The pilot had just given the all-clear for electronic devices, which left me free to rummage under the seat in front of me for my laptop. I was taking a moment to consider the barbarism that allows airline passengers to push their seats back into my head when the kindly older woman next to me inquired if I was on a business trip. I think the PowerPoint deck and the calculator I pulled out of my briefcase tipped her off.
Why yes! I am. I’m flying to Connecticut. For business. I’ll be there all week. I am married, yes. Yes, I do have children. Four. Two girls, two boys. But they’re not little anymore. The younger two, the boys, are still in high school, though.
That’s when she asked me: “So, I guess the boys stay with your mother while you travel?”
I looked blank, because I had no idea what she was talking about. She was mystified, because the question was so obvious: “Who takes care of your sons while you travel?”
“My husband? Their father?”
It was her turn to do the blank look thing. Because, of course a man can’t take care of kids and a house by himself! You need a woman for that!
I do? I mean, he does?
She said that according to The New York Times, he does. In a recent article, they covered the drill that moms have to do when they leave town on a business trip, and apparently I’m doing it all wrong. They’re cooking meals ahead and leaving strict, printed schedules and picking out everyone’s outfits for the week.
Me? I figured that it’s insulting to Dad Interrupted to assume he can’t hold the house together when I’m gone. I mean, he can root around in the freezer for a pizza as well as I can, and we don’t have two strapping sons who can reach into the top of the pantry and find soup cans for nothing.
It hasn’t been all roses, of course. There was the unfortunate Incident With the Bleach, and then we had the Day The Back Gate Was Left Open and Elmer the Basset Hound Had an Impromptu Field Trip, followed by the Mix up About the Actual Start Time of the Band Concert But It Wasn’t My Fault Because I Know I Was Told It Started At Seven.
Kindly Older Woman tried again. “You must cook all the meals ahead of time for them to heat up! How organized!”
I did that ahead thingy the first time. I carefully cooked and stored five dinners, pre-packed the boys’ lunches, and even went the extra mile and made sure that the laundry was all washed, dried, and put away.
I came home from my week-long trip and discovered that no one had touched the food in favor of takeout every night. The lunches lay moldering in the refrigerator, which was a blessing because it distracted me from the sight of the laundry, never-worn and distributed, if that’s the word we want to use, all over the bathroom floor.
That day marked the last time I cooked ahead. It also marked the day that I taught the boys how to use the washing machine.
But not the bleach. Never again, at least not without a Hazmat team.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Elizabeth Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.