I’m a working mom.
On weekdays, I spend maybe two hours with my son.
Imagine Monday morning.
I wake up, have coffee immediately, and then get ready for work — all before 7 a.m. Because at 7 a.m., my son wakes up, and we have half an hour together that consists of a diaper change, morning milk, getting him dressed and chasing him around the house to get his shoes, gloves and jacket on.
I mean, it’s time for my son to wake up 7 a.m. But sometimes he doesn’t want to wake up at 7, so he sleeps until 7:15 or 7:30.
Then we’re hurrying. And our half hour is crammed into five minutes.
Of course, sometimes he wakes up at 6:30 because he wants mommy to have gross hair and wear the same pair of pants for the second (or third) day in a row.
Hey, I’m working mom.
Now, imagine Monday evening.
After an 8-hour workday, I come home to my son… and immediately distract him, so I can make dinner, which takes 30 to 45 minutes depending on what I’m cooking.
We’re a one-pan, one-pot kind of dinner family days daddy works.
Dinner he’s of course not going to eat. Dinner is a 15 to 20 minute fight. Now, when I say “fight,” I mean I try to get him to eat the food, and he tries to feed it to me instead.
You know, unless it’s chips. He doesn’t share chips.
Hey, I’m a working mom.
Dinner is a messy, uphill, mommy-always fails kind of battle.
Here, kid, have a yogurt pouch.
After dinner, it’s time to clean up — and time for another toddler fight. I try to clean his hands and face, and he tries to cover me and his hair in whatever I failed to feed him.
Finally, somewhat fed and somewhat less sticky, it’s quality-time time. Daddy usually gets home from work around this time, so we get to spend quality-time time together as a family.
It’s lovely, but it last about half an hour — and we’ve got to shove a toddler shower and 300 bedtime stories into that half hour. Because then it’s bedtime, and the bedtime fight begins. Mommy and daddy nearly always win the bedtime fight (knock on wood), and kiddo is sleeping like a baby by 8 p.m.
Repeat on weekdays that end in “y,” and there you have it. The household routine. Maybe two hours a day I spend with my son, and at least an hour of toddler arguments about the things we’re doing when we’re spending time together.
Weekends are better. Breakfasts and lunches are easier. Naptimes are less of a fight than bedtimes, if you could believe it.
But weekdays are trying. Weekdays are exhausting. They’re sometimes sad and sometimes painful.
People call it “mom guilt.” Being away from your child for any extended period of time. I don’t feel guilt. I’m not doing anything to feel guilty about.
I do feel loss.
I lose hours, or I lose moments. Time necessary to build a bond with my growing, changing child.
He doesn’t remember the nine months he spent in-womb or the 13 months I was his main source of nutrition. He’s a toddler. His brain is making connections, and one of the connections it’s making is that I’m not with him for eight hours a day, five days a week.
When he’s upset and wants comfort, he doesn’t always find it in me.
When he wants a story or to play, he doesn’t often turn to me.
When he wakes up in the middle of the night because he’s lost his binky or his lovey or he had a bad dream, I’m not as good a fixer as I used to be.
And sometimes it breaks me.
I love working, and I love being a working mom. I love my job. I couldn’t do a weekday that ends in “y” any other way.
I’d lose my mind.
But on some weekdays that end in “y,” I want nothing more to be at home with my son.
To the working moms out there, I feel your loss.
I don’t know how to repair it. I don’t know how to fill up the potholes along your week-long journey to Saturday. I do know you cherish every snuggle. Every tiny finger reaching to be picked up. Every cry for comfort — even when you’re elbow deep in the mop water the floors that get less attention than your hair and unshaved legs so desperately need.
Every moment you can find and take and hold forever.