If we’re being honest, most people don’t grow up thinking/hoping that one day they can wake up and take their child to daycare for 8-10 hours a day. Most parents want to spend as much time as they can with their children… soaking up these priceless and precious moments of childhood before they disappear. Most parents think they will find a way to work part time or stay home or somehow make more hours in the day to spend with the sweet-faced babies they created or adopted. But our realities change; our lives change, and sometimes we’re left facing a world where our only real option is one that leaves us spending 40 plus hours a week away from our kids.
That is my reality.
I’m a single mom; if I don’t work, we don’t eat and it can start to feel so very stifling at times. You feel like you’re trapped in this cycle where your child will never have a real winter break, never enjoy summer vacation, never have the childhood that you maybe had or wanted when you were growing up. When it starts to feel like that, when I find myself spiraling down into a pit of “woe is me,” there’s really only one thing to do… I go pick up my child.
See, when I open the door, eighteen individual heads turn and stare hopefully at the door, each one wondering if it’s their mother or father there to collect them. When my child realizes it’s me, he runs… no, he BARRELS across the floor and throws his arms around whatever body part he can reach while calling my name and telling me he’s missed me and that he’s had a good, or bad, or tough day. And in that moment, just in that moment when eighteen heads turn to face the same door, I realize what a special thing we’re all doing for our children… we warriors of the working world.
We are raising children who don’t just hear but KNOW that women can work outside the home and still be good parents. We are raising boys who will know that women are as capable as men, girls who will know that they can be anything they want to be, children who will dream even bigger than we ever did. We are raising children who are socialized at an early age, who are introduced to different cultures and religions and backgrounds at ages when I still thought everyone looked like me. We are raising children to be strong, independent, thoughtful men and women… children who realize that without one single doubt, that the people who love you never really leave you…they always come back in whatever way they can.
It’s hard, don’t get me wrong, to pull away on the mornings when J is crying or when we’ve had a particularly rough parting. But it’s still infinitely worth it to come back at the end of the day. I’m stronger because of the time we spend apart. He’s stronger because of the time we spend apart. We cherish the time we spend together more than I think we would if we were together all the time, twenty-four/seven. I still get the sad clucking sounds when I say I work; I still get the “Don’t you miss your son?” and “Don’t you wish you could stay home with him?” from well-meaning people, but it’s getting a little easier to smile in response and shrug. Because I’m doing the best I can every day for my child and that’s what really matters.
But whenever I doubt, even for one moment, that I’m not doing everything I can for my child… I remember those moments when eighteen heads turn to face me at the end of the day. And in that one perfect moment, I know that the lessons our sons and daughters are learning in the time they spend away from us are worth every second of the heartache we feel at their absence.