Daycare Blues

December 4, 2009

Today I left my daughters at day care and walked away.

Walked away, because I had gone with them in the school van, and, having dropped them there, I now had to find means to get home.

Tara still tugs at me when I drop them, and says, “No, don’t go,” in a piteous and desperate manner.

I go anyway.

It feels cruel. I don’t know how she feels. The teacher there says she is fine as soon as I leave. I hope she is. I don’t know what she thinks of us for leaving her there; or what Mrini, who goes smilingly, thinks; but I feel terrible. They will never know what it costs me to tear them away from me and leave. And I will never know what it costs them. I only hope that in the long term this is the right thing to do.

At times, I know it is. I know that I was never cut out to be a stay at home mom for good. It’s so not me. I’ve enjoyed most of it, most of this time, but… if I keep doing it and start hating it, resenting it, or just plain vegetating at it… then I’m not doing anyone any favours. Anger, frustration, boredom, depression… These are not pretty emotions to be around, not even, or especially not, in a mom. That’s not the kind of mom I want to be, and it’s certainly not the kind of mom they’ll want to have around.

I know that I must go back to work. I also know that I want the girls to have a working mom. As they grow up seeing me work, their ideas of gender roles, equality, independence, the value of money, time, hard work, and discipline, their sense of personal identity – all will be shaped by this. I know mine were, just by seeing my mother teach for the first few years of my life.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with kids seeing their moms stay home and work at keeping the house running… there are lots of good values for them to learn there too. I’m just saying that that’s not me, and that’s not what I want my kids to grow up with.

So I think I know I am doing the right thing. But is it the right time? Again, i think so. They are over three, they are completely settled at school, and I’ve given just over two years of myself exclusively to them – more than I ever thought I would. For me, it was the right time to go back to work about year ago, so I’ve stretched it by six months more than six months. I mean I’ve stretched it and stretched it again. Any more and I might tear it. It will not only become more difficult to remain employable, it will also become more difficult to believe in my own employability. And that’s a vicious cycle. So no, I can’t wit another couple of years, that would be professional suicide… or close to it.

And yet… Only three years old and I’ve already left them in daycare. Next week they will go, unaccompanied, in a school van, directly from school to daycare. They’ll talk to the daycare teacher about school and to their school teacher about daycare. They’ll wake up in the afternoon and stumble sleepily to the daycare teacher and raise their arms to her to be picked up. I’ll be just this other woman who drives them home and spends the evening with them.

I know it will work out. I shouldn’t make too much of it. I know they are not the first kids in the world to go to daycare at the age of three. I know kids are more adaptable and hardier than parents think. I know they’ll soon enjoy daycare with the same enthusiasm they have for school. I know they know we’re their parents and we love them and they’ll love us back. I know, or at least I think I know, or at least I hope that they won’t hold anything against us…

And I know there will be other separations – when they start to go out without us; when they go on a school vacation with friends; when they move out of home to study or work or to get married. But those are so unimaginably far away right now. Right now, I just have to tell myself that it is not wrong to do something for myself, that it is not bad to have a career, and that I can spend “just” evenings and weekends with my kids and they will be ok, they will still know me and love me.

My mother once said that the most painful part of delivering a baby was when they pull the placenta out. I think I have a slight idea, now, of what she meant.

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