Put a Bib on It

I’m Not a Part-Time Mom


Every mom is a full-time mom.Just when I think I’m getting a handle on leaving my daughter in child care and braving the adult world, my email inbox is flooded with invitations to weekday events with my mom’s group: play dates, arts and crafts, a Tuesday story time that had become a staple for Miss E and I. And I think, that’s where I belong, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing today.

Instead I lovingly – and a bit obsessively – pack her breakfast and lunch with lots of homemade goodies, organic fruit pouches, whole wheat crackers and goat cheese. These are the things I can still control about the hours she spends away from me, and I cling to them. I lay out her clothes and mine the night before and steel myself for another tearful drop-off, her slim arms reaching out for me despite the cocooning embrace of her family child care provider. We both try to settle her with a toy, another hug, one of the sweet potato muffins that would on any other occasion eclipse me in her love. When I finally have to leave I worry that she’s eating out of stress, that I’m teaching her to see food as a comfort. That I’m acknowledging her tears but not doing the one thing she feels I ought to do to stop them. I fret that in her limited understanding of the passage of time it will feel like I’m gone forever – I know sometimes it feels like that for me.

I spent so many months of her infancy feeling like I didn’t know how to mother, that I’d left a job I was good at for one which I’d had no training for – and possibly no aptitude, either – where failure meant an impact on another human’s life and not just something that could be fixed in a later draft. And now after finally finding a comfortable routine, the confidence that I understood this little being and she me, things have changed, again. I’m uncertain and scared. Again.

I try to keep telling myself I’m only working part-time. I am still a full-time mom. And for that matter, every mama who does what she needs to do to care for and support her family is, whether she’s home with her child before drop-off and a few hours before bedtime, working all day, or present for every diaper change. We do what we have to do. Being a parent means we don’t always like it, but we do it anyway.

Who knows, maybe I’ll get over grieving for lost hours of play – and many choruses of “Not for eating!” and “Please don’t climb on me while I’m on the potty!” – and actually enjoy being a grown-up. I’m optimistic. When I last called in to Miss E’s child care provider at lunch time, she was happily playing, singing, dancing and reading stories after a much-needed nap, tears forgotten.

And we get to go to story time tomorrow.

Author: Jillian Kuhlmann

Mama. Nerd. Writer.

4 thoughts on “I’m Not a Part-Time Mom

  1. This was beautifully written. When I was working outside the home, I felt much the same way. But now that I’m home with the kids, I still have these nagging feelings that I’m failing them somehow. The guilt and fears change depending on the day (what food I’m giving them, what activities I’m doing with them, what I’m teaching my daughter about the roles of women, etc).

    Hope you and E had fun at storytime.

    • Thank you so much for commiserating… and you know, I’ve totally done that, too, when I’ve been at home with her. Thinking to myself, maybe instead of trying to steal ten minutes of discreet reading on my Kindle, I ought to be putting together some kind of enriching sensory activity. We just can’t win.

  2. I have been a family child care provider for over 21 years. My children grew up in child care even though they were only in someone else’s cild care for a couple years. I don’t think anyone is exempt from those feelings of inferiority or having someone else see you as “less than”. I have been told that I was doing my children a disservice by filling “their” house with other people’s children all the time. It didn’t matter that I was the one meeting them at the end of the school day, helping with homework, and helping make our house run financially, all the while helping other parents provide their children with a safe, nurturing, educational environment while they were away. I also had “working” women ask me when I was going to go back to work. I believe it is all a matter of perspective. My job is not valued highly, but I love it, and I have never been a part time mom. I have always tried to help parents understand that they are not part time parents either. They make all the decisions for their children, work to provide for their emotional and financial needs and are “Mom” and “Dad”. They do not “watch” their children, they “parent” their children, and that is a full time job. Feeling like you could be doing more…good parents always wish they could give their child the world, but all she really wants, is you.

    • Karen, thank you so much for sharing your incredible insight and experience. It is absolutely a matter of perspective, and I feel privileged that we live in a culture where we can, mostly, make the best decisions for ourselves and our families.

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