All Aboard the Guilt Train

Toot! Toot!

Last Monday I became a working mother