By: Shannon Ralph
My daughter misses me. No, I haven’t gone anywhere. As a matter of fact, I sleep in the same room with Sophie most nights when she creeps upstairs to snuggle up in my bedroom chair. Regardless, she misses me.
I can tell she misses me when she begs me for “one more” hug and kiss at bedtime. I can tell that she misses me when she declares that she doesn’t want to see the new Farm Babies at the zoo without me. I can tell she misses me when she asks me longingly when we will bake together again. I can tell she misses me when she looks up at me with her big blue eyes and begs me to “cuddle-bug” with her.
I am still here. Only, I am not. At least, not like I used to be. For the first time since my daughter was born, I am working a full-time job. Only, it’s not just a job. It’s a ten-hours-a-day, putting-out-fires-at-5:00-on-a-Friday, checking-email-on-the-weekends, rushing-home-just-in-time-for-nothing-more-than-baths-homework-bedtime, mentally-consuming kind of job. It’s the kind of job that instantly makes the other parent the “fun mom.” The kind of job that instantly makes the other parent the “school mom.” And the “birthday party mom.” And the “library mom.” And the…well, the “mom” mom. I am the working mom. I am the missing-out mom. I am the absent mom. I am the half-ass mom. At least that is what I feel like when my daughter walks up and closes my laptop as I am working at home. I am the checked-out mom.
I know my sons miss having me around. I know they love me and cherish the time that we spend together. My daughter, however, is different. She aches for time with me. I can feel it. She doesn’t understand why mommy no longer has the time to bake cakes and paint toenails and play dress-up. She misses being a girly girl with her mommy. And I miss her. I desperately long to be with her.
So why am I working? Simply put, I like my job. I like getting out of the house. I like going somewhere where I feel intelligent. And validated. Where my opinion is sought and valued. I enjoy talking to adults. I enjoy utilizing my vocabulary. I like conference calls and PowerPoint presentations and working lunches. I enjoy wearing clothes that are not stained with juice and caked with snot. I relish solving problems more complex than fruit snacks versus goldfish crackers. I enjoy my job.
So what does that make me? What does it say about me that I made the conscious choice to spend less time with my children? To spend precious hours on this Earth away from the tiny creatures I love more than anything. To look my daughter in the eye and say, “Mommy will paint your toenails tomorrow,” knowing full well that tomorrow will be no different than today. What kind of mother does that make me?
An agonizingly conflicted mother.