It’s 9:30 PM, one and a half hours after the end of my shift, and I’m still at the office waiting for my husband to come fetch me.
It’s usually no big deal, staying an extra overtime-without-pay hour. I love my job. But it’s Friday night, and I’ve been editing all week.
So 30 minutes ago, I decided to close my work-related windows and open my long-neglected blog.
Then I saw it: “Treasure Box,” a blog post about my full-time mommying days — a time that now seems so far away.
A Different Lifetime
Once upon a time, I was a stay-at-home mom with only one child, my eldest boy. He grew up literally on the palms of my hands. His first smile, first word, first step, first fall, first everything, I was there to witness.
We read story books eight times a night. We sang songs, recited rhymes, and rode on the swing. I taught him sign language. I washed off his poop. I gave him his baths.
I was his mommy in every sense of that glorious word.
Then I think of my daughter.
Back to Work
She was two months old when I went back to work. I had not much of a choice. We couldn’t afford a single-income household anymore.
When I took graveyard shifts, she slept with her daddy. I never saw her first step nor heard her first word.
I tried to teach her to sign, but she only learned to sign “toothbrush” because our only time now for focused interaction is that five minutes before bedtime, when we brush our teeth.
In the weekends, I have the chance to feed her, but I don’t know what she likes to eat.
She still cries every morning when I give her to her nanny before I go to work, and that gives me a sick sort of comfort: She still loves me best.
Despite the fact that in her nearly two years in this world, she has spent more time with our pet dog and I have spent more time with my computer than she and I have spent with each other — despite everything, she still loves me best.
It is nearly ten o’clock. When I get home, she’ll be sleeping in her favorite Dora nightgown.
When the car reaches the front of the gate, she’ll hear the dull hum of the engine in her sleep, and she’ll jump out of bed, as she does every night. She’ll toddle to the front door and scream, “Ma!” half joyfully, half accusingly.
She and her brother will run screaming to the gate, insanely ecstatic that finally, their absentee parents have decided to come home.
And then she, my involuntarily part-time daughter, will forgive me again for abandoning her all day to her nanny, who is faithful and kind but is still not her mommy, and she knows it.
And I know it.
I just hope she will keep on forgiving me and understand that if I could, I would leave it all to be with her and her brother: the comfortable job, the comfortable salary, the meals out, the “work satisfaction,” the “women’s liberation” (liberation to do what?).
I’d leave it all in a heartbeat and go back to being imprisoned at home, looking frumpy and happy, being nothing — nothing but a mommy and a wife.
I’d leave it all if I could.
But I can’t.
This article was originally published on my personal blog in 2008.