25 July 2007

Against the Grain

"Dance"? Little A held out her hand to me as I took her from her car seat. That's typically what we do when "our" song (When you born, they looked at you and said, 'what a good girl, what a smart girl, what a pretty girl...') is on; hold one hand together, she lays her head upon my shoulder and we sway slowly to the knowledge of the Barenaked Ladies.

Her groggy eyes pierced mine before she rested her sweet cheek upon me and we rocked next to the car in my sitters driveway. (This name is the hair-shirt I wear, and this hair-shirt is woven from your brown hair....this song is the cross that I bear, bear with me, bear with me, bear with me....)

When we walked into my sitter's house and she leaned herself from my arms and into my sitter's she looked at me and said, "Mom"? A question, an answer, a statement of something that still causes such dilemma within me. After all this time, each morning when I leave her, I am unnerved by how unnatural it feels.

In the world of daycare, I consider myself beyond blessed. She goes to a home where they've created a bedroom for her, complete with toys, books, a crib and clothes that they've purchased for her. ("We just had to get this for her.") My sitter's children don't correct people when they tell them that their little sister is beautiful. They have birthday parties for her, put presents under the Christmas tree with her name on it, make Easter baskets full of goodies in her honor. Yet the truth of it sometimes stabs me abruptly, causing a quick intake of breath: My daughter has a bedroom in someone else's home.

Each day now when I pick her up, she's learned new words and phrases, mastered new physical feats, has something else to show me and tell me and can barely contain herself in her excitement to demonstrate how she's grown within those hours.

Those hours. Those hours in which I pay someone else to, let's face it here, raise my child. She goes there in pajama's. She eats breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner at their table. She swims in their pool, rides on their dune buggy, runs amok through the sprinkler in their lawn under the hot summer sun. She calls out each of their names before she falls asleep at night, like a prayer to the heavens that she's written on her heart.

I've tried to do the math, to make it realistic that I could stay home and watch other people's children, write, clean, whatever I'd need to do to give myself more time with her, but it isn't an option. And while we're chatting about reality, the honest truth is that I love my job. I'm not sure who I'd be if I didn't have it; if my life really were confined to our home and the Queen's lives full time, if I didn't have this place to go and challenge myself, if I were to live without the sense of accomplishment that I feel when I know that I've been a part of a job well done.

And that is where the double-edged sword lies: firmly entrenched within me, twisting ever so slightly now and again to remind me that it's there, slicing from one part of me to deliver to the other.

21 comments:

JMA said...

It is so hard to leave them, but the caregiver arrangement that you have sounds wonderful.

I stay home because I can and I know this time with them is short. But I some days I miss work; I miss people telling me that I'm doing a good job. Kids don't do that. They aren't supposed to do that. But, sometimes, I still miss it.

T with Honey said...

It seems like working moms are really having a tough time being away from their children lately. One of the hardest things we do is hand our little ones over to someone else while we go to work to earn a paycheck and health coverage.

Maybe it will make it easier when the time comes to ship them off to college. ;)

Crow said...

You are not the only one that struggles with this dilemma between your family and your career. I know many other women that struggle with the same things you do. And while I don't have that family yet, those thoughts run through my mind about how I will handle it when the time comes...and it terrifies me to make the wrong decision.

lovemymuffin said...

I am blessed to stay home with my baby every day, and I often worry that our world is so small that she would be better off in someone elses care. Could someone else teach her more? Is she learning enough from me? Is she missing out on something? Going to work and loving what you do is a blessing. I have never had a job I WANTED to go to. I want my baby to know that there is SO MUCH MORE.

Jungle Mama said...

This really is heart-wrenching to read and although I can completely see where you're coming from, I have to say that I am so happy to have chosen to stay at home with my children. Even that came with a cost, but so far it's been a cost I can live with.

slouching mom said...

Oh, Jenn. I know it's tough. But you know what's so wonderful? That she gets more people who love her. And the more, the merrier, where love is concerned.

BTW, I've tagged you.

bubandpie said...

I love that song too (even though it's kind of anti-parent song, really).

