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Here I Am: The Working Mom’s Reality

By Carrie Palmer, Twin Cities mother of twins.

working momIt’s 7:15 AM, and I am already running late. My sons are awake asking for “Mommy! Daddy!”

My husband, who does the morning routine, is still asleep. He has been out late the two nights prior with tickets to the Home Run Derby & All-Star Game. I want to let him sleep. He’s tired. I’m tired. Part of marriage is compromise and letting the other one sleep in sometimes is a way of saying, “I love you.”

My schedule is a bit less demanding in the summer, so I can feasibly get the boys and be with them until our nanny arrives in 15 minutes. I know what will happen if I get them: they will be excited. I will be excited. Then, in a few minutes, I will need to go. Saying goodbye will be awful. For both of us.

If I don’t get them they are likely to be content in their room until Nanny arrives.
I can’t resist. I decide to get them. I am right—they are excited to see me. Nothing beats opening the door and hearing, “Mommy!”

David has taken his diaper off again, Simon is saying, “Come up! Come up!” I pick up Simon, David walks, and we all head downstairs for “Milk! Red cup Simon. Blue cup David.”

I am happy and content. I pour their milk. We sit in the living room and read some stories.
Nanny arrives; thank the powers of the universe our family was blessed beyond measure with our nanny. She is wonderful, kind, caring, truly loves the boys; I feel beyond comfortable leaving them with her. They love her.

Despite their mutual love and admiration, I already know what’s going to happen. David will cry, Simon is going to scream and cling to me for dear life. Sometimes Simon’s grip, with his whole body, makes me think of a little monkey clinging to his mama.

Nanny is a master at distraction and redirection. She announces, “Boys! Let’s go to the porch!” as if the porch is the Magic Kingdom. They agree. But, Simon is still clinging to me, and when I attempt to put him down, he screams, “Mommy! No work!”

The tears well up in my eyes. Some days it’s easier to put him down. Today is not one of those days. I tell the boys that I will stay for one more story. So, we all settle into the floor of the porch while Nanny reads the story about tractors and pigs, cows and sheep. The boys make all of the animal noises.

I can’t keep the tears in. I know in 2 minutes I am going to need to peel Simon off my body. David is going to watch and get equally upset. This morning I can’t keep it together. They are going to see me cry, which will only make it worse.

1 minute to go and Daddy walks in. He is met with cheers and happy cries of “Daddy!”

Go time. I know I have to do it, and I have to do it quickly. I tell the boys that I love them. I stand up, peel Simon from the death grip he has placed on me, set him on the floor. My children are instantly hysterical. And, I caused it. This is my fault. I leave the room as quickly as possible. No point in drawing this out. I leave the house, get into my car and sob.

Thankfully not every day is like this. There are many more days when I leave before they wake up. Many more days when my husband does this routine. For every parent—especially moms—the choice to work or not is both a challenge and a privilege. Not every parent has a choice. Many have to work. Choosing to is a luxury.

For me, staying home was never a realistic option. We didn’t crunch the numbers, but financially, with some changes, I am pretty sure we could make it work. Even with me working most of our money goes to our nanny. It’s not about money. Staying at home all the time isn’t right for me. My career isn’t one where working part-time is feasible. I think I am a better parent to my children for not being home all the time.

My best friend is Australian, and she was horrified to learn that in the US mothers have to go back to work at 12 weeks postpartum. That is…12 weeks if we’re lucky! She got an entire year off PAID and her job would be held for one more year unpaid. Sometimes I dream about moving to another country with more maternity leave, support of working parents, better health care. But, this is my home. So for now, I work.

And, I enjoy my work, for the most part. Sure, it’s hard on the days when a client yell at me or a colleague makes a snide remark. On those days I think, “I gave up being with my kids for this?!” But, one of the best feelings is walking into my office on Monday morning, shutting the door, and knowing that this 10 x 10 room is mine. Mine alone. My space. It’s sacred.

I feel that this is the right decision. For me. For now. I am still plagued with, “Am I missing out on their childhood?”, “Does Nanny know them better than me?” In some ways, yes, I am missing out. In some way, yes, Nanny does know them better than I do. But, in other ways, I know that I am connected to their life, their days, their activities, their hearts and they to mine. I know that my husband and I set up the perfect scenario for Nanny to work well with them.

In the end, if I stayed at home, I would probably have similar doubts, fears and frustrations. So, here I am, a working mom who loves her children.

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