Well, August went by too fast. Am I the only person that feels this way? Fall weather is already upon the Canadian prairies, bringing sweaters and yellow leaves and pumpkin spice. Where has this summer gone?
Not only is summer gone, but so is my maternity leave. Well, technically my maternity leave expired in November, but my stay-at-home-mommy status is officially over at 9:30 tomorrow morning. Tomorrow I start the second half of the third year of my Bachelor of Communication Studies. Yes, now that all my friends have graduated, I’m going to go back and be super socially awkward around a bunch of 20-year-olds. Ah yes, being a mature student is super fun.
So tomorrow, I (actually, Brian) will be dropping off my two little boys with a friend who is going to be watching 4 kids under three. She is a brave soul. I’m not nervous about how she’s going to handle the kids, which is a relief. I know she’s going to be fabulous.
But I’ve got this sinking feeling in my stomach about the whole thing, you know? The guilt is setting in. I’m leaving my kids somewhere else so that I can go to school. Am I selfish? Am I a bad mother? Would they flourish more with me than with anyone else? Is my first responsibility to them?
Now, I grew up with working parents. From what I’m told, when my sister and I were very young, we went to my grandparent’s house or my aunt and uncle’s when my parents were working, but my earliest memory of babysitting was with an English nanny named Mrs. Wilson. She was very sweet and we had a lot of fun with her. I learned how to knit and she taught my how to make my favorite tomato sandwich. Sometimes I wonder, though, if I’d have been better off if one of my parents stayed home with me instead.
My mother works at a very taxing job. One that takes a lot out of you. She works all hours and deals with more bull crap than most of us ever have to. Then she comes home and works on the house and the chores and everything that needs to be done. I don’t know if she could relax even if she had the time. She always manages to do everything I do on a busy day and then claims that she did nothing all day. My mom is definitely a supermom. The job she worked made it so that she couldn’t spend as much time with us as a stay-at-home mom would, but I don’t think that makes her any less of a mom. Yes, I remember coming home to a babysitter after school often, but I also remember driving an hour with her to a voice lesson every week in high school. And her being there for a majority of awards ceremonies and recitals. She was there for all my big memories.
My mom was a working mom which fostered an independence in me that I’m sure Mom regretted until I moved out. But as a person, I’m glad I have it. It made me not afraid to be out on my own, to take risks, to make mistakes. It made me go to Europe when I probably couldn’t afford it, leaving Canada for the first time. It helped me take the plunge and go back to school. It got me into some trouble, which later made me a much better person. It also planted the first seeds of feminism in me, something I’m eternally grateful for.
And because I don’t believe that stay-at-home parenting is only a woman’s job, I also had a working father. He showed me a lot about work ethics and the value of loyalty. He taught me that a job is positive, but its function is to fund a life with family. While Mom’s job is part of her identity, I always felt like Dad’s was something that he did rather than something that he was.
I don’t know if I would have been a different person had either of my parents stayed home with me. But I don’t feel like I missed out. I know a relationship with parents is important, but I’m really happy with what our relationship is now. If they were home with me, maybe I would have felt like it was my calling to stay home too. But for me, it’s not. I love my boys very much, but I wonder if I’m not the best parent if I’m with them every day. Sinking every minute of every day makes me, I’m ashamed to say, resentful and angry. I need time to feel productive and raising kids doesn’t feel that productive. I know it is, but at the end of the day, it feels like I have nothing to show for how exhausted I am.
So tomorrow the boys go to day home. And I hope that they won’t feel like they’re missing out on time with their mom. I hope they enjoy interacting with other kids and feel the love that I know their caregiver will give them. I hope that they see that both their father and I are taking time outside the home so we are better for the kids when we are home (and, you know, making sure we all eat and have a place to live). And maybe I won’t feel so guilty once the first day is done. All I really have to say, though, is that I’m so very glad Brian is dropping them off tomorrow because I know there would be tears if it were me.