Dear Mija: 7 months
I could write about how you’re on the verge of crawling and how your sweet gummy grin now has TWO tiny teeth poking through. Or I could mention how you love bath time and sticking your hands under the running water and how you’re leaning to feed yourself sweet potatoes, avocados and bananas.
But I want to write about something else.
We’ve been getting in a bit more of a routine around here and most mornings between 9am and 12pm I leave you with the babysitter. At first, Daddy preferred I bring you and the sitter to the office. But that got to be too hard. You’d see me and every time you cried I’d run out and feed you. Obviously, I didn’t get that much done and you had no place to play. So, now we started leaving you at home. And overall it’s been much better for all of us.
Until last week.
I was holding you on one hip and carrying my shoes in the other hand. There was coffee to be re-heated, a diaper to change and a pump to put together in order to leave you a bottle. In walked the babysitter, with her jeans and red zip-up hoodie, her hair swept up in a ponytail. She smiled at you and you squirmed your little body away from me and reached your two chubby arms right out to her.
And my mommy heart broke a little bit.
You wanted someone else, besides me. You reached for her, away from me.
Of course, my head says I should be thankful. We have a babysitter who takes such good care of you. She plays with you and reads you stories and holds you up so you can see yourself in the mirror above the dresser. It’s what every mom wants. Someone who they trust, someone who their baby likes. It would be so hard to leave you if every morning you cried when the sitter walked in.
But I never anticipated the opposite.
I texted my friend: “Elena reached for the babysitter this morning, right out of my arms. I know I should be thankful, but of course I feel like a bad mom.”
Should I stop working? Am I am bad mom for leaving my daughter? What if she always reaches for the babysitter over me?
One day Mija, if you’re a mom, you too will probably have some of these thoughts and questions. I don’t know much about motherhood just yet, but I do know there is not just one way to do things. Moms do lots of different things, some moms stay home with their kids all day long, and some moms work from home. Although I think all moms work, just some moms get paid. A lot of moms work outside the home and leave their kids. And some Dads stay home with the kids and sometimes it’s a little bit of everything.
I often hear moms talk about this thing called work/life balance. Sounds like some perfect equilibrium that others have found, but I haven’t. The truth is I don’t think life is like a scale, it’s not something to be categorized, weighed and measured. Especially not things like motherhood and work and home and family. I think the moment you chose to be a mom you automatically give up any idea of balance.
There should be a brochure that reads—warning: this journey of motherhood may lead to or cause a full, beautiful and very unbalanced life.
Elena, I know you’re still little, but I want you to know why I am choosing to work outside the home. The truth is I like working. I like that my ideas and knowledge and gifts are being utilized. I want to keep serving with our organization because I believe good things are happening for Guatemalans and North Americans and I get to be a part of that.
But the truth is, I also want to be an example for you. I want you to see me teaching, planning and leading. Especially since we live in a machista society, I so desperately want you to know that women can work and lead outside of the home as well as, inside the home. I want you to see women who are directing schools and programs, women who are leading and pastoring and practicing medicine and engineering and accounting. I want you to know that women can cook and clean and stay at home, but not because they have to, but because they choose to. And there may come a time when I’ll chose to be home with you all the time. But right now I am choosing to be your mom and keep working.
So today, I am thankful that I have the privilege to choose. I am thankful that we can afford childcare. I know there are many moms who would like to work outside of the home, but the cost of childcare is so high it doesn’t make sense. And there are probably other moms who would love to stay-at-home with their little ones, but have to work outside the home. Both situations seem hard.
My sweet girl, deep down I trust it’s good for you to have mornings with the babysitter and some evenings with Daddy. I have to trust that some afternoons when I plop you on the carpet and try to pull out my computer it doesn’t mean you’re going to grow up feeling ignored. I have to trust that when you kick your little legs in excitement and reach for the babysitter, it means you’re going to have many adults in your life who love you and teach you things. And I think that’s a good thing.
And I have to trust that no matter how old you get or how ever many babysitters or teachers or coaches you have in your life, you will still need me, your mama.
You know, maybe this letter is just as much a reminder for me, as it is for you.
With all my love,