It starts as soon as you begin looking for daycare. The guilt and discomfort with the idea of leaving your child under the care of strangers for virtually nine (NINE!) hours a day, five days a week. What makes matters worst is that your search cannot be based on the best care available but rather what’s close to home and affordable. If you’re lucky, you end up with both.
I chose to forgo affordability and convenience and opted for a daycare 20 minutes away at a cost of $60 a day on the basis that it was equivalent to the Harvard of daycares and that my husband would do the drop-offs and pickups. There are days, however, when I am tasked with that responsibility. On those days the inner conflict between working woman and considerate mom grows tenfold.
Logically, morally, your child should take precedence but for the sake of your professional reputation you wind up forcing her to rush through her morning. No milk in her sippy cup while watching an episode of Dora followed by a slow transition from PJs to clothes and a proper bathroom break. Instead, you shove a pull-up on one end and a t-shirt on the other while handing her milk to drink in the car. It’s no wonder that she cries and screams in disagreement. What is a wonder is how I’m baffled by her frustration. She’s used to one way of doing things, a way that I got her accustomed to, and I now expect that she suddenly adapt to change like a rational adult all because I have to make it to my nine to five. I myself show up to work on many a days pissed off because I missed my morning coffee so can I really blame her inability to accommodate mama with a smile on her face?
When I do finally catch my train, I sit there for 30 minutes contemplating what I could have done differently, how I could have prevented morning chaos and kept my child happy. The endless struggle of trying to achieve at the workplace while also being a good parent can be tiresome to say the least. Your desire to pursue a career hasn’t disappeared with the hopes of becoming a loving parent but, honestly, sometimes all you want to do is stay home with your two year old who is requesting that “we go to the park all together”. Missing mother’s day tea time with your child on a Friday afternoon isn’t a triumphant feeling nor is sending her off to school with a stuffy nose and a cough when she’d much rather lie on the couch with you.
Frankly speaking, I don’t think this is how the world was intended to be, at least not for the first few years of a child’s life. In my humble opinion, it’s unnatural for mothers to leave their kids to the extent in which some of us are forced to do. As much as you hear about the notion of quality vs quantity of time spent with your children, the consequences of our absence can be very evident. For me, in particular, I’ve become second to papa. In the mornings when I attempt to pick up baby girl from her crib I’m greeted with “No mama! Papa do it!”. This line has been running rampant throughout our household over the last couple of weeks and while I laughed it off at first, it’s definitely begun to take its toll on me. I figured I’d redeem myself during our two week vacation but, alas, I have been unsuccessful in one upping my husband and find myself at a loss of ideas on how to regain the love of my only child.
Now, as I approach the last few days of our vacation together, I only hope that the little headway I’ve made with my daughter won’t be reversed upon my return to work. Yes, one day she will understand the sacrifices mama had to make in order to ensure a better future for her, but until that day this mummy will struggle with limited quantity of time and ensuring that after an exhausting work week she can provide the quality required to, at the least, maintain the number two place in her child’s heart.