Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Being a Working Mom Doesn't Get Easier; It Gets Less Hard

 Disclaimer: I know that not every working mom wishes she could stay home with her children. Wanting more time with my son also doesn't meant that I reject opportunities to pursue my own interests and friendships. For some, work is a place of sanity and personal accomplishment. For others, it's a highly necessary source of income. For me, the truth is somewhere in the middle. I respect the choices mothers make in their own lives, and in their own situations. Every life, every child, every situation is different.

New moms often ask about how to handle the transition to daycare.

They ask, "When does it get easier?"

I can only answer honestly, "It doesn't get easier; it gets less hard."

My first year back to work, the daycare situation went fairly well. He was at daycare with a friend's daughter, his bff.

For most of that first year, I brainstormed ways I might be able to have more time with my son. Maybe my novel will get published. Maybe I can teach ESL classes at a community college. Maybe we can move to a less expensive state that will magically and overnight offer my husband meaningful work that also pays enough for me to work as a writer and photographer. My poor brain went through plan after plan before finally accepting fact that teaching allows me 13 weeks a year to be a stay-at-home mom, and that has to be enough.

As a teacher, I have the benefit of having my son with me in the summer.  Last summer, Ari developed like crazy cakes over the summer. He dropped his morning nap. He learned to climb and jump and run. We went to swim lessons and gymnastics.  His personality really blossomed, and I realized how much I actually like my son as a person.

In his first days back to daycare, it was clear that he had grown in too many ways for our daycare provider. She was not enjoying the unique, cheerful toddler that had grown from the infant she knew.  I dreaded the message she would deliver me at the end of each day about what he had done "wrong."  In those weeks as we considered other providers, I felt the greatest guilt I had about leaving my son in daycare while I worked.

We found a better spot for our energetic son, and he loves it. He sleeps better both at daycare and at home, and he talks constantly about his daycare providers and all of the other "babies." I know he's loved and cared for, and that takes away some of the guilt.

I truly appreciate that my son enjoys his days with other people, but I miss him.

A friend commented that she notices that I actually like being a mom, and that's true.

I like that my husband and I were blessed with this incredible tiny human to raise. I like that this morning, my son requested "bed" and "bur" (bread and almond butter), then wanted to go the "chrr" for "book."  I like that he nestled in next to me, and we read several books together. I like that he pointed out all of the horses and chickens. I like that he requested that we read "babies" (Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes).  I like that he enjoys spending time with me.

Although I don't spend (nearly) as much time brainstorming all of the things that will make me money but not force me to work full time, I still feel a little blip in my heart when I drop off Ari at daycare.  I kiss him and tell him I love him.  Sometimes he pouts. Often he asks for food (atta boy).  I head off to work with 147 awesome students.

Still, I can't help thinking about the fact that the catch to getting to be the mommy of the best boy in the world is that I have to leave him in someone else's care five days a week.

And, for me, that hasn't gotten any easier.

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