to happen tonight. Things are just too crazy."
This isn't the first time my husband has canceled plans on me, and it certainly won't be the last. But this one really stung. First, the situation was just pathetic on its face. It was our anniversary. I was decked out in my new necklace and actually put on make up. My dad had driven in from North Carolina just to babysit. I had hardly eaten anything all day, anticipating that I'd be gorging myself on hor d'oevres and rich desserts, and had obviously left myself out of the impending food delivery for the rest of my family.
But I think the core of my disappointment came from the fact that I was missing out on a rare glimpse into my husband's other life. Despite the fact that he has been at his firm for over four years, I can count on one hand the amount of times I've met his co-workers. I wanted the opportunity to know them and put more faces to names. I wanted to show them I'm not just a nagging stay at home mom, always emailing my husband to come home early - I actually am kind of cool. I wanted to be at his side when he was networking and shmoozing and laughing over deal terms I don't understand. It is so rare I get to be in my husband's element. That was why this night was a big deal. And that was why I was devastated when it got taken away. He ended up getting home at 11:30 pm, and I was already in bed.
The next morning, Braden had a birthday party to go to. My dad was here to watch Casey, so my husband and I planned to take Braden together. I was really looking forward to an outing of three, which we so rarely do these days. We were LITERALLY walking out the door, when I realized I'd forgotten the gift. I ran back inside to get it, and by the time I got back outside, my husband had gotten an email. There was an impromptu conference call, in five minutes. We went without him.
The weekend was turning into a total bust.
After that, I dropped all expectations, and I became a happier person. My dad was here, my kids were happy, and it was a beautiful day. We enjoyed it. And my husband got to join in every now and then.
This lifestyle is at times crazy, and it is hard. I remind myself it's not my husband's fault. I remind myself that there will be other weekends, other dinners, other birthday parties. And I remind myself to live in the moment, as unfounded fears of potential canceled plans do me no favors.
But weekends like this certainly don't help.