Lately, it seems all different parts of my life are making me feel guilty for being a working mom. I keep getting comments and questions like: Why would I hire out my parenting? How can I stand pawning off my kid for the entire day? He’s missing out on so much at some cold, generic center where nobody knows his name (apparently, I’m supposed to take him to Cheers or something…and by the way, every teacher in his school, even the ones he doesn’t see often, know his name) – how can you stand it?
The answer? Sometimes I don’t know. Even after more than a year, my heart still breaks when I leave him in the morning, and it skips a beat every time I see his big smile and open arms running at me in the afternoon.
But, I do know that I absolutely adore my son, more than anything in this world. And I know that I cannot provide the same kind of stimulation and learning that he gets at his school. I cannot provide endless amounts of lessons learned from early childhood education experts. I have no way of letting him learn how to react to other people, or learn that there are some kids who will happily share toys and others who may need a little convincing without me being his crutch. I have no way of safely introducing him to peer pressure, both the good (all my friends are eating veggies, I should too!) and the bad (all my friends are climbing tables, I should too!) in a way that will let him make his own choices, and not look to me for direction every.single.time.
Frankly, I underestimate him and all toddlers. I had no idea that he was capable of washing his hands well, putting his dirty dishes away, getting his blanket and putting it away after naptime by himself, or putting his toys away. I would have never even thought to teach him that at this age, but he does all that. I’m still amazed.
I don’t have the ability or time to create elaborate, nutritionally-balanced meals from scratch every day (including two snacks) like he gets at school – even on the weekend, with the hubs helping out, I can barely manage to get a halfway decent dinner on the table, and I actually love cooking, at least when I have the time.
With no family nearby and a husband who travels about 60% of the time and works long hours in between trips, it would be me, and only me, all day every day, weekday and weekend taking care of my son with no chance of a break. Add in my life-long utter lack of energy, and you can see that this isn’t a good combination for any toddler, especially mine, who is never still – not even when he sleeps.
What I can do is present him with those opportunities that I am not qualified to do. I can take him to a place that is so nurturing that it hurts. A happy place where as soon as you step through the front gate, you are welcomed into a beautiful courtyard full of nooks and crannies to explore with birds and squirrels sneaking a snack out of the birdfeeder. And that’s before we even cross the front door, where we are always greeted warmly and by name by whichever director or teacher is there before we walk down the ramp and enter his classroom full of friends, lessons, adventures, hugs and memories.
Ideally, there would be a magic solution, where he would have all the experiences that his school can provide, and I could be there with him (do you think they’d let me enroll in the toddler class?), and he’d somehow still learn to be a little more independent from me (because he’s really turning into a mama’s boy, which I secretly love – okay maybe not so secretly), or even better, I’d be able to provide everything for him and be his hero, but I can’t at this point in my life.
So yes, I may be missing out on some great experiences with my son (and I’m not all that sure that I am missing out but the mommy guilt is still there), but the important thing right now is that he‘s not missing out on anything.