When I was in my 20’s I often thought about what my life would look like when I made the decision to become a mom. Like many women, I was working and so I decided the “perfect scenario” for me was that I would take time off when I had babies and then go back to work when they started school. It seemed to make sense and was certainly a popular option for many women who had the element of choice in their equation when deciding if and when to work when having children.
As it turned out, by the time I had my first daughter and then my second 4 years later, choice was NOT part of my equation and I had to work full time. A few months after my youngest started kindergarten, my position was eliminated and after working in the financial services industry for 20 years, I found myself putting my girls on the bus each morning in my yoga pants with my coffee cup in hand. While this wasn’t the plan, in fact it was the complete opposite of what I imagined my journey of motherhood would look like, it has turned out to be the best scenario I could have asked for.
My youngest daughter has absolutely no memory of her mom going to work every day until she was 5. None. She doesn’t remember me taking her to daycare, she doesn’t remember sometimes being the first one to arrive or the last one to be picked up – or when I wasn’t there to put her to bed because I was traveling for work. I wish someone would have told me that they wouldn’t remember those years that I spent most of the time running around like a crazy person in a fog because I was doing all of it with a huge pile of guilt.
Guilt for all the times I was at work and not with my girls. Guilt for trying to do it all, but all I was doing was trying to keep up. I was the mom who forgot it was “wear yellow day” at school and never seemed to remember when the library books were due. The pile of stuff that was sent home each day sat in a mound on the counter for months and then when we had a day off or someone was home sick, I would try and play catch up on everything I was missing. I secretly loved it when I had to call in and stay home with a sick child. It was my little taste of what it would feel like if I got to be with them every day. I was on auto-pilot. Day in and day out. I just did it.
Then there were the other days that I had to drop them off at pre-school and depending on my schedule, we arrived early, sometimes my baby was crying when I dropped her off – I would get back in the car and try to brush it off and pull myself together. In those moments, I was grateful for the silence of the 45 minute car ride to the office to regroup and get focused because waiting for me was a whole other world that my children knew nothing about.
After I lost my job, I assumed I would be back to work soon, so I didn’t let myself get too comfortable in my new role as “stay at home mom.” Then, the days and years passed and in a blink of an eye, I have tweens who are 12 and 8 and I’m not working full-time. This is a time that I assumed would have been “easier” for me to work because my girls are older and they don’t need me as much – but it turns out, they need me even more.
My girls need me around – I’d like to think they like having me around – (wink wink). Changing diapers and watching them play all day has been replaced with a lot of listening and a lot of talking. Perhaps these years of me being home have been an anchor for them during a time of growing and learning and maturing all while they have learned to live with their parents not being together.
My 7th grader is becoming more and more independent every day, spending more time with friends, sports, activities – which is exactly what she is supposed to be doing. But when she pops in the door each day after school and hops on her knees onto the sofa next to me and says “Mommy girl, guess what happened today?” That’s my precious time with her. That’s my que to stop what I’m doing, close my laptop and just listen to my 12-year-old tell me all about her world.
My 3rd grader gets off the bus each day and starts telling me about the details of her day and is still chatting my ear off well after we’ve walked down the street and inside. I remember one day last fall when I was walking her over to a friends house to play after school (which she could do because she didn’t have to go to an after school program). We were holding hands and swinging our arms as we walked and she was babbling away as a 7-year-old does and I watched her cross the street and start skipping down the driveway with her pigtails bouncing up and down and she turned around and waved “bye mama.” It made my heart melt and it made me so grateful for that moment that I got to grab with her, watching her be a 7-year-old on a sunny Tuesday afternoon.
I’ve had many of those moments with my daughters over the past few years. Moments that I wouldn’t have had if I had been at work. Moments that I’m sharing with them now instead of when they were babies and the precious thing about it is that not only will I remember these times but my girls will as well.
And that makes it seem as though this was exactly the way it was supposed to turn out.