Ringling Mothers: The Greatest Show On Earth

Trump’s people were on the line: “Mr. Trump asked if you’d do your interview in his limousine when he goes back to the airport after his event.”

And there it was, a feature reporter’s dream for the taking: Me, The Donald, and my recorder. Alone at last. My initial elation at envisioning my legs stretched out in Trump’s luxury car as he shared notable quotables morphed into panic once I checked my calendar. Trump’s Chicago appearance landed on the SAME day that my 7-year-old had her big debut as Annie in, what else, Annie. How could I have forgotten? Her lead role in the second-grade off-off-nowhere-near-Broadway production translated into four solo lines and five songs with the group – a grand total of 20 minutes.

And my appearance was not only expected, it was mandatory.

Trump Shmump.

My kid couldn’t care less about the godfather of The Apprentice gracing the Windy City with his new cologne promotion or her mother’s editor-in-chief handing her the plum assignment. All that mattered to my daughter was that her single, full-time-working, frazzled mother see her big debut.

And there it was, the Balancing Act in neon lights: Trump or Annie?

I tossed and turned all night, feeling that either way I was going to blow it. Choose work, and my kid would never forgive me. Choose my kid, and the office witches would cast a long, pointed fingernail in my direction and say, “Who does she think she is, leaving early once again?”—not knowing or caring that my life is in motion 24/7. Up at 5:30 a.m and in bed at 1 a.m. to make it all
happen—kids, work, household, laundry.

The Balancing Act is a myth most likely coined by a single guy with no kids whose only concern was juggling dog-walking with trips to the gym and runs for sushi. Real life, as in raising children and enjoying a career, is never in balance unless you have (choose one or all): money for help, understanding bosses, a job nearby, a family that pitches in, and/ or a husband or significant other.

This means hundreds of thousands of women have never balanced—and never will. They, like me, are permanent performers in a not-so exclusive circus, Ringling Mothers: The Greatest Show on Earth. In order to make our lives work, it doesn’t take a balance beam, it takes a whole gymnasium. And even then, you usually end up flat-out on the mat. I called Trump’s people the next day and did what I had to do. “I’d love to interview Mr. Trump,” I explained, “but my daughter is Annie, in ‘Annie.’ The play is at 4 p.m. and his gig is at noon. I work more than an hour away from the school, so I’d have to interview Mr. Trump and be on the road at 2:45 p.m. to get there in time.”

I could practically see the woman on the other end smiling: “We don’t want to disappoint Annie now, do we? I’ll set you up for the first interview at 11:30 a.m., and then you’ll be able to do both.”

Deep cleansing breath. Was she a member of Ringling Mothers? Was she raised by a single mom?

Yes, there was a Goddess, and who would have thought she’d come in the form of a publicist?
But God had other plans on the Day Of. Rainstorms, thunder, and hail. Trump’s jet was late. I approached the publicist, who nodded: “I know, I know, Annie.”

But it was Trump himself, unknowingly, who saved my day. He agreed to do the interview as he drove in to the event. The plan: 20 minutes on the phone, five minutes in person. There was no cushy limo ride for me, but at least I was still in the game.

And there it was. An enjoyable chitchat with The Donald, an article with lots of notable quotables, a satisfied editor, and my Annie, who with a toothless grin watched her mother, frazzled but victorious, slide onto the kid-sized plastic chair with one minute to spare.

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