You clung to my neck, grasping tightly and sobbing. You didn’t want to let go, didn’t want to go over that threshold into the nursery filled with friends and fun. It’s ok – I didn’t want to let go either. We’d had another amazingly fun weekend together. We played, we sang, we snuggled. Monday morning hit, and it was back to the rushed morning routine, back to a schedule. As I peeled you off of me, handing you to your teacher, a woman who loves you as her own, who teaches you more than I ever could, who must be an angel sent from heaven, I want to scream and cry. I want to hug you tightly and run back to the car, buckle you in, go home, and play all day with you.
But that’s not logical. That’s not possible. And it isn’t even what I really want. And that is where the guilt comes in. When I was coming back to work, a wise coworker told me that there would come a time at work where I would look up and realize I had not thought about my baby in a few hours – that it would hit me, and I would feel like I had betrayed her. And she was right. I love my job, and so while being away from you is harder than I even imagined, I choose to be here because it is fulfilling and rewarding. And to that end, there are times when I get so wrapped up in what I am doing that I don’t think about you for a few hours. And then I feel awful.
I feel guilty for not being with you – for missing out on these prime moments of your life. It weighs very heavily on me that on a given work day, you spend much more time at daycare than at home with me. I feel guilty for leaving you in the nursery for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week when other kids can be off on adventures, having playdates, and soaking in quality time with their momma. And, most of all, I feel guilty for wanting a career, wanting to devote myself to something other than you. I feel guilty for spending time investing in myself when all of my mothering instincts tell me I should be with you.
These baby days are fleeting. With each moment, you’re bigger, more independent, and on your way to being a full-fledged toddler. And while I feel guilty, I also feel so proud of the important work I do. And I hope that someday you’ll be so proud to know about the lives that I’ve touched, the impact I’ve made. So while that guilt certainly isn’t going away, while Monday mornings are still going to absolutely be so hard, I can focus on a few things to keep me going – your sheer joy at the end of the work day at seeing me, your endless new skills and abilities learned at school, and your sweet special connections with nursery friends. And I can make the time we do have together count.