I’m not sure who was more excited about the Summer Reading Program Pajama Party at our local library, me or my three year old. (Ok, probably me.) After all, this was the stuff of working mom fantasies, spending quality time with your child in a fun, educational environment, watching them soak up knowledge and life experience for the first time, instead of hearing about it secondhand. I was pumped, I mean pumped! about going, and had built it up in her crazily-creative little mind as the best day ever!
She wore boots with her Jessie the Cowgirl jammies (that’s my girl), perfect for photo ops for momma’s blog (because I totally wanted to write a feel-good post about the merits of being present and accounted for at moments like this). She was a bit intimidated by all of the “big kids” (who weren’t actually taller, only older), and clung to my hand while we waited our turn for the activities. I was soaking up the moments, relishing in being there, actually there while she experienced this type of event for the first time.
As we were working on decorating her teeny pillow case, the kind volunteer lady leaned down and asked my daughter, “Would you like to draw your mommy on your pillow?” By now, Anna had come out of her shell a little, and confidently replied, “Sure.” In an effort to avoid a possible tantrum over picture placement (I’m learning her trigger points) I asked, “Where should mommy be?” My heart will never completely heal from what she said next.
In a calm, clear voice, she stared straight ahead and said, “Mommy should be at work. I want a babysitter.” Perhaps this doesn’t strike you as hurtful, but it was her tone, her tone! Methodical and straight forward, not whiney or attention-seeking.
At the exact moment I wanted to experience the most, and gave up so much to share…she didn’t even want me there.
I was crushed. And embarrassed. I tried to hide the pain (and tears) by stammering, “Babysitters are way more fun, right?” I gave up a career, a job I loved, financial security, adult conversation, and sushi (I gave up sushi!), to stay home full time with my daughters and be present and accounted for during these precious moments.
Immediately, I began questioning myself. Did I make the right decision? Is this going to ruin her? Should I go back to work? Can I enroll her in part-time care? Can I get her back into her former sitter? (Who was amazing, by the way. I really can’t blame her for missing her Nelle.)
Thankful to see a familiar face in the crowd of parents, I confided in an at-home mom mentor from my church, and her reply did wonders for my insecurities. “Oh, she just misses her friends. It will get better.” It will? It will?! This is normal? Hallelujah! I still have my doubts, but unless this continues to be an issue, I’ll just stay the course.
After all, when my daughter screamed and kicked the glass door as I walked down the sidewalk away from the sitter’s each morning (I still remember the sound of my heels click-clacking away from her), did I change my mind then? No. I just kept doing my job. And that’s what I’ll do now.
Is it better to be wanted, and not present, or to be present, and unwanted? I guess I’ll find out.