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.