September 2011

This post is part of the Monday Link up with Just.Be.Enough. a site empowering us all to focus on what we are proud of in our lives instead of being discouraged by what we aren’t quite doing right. This Monday Link up is the last one in the Be Enough 4 Me Cancer Campaign, a collaboration between Just.Be.Enough. and Bellflower Books that will provide memory books to women diagnosed with breast cancer.

I went back to work full-time this past February.

After being a work-from-home-mom for two years after Emma was born, and then a stay-at-home-mom for two more years after William was born, I left my children in the capable and loving hands of our new au pair Claire, and marched off into the world to earn my keep as an Administrative Secretary for two academic departments at Gallaudet University.

The first month or so was much better than I thought. There were some tears in the mornings when I left, from the kids and from me, but it was reported to me that they recovered quickly and once I hit the office I recovered too. Dressing up in office clothes was exciting after four years of the jeans-and-a-t-shirt uniform of a stay-at-home-mom and being actively appreciated by my new employer made me feel great. I thought “wow, this isn’t as hard as I thought – we’re gonna be ok!”

As we settled into our routine the tears stopped but in their place Emma would ask me earnestly at bedtime “Mommy are you staying home tomorrow?” When I explained that I needed to go to work to help the people in my office she replied “but what about your kids?” and my heart broke. Then one day a couple of months after I started, she said “Mommy when are you going to STOP working and stay home with us again? Like not go to work anymore at all.” Ironically I was having the same realization around the same time – that this new arrangement is permanent. There is no time in the foreseeable future when I will be home with my children for a large chunk of time. I had no answer for Emma when she asked me that, except to say “I don’t think that is going to happen sweetie…but we are going to the beach in a couple of weeks!” Lame.

The truth is that I don’t think I was a very good stay-at-home-mom. I was impatient, I tried to do too much, I lost my temper, I lacked creativity. Claire is much better at it than I was – she is patient and kind with the kids, she has boundless energy, she has new, fun and creative activities for them every week. She is a rock star.

Admittedly things are different for Claire than they were for me. Her ONLY job is care for the kids – we don’t ask her to clean or do laundry or go grocery shopping – so she has the energy to play with them and the ability to focus all her energy on them all of time, something most multi-tasking SAHM’s don’t have the luxury to do. She also gets off at 5:00 or very soon thereafter. She works 9-10 hours a day as opposed to 24. Knowing there is a break coming up in your future helps fuel the patience required to deal with little ones I think and the lack of a break can be soul-crushing.

Which brings me to the heartbreaking reality of the situation – maybe my kids are better off now.

I go back and forth with myself about this – if I didn’t have to work, would I still choose to? Most days I say no, I would not. I would gladly give up the appreciation and fulfillment I feel from going to work every day if I could only be with my children while they are little. I am painfully aware of how fast they are growing and it hurts my heart to know I am missing large 10 hour chunks of their life every day. And Emma still asks me, seven months later, when will I stop working and come home. All of that causes me to spend large amounts of time plotting how we can lower our expenses enough for me to be able to stay home.

But occasionally – usually on a weekend day when we are having a particularly rough time, they ARE two and four after all – I will think to myself “I could never go back to being with them full time, we would kill each other.” And I realize that maybe missing each other desperately is ok. They have fun adventure-filled days with Claire. We snuggle and kiss when I get home from work and get to reconnect on the weekends. People always say that the most important thing is that your children know they are loved – maybe my kids are feeling more love from the three stable-ish adults in their life than if there were only two less stable ones? Or maybe I am just justifying it because the alternative – that my kids would rather have me home regardless of my less than stellar care-taking abilities – is too painful to bear.

Many moms I know love going to work – they miss their kids but are very clear for themselves that staying home would never be an option for their family. And other moms I know have gone to great lengths to make sure they can stay home with their kids. I fall somewhere in the middle – I sit at work feeling great that I am a contributing member of my team but with a huge pit in my stomach from missing my kids so much. Most days I cry either to work or on the way home, sometimes both. I miss going to the park and to Brookside Gardens, I miss the Zoo in the Fall, I miss snuggling with them on a rainy afternoon, I miss cooking with them and eating lunch with them. I especially miss macaroni and cheese – a guilty pleasure that is mostly absent from my work place.

So I don’t know the answer to the work vs. stay home conundrum that so many millions of families struggle with, but I will continue to try and figure it out. Our situation at the moment may not be “perfect” but I am coming to believe that it is “enough” – for all of us – and in the end that is all I can ask for.

But I still really miss macaroni and cheese.

Emma and Will shared an ice cream cone recently. It was rough going for a minute or two but they worked it out.

Rainy Walk
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It’s been ages, almost a year, since my last post. There is no way to get caught up on a year in one post so I won’t try, but I will make a renewed commitment to blogging and to documenting the lives of the two little creatures up there and their parents.