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facts & arguments

Mark Lazenby/The Globe and Mail

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I miss my brain. We used to be good friends and hang out pretty often. Almost every day, in fact.

I moved to Canada from England in 1997 to work on my PhD. When I began it, my cousin informed me it stood for Pile it Higher and Deeper. By the time I had finished it, I figured it was an abbreviation for Persistent, However Dumb.

Now, though, it would appear to stand for Permanently Holding Diapers.

After finishing my doctorate, I worked, ran my own business and had a family. I had planned on returning to work once our little guy was 2 – right about now. I am dying to get back to a job with grown-ups, one that requires me to shower regularly, wear clean, matching clothes every day and speak without being interrupted by questions about Super Spy Detective Rabbit or the whereabouts of Mukmuk's jetpack.

But our second child has a triple whammy of asthma, allergies and eczema.

Hardly a day goes by when I don't look at his skin and say "What is that?" or blame myself for failing to moisturize him five times or for giving him his puffer a few minutes too late.

Then there are the days when I feed him something delicious that pisses his skin off and makes him scratch all night, and days when his chest sounds crackly and he coughs until he vomits.

Sleep deprivation and worry play havoc with my concentration and short-term memory. I spill coffee, lose or break things continually and have lost my sense of proprioception (my house keeps attacking me).

I'm more irritable, more inflexible and less patient than I used to be. At night, I dream of Play-Doh, poo and losing my children. And my short-term memory is shot. Or did I mention that already?

But hey, I used to be smart! I had something that approximated a career. There's got to be some kind of job I can do right now.

Let's take a closer look at my options:

1. Martial Arts Professional (Relevant experience: black belt in diaper origami).

2. Teacher (Seminar topic: Zen and the art of the diaper samosa).

3. Circus Clown (I scored an A in slapstick this week, when I applied leftover Vaseline to my knees, then knelt on our hardwood floor. Whammo! Face down on the hand-scraped walnut faster than you can say, "Is that a dust bunny I see before me?")

4. Avant-garde interior decorator (Hook: I decorate with Vaseline, and my assistant is nearly 2).

5. Jewel Thief (If I apply enough steroid cream and don't wash my hands thoroughly, my fingerprints might actually drop off. Score!).

6. Start a new airline (Pitch: "Fly Reactive Airways! We've no idea where we're going and it'll take about three years to get there, but we guarantee the ride will be bumpy as hell!").

Now we've got that sorted out, I just need to find a babysitter who takes good notes and is prepared to watch my child's skin closely after every meal, snack and outing. Someone who is comfortable with the array of medications and creams he needs, who is familiar with the respiratory ailments of early childhood and who is incredibly loving and compassionate, responsive, patient and as dedicated as his mother.

This person will also be ready to attend Joel's medical appointments and able to answer the asthma doctor's questions about every wheeze and cough, and the progression of each cold from day to day, from lungs to nose and back again.

He or she will face such questions as: "What happened before you gave him the inhaler?" "What changed afterward?" "When he vomits, does he vomit right after coughing, or at other times during the day?"

But hang on a minute. A friend once told me that when a child is sick, he needs his mother and nobody else. Even if the child's misery is breaking his mother's heart, it's her job and nobody else can do it. A mother can clean up messes that would disgust and horrify anyone else.

I'm starting to see what my friend meant. The person who fits the job description for looking after Joel is me.

Now, I think of my friend every time Joel gets sick. I've decided that even if I could find someone else to take my place, I wouldn't want to.

In the meantime, I am full of ideas and find myself composing essays, blog entries and documentary pitches at all hours (right now it's 4 a.m. and I'm typing this with two Band-Aids wrapped around the thumb I just hacked with a bread knife).

But for now I'll stay home with my congested, happy wheezer. He's an easygoing little chap who is quite well sometimes, though not well enough for his mommy to get a job.

I long to set my ideas in motion, but it looks as though I will just have to put the brakes on for now. Then again, I may not turn the ignition off entirely.

I'll be idling – puttering about with my writing until I can regain my focus and start using businesslike language again. Such as, "Please consider me for the above position."

Shula Klinger lives in North Vancouver.

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