“It gets easier,” I told her, gently touching her shoulder and offering the compassionate smile of a fellow mama who had been there. She looked at me, desperately trying to keep her composure. It was the fourth day of daycare dropoff for her 9-month-old, who would cry himself to the verge of throwing up every day.
We sat down for a minute on a bench as she collected herself. I offered her a tissue and perspective on how we are helping these tiny humans integrate into society. I told her it would get easier every day and that the best thing she could do was be consistent. I tried to convince her that they learn to socialize and play with other kids, develop the skill of following a schedule, and within a few days, even look forward to daycare.
“But does it get easier? Or does it just get harder in a different way?” she asked.
Perhaps she had seen me pause and linger in front of my son’s classroom. She probably saw the sadness on my face as I desperately tried to catch a glimpse into his life. To make up for most of his waking hours that I regularly miss.
The badge of a “working mom” carries a lot of weight.
A heavy weight of guilt settles in my heart every day as I drop my little darling off for a full day. I choose to let someone else do the majority of parenting for me. I depend on other (thoughtful, wonderful) people to teach my son all the things that I should be teaching him. I miss milestones and proud parent moments. His first sentence. His first friend. His boisterous laughter. His amusing learnings.
My son brings his little craft projects home and tries to tell me what he did during his day using his limited vocabulary and cute as-ever (but hard-to-understand) pronunciation. I don’t understand his little story narration because I wasn’t there with him to experience it. And he is too young to tell it. I feel my chest get a bit tighter, and my eyes tear up as I hug him. I wasn’t there for you, my baby. I am sorry.
I work full-time. We have two incomes coming in, and perhaps this whole thing would have been easier to write if I said that I must work because we need the two incomes. Although two incomes are the reason we live comfortably, that’s not the only reason I work.
I work because I love it. It invigorates me and gives me joy. Helping people and my deep-seated love for the human body is something I’m deeply passionate about. I am one of the few lucky people who love their work. I work because I can’t imagine my life without it.
Being a working mom makes for one complicated motherhood experience with a constant need to multi-task, compartmentalize, and live with a feeling of being pulled in two opposite directions. It involves pouring my heart into making the most of my time and energy at all times. And always keeping a mental self-imposed tally of work versus home.
Some days, I celebrate that little song and dance we did before bedtime; other days, I ugly cry in the daycare parking lot because I didn’t get time to kiss his sweet face all morning.
Every day, my heart stops, and my world comes to a standstill as I let his little hands go. Some days, he doesn’t even look back or say “bye Mama” because he is too excited to see his friends. He is excited about circle time, for water-play, and for craft day. He is well-adjusted, happy, and learning every day.
I know this is all great and positive. But still doesn’t make it any easier.
As hard as it is to be in this dilemma, there is an underlying assurance in my heart about the life of a working mom. And that comes from the woman who I respect most in my life; my mom. I grew up around a working mom who did it all. She took care of us kids, the home, and her career with the grace and intention of a saint. She took care of two kids while working full-time and showed me how you could love your kids to death but also be your own person.
Even though I missed her when I got home from school (because she was still at work), my respect and admiration for her only grew as I got older. I learned love, kindness, and gratitude from her when she was around, and I learned determination, hard work, and perseverance from her when she wasn’t.
In my mother, I saw a strong, capable, and determined woman from a conservative male-dominated society who forged her path toward independence and self-sufficiency.