As a lawyer, I am no stranger to guilt. Every day my clients are accused of some wrongdoing or another and it's my job to defend them. Questions of guilt permeate almost every decision we litigators make - from litigation strategy to settlement value. But despite my close working relationship with guilt, I was unprepared for the tsunami of guilt my three year old unleashed last night.
Last night I had to work late. As usual, things are very busy around my office and at 7:30 last night every litigator was still here. Every. Single. One. While I normally complain about having to work late, I think my work has been pretty reasonable with its expectations lately and really, in all jobs you have to work late sometimes. So I didn't think it was overly burdensome to stay late this one night. Plus, I had been home early-ish the night before and got some quality play time in with the kids. So while I would have rather been home with my family, I wasn't begrudging my late work night either. Until I called home to tell my kids good night.
I routinely call home on the nights I work late. Even if I'm not there to tuck them in, I try to call home and wish them a good night every single night. And KJ usually loves the phone. He'll beg to talk to anyone who calls and tell them all about his day. It's really quite cute and one of the things I look forward to when I work late. But last night he wouldn't get on the phone at all. He refused to talk to me until Husband brought the phone to him and told him to talk to Mommy. And it only went downhill from there:
Me: Hi KJ! How was school today?
Me: KJ? How was school?
KJ: Mommy, why do you have to stay late at work?
Me: I have a big, important project due tonight and we need lots of people to help to get it done. It doesn't happen very often, and we'll make up for tonight by having lots and lots of fun when I'm home ALL DAY on Friday.
KJ (crying): But you said you would play hockey with me.
Try as he might, Husband could not get KJ back on the phone to talk with me. I was left to turn back to my work with my heart broken, my little guy crying and the knowledge that I had let him down. I've never felt so badly about working as I did at that moment.
Of course I didn't know on Monday when I told KJ that we'd play hockey on Tuesday that I'd have to work late. And of course I would have rather been playing hockey than working. But no matter the "of courses" the end result was the same. I let my child down.
I keep telling myself that I did the right thing. I needed to be at work and I was. KJ was at home with his dad and sister. He didn't need me to be there. But no matter how I try to rationalize things, I know that I missed a moment with my guy. It didn't feel good last night, and it doesn't feel any better today.