Last week I heard something out of the mouth of a father that I cannot imagine hearing from a mother.
Permit me to explain. My 15-year-old, Boychik, is in a fabulous Jewish youth choir that just had a regional retreat in N.J. I had volunteered to be the Manhattan chapter’s parent coordinator, which meant I needed to make sure that every kid in the chapter had a way to get to the retreat and back.
Being the Yekke that I am, I got on the task early. I emailed parents more than a week in advance, asking them to let me know if their child was going and if so, if he or she needed a ride to or from the gathering. Naturally, I heard from no one.
A few days later, I sent another email, giving people a deadline of a few days before the retreat, the idea being that I’d have everything worked out well in advance of the trip to N.J. Sunday morning. That lit a fire under several parents, who wonderfully got back to me and helped me figure out who needed a ride with whom.
But a couple of parents didn’t get in touch. So the Thursday night before the weekend retreat I’m on the phone trying to play matchmaker for the remaining kids. Semi-frantic phone calling ensued between me, the chapter’s conductor, and the mom who did this job last year, as we tried to figure out a way to reach two families who weren’t answering their many phone numbers. (Wasn’t technology supposed to make our lives less, rather than more, complicated?)
When I finally reached the father of one of the two kids still needing rides, he seemed dumbfounded that his young teenage daughter had not figured this out for herself. I told him who to call for a ride back into the city. But getting a ride out was harder, because only one parent was driving straight from the city to N.J.
I told him to call that parent, and gave him the relevant phone number. Alas, he left it in the hands of his lovely daughter, who seemed to confuse who was going where, and as soon as night fell on Saturday I got a frantic email from him: “Can’t find her a ride there, can U help?”
I was on my way out the door for a date with my husband, but I took the time to respond with three different ways she could get there (including a bus from Port Authority and getting her to my house to connect with the Brooklyn contingent).
Nevertheless, after I got home from our wonderful date, at 10:30 Saturday night, I got a terse email from him telling me to call him.
When I called him, I told him that I was slightly annoyed to have to deal with this on late Saturday night, since I’d asked for responses by the previous Tuesday in order to avoid such a crunch.
He responded, nearly shouting, “I’m very busy. I’m a surgeon!”
Are you kidding me? Didn’t your patronizing attitude go out of style about the time President Kennedy stopped wearing hats? It sounded like a line you’d hear on Mad Men, were the show set in a hospital.
Aside from the comment’s sheer rudeness, something else bothered me about it. Then the lightbulb went off: it was so…male!
I mean no offense to the male half of the species, which I love and enjoy, but I cannot imagine hearing anything similar from any mother I know. Even a working mother. Even one who works as a surgeon.
We are all impossibly busy. But we mothers generally handle it all. ‘Tis true that we may drop the ball once in awhile, but when we do we are generally contrite and appreciative of the people who are trying to help us out (like volunteer parent coordinators).
The remark brought to mind a related phenomenon.
My husband only got his first cell phone within the last year and a half. After years of hocking him a chaiynik about it, he finally gave in. (Though even now he rarely turns it on). Before he relented, I noticed that all of the few people I knew who were in his Luddite camp were men. And fathers.
No mother of school-age children I know would ever consider ditching her cell phone. We have to be available, at all times, in case a child gets hurt in gym class at school or confused about which subway line to take when construction bollixes up the routes. It’s just part of our job description.
Even when we have other job descriptions, too. Like surgeon.