And the rest of it - I know. I know.

flutter said...

I understand this in ways that I can't express to you in a comment.

Lawyer Mama said...

Oh how I understand, sister. I feel the same way.

My boys have a sitter who is very much like yours. My boys are part of her family. Her sons adore mine and mine adore them back. She loves them and treats them as her own. But somehow she knows exactly how much of that I'm comfortable seeing. For instance, her name. It's Marie & I dreaded my boys calling her something that sounded like Mama or even Mama. So she has them call her Rie. I never told her, but she knew.

We are blessed. I know this. Intellectually I know that having even more people to love them is good for them, but still it hurts.

I once had a friend tell me she adored that her son always wanted her and only her. I can see that, but I think it's probably healthier for a child to love more than one.

Joy in chaos said...

I do stay home with my children, but with four, there is rarely another option. I am happy doing this, most of the time, I am happy. But I don't think I am good at it, I don't often plan enlightening outings, or expose them to new things as I should. Many, many days, it's just us, at home, passing time together. And I wonder if that's really better? People sometimes say it is, but I wonder if someone else could do this job better than me.

So I guess what I am saying is, I stay home, and I doubt as well. It's just part of parenting, doubting. No matter who you are.

Amanda said...

I walk a similar path every day. Some days it feels damned, others blessed. I echo Slouching Mom and the sentiment of the more the merrier. Let the extra love you have found them reenforce your own love, and maybe even, eclipse some of that guilt for the love beyond your control.

Love to you all.

Jen M. said...

So well put (as usual). How blessed you both are to have that arrangement, and how hard it must be. Is it possible for us to have the best of both worlds? Maybe if we had childcare on our job sites? I've often wondered what that magic formula is (this from a mom who now stays home but pines for the days when I worked at a wonderful non-profit job).

jen said...

your hairshirt is my hairshirt, sister. your place sounds perfect and yet i know the ache. the pain and the ache of it.

JustMe said...

It's a pain I'm all too familiar with. However, on some summer days, as I'm home playing "mommy" to three VERY ACTIVE boys, I sometimes long for school to resume. If nothing else, you can appreciate the time you have in the evenings even more when you're working -- plus that's so many fewer diapers you have to change!! XOXO

Angela said...

Parenting is one of the hardest jobs out there, because you want to do it perfectly. To stay home or not to stay home is a hard decision to make if you even have a choice on the matter. Some days I feel like I am doing a great job staying home with my son other days I feel like I am doing not so great. The most important thing is that we love our children no mater if we spend the whole day with them or only part of it.

Christine said...

i can't write much because i am crying again.

KC said...

What a loving environment you've found- how wonderfully lucky she is. And I agree it is so important to pursue what challenges us to become better people. That makes you a better mother.

Lauren said...

I am right there with you up until the part about loving your job. It isn't that I hate my job but it is just that - a job. And my heart is not in it. My heart would love to be a stay at home mom but like you it is just not an option for me. So I mean it when I say I feel your pain.

mamalang said...

I used to lament leaving them, going to work, I wanted to stay home. But I've been blessed with an awesome daycare/youth center for them to spend time in. THe caregivers are wonderful and caring, and the opportunities for the kids to do fun stuff is out of this world. They don't want me to stay home with them...the ask to go even when they can stay home some days. And sometimes, there is that pang, but I know in my heart that I'm doing a good job of providing quality family time with them on a regular basis. And that helps. As others have said, I don't think it matters which you do, you still question yourself...about everything. Enjoy the small victories, and be glad she knows so much love.

bgirl said...

i ache when i read this...it mirrors my own feelings about work and the idea of staying home. i think about it daily and like you, it simply isn't an option. it's hard when the situation you have is a true blessing, but at the same time a painful reality. bittersweet.

PDX Mama said...

Hugs. I feel it now and again too. Especially if one of them cries big crocodile tears when I leave (which isn't often).

I do think it gets easier as they get older because they interact more with their friends and teachers and they get a whole another world to play in - much more exciting in some ways than the world I provide them at home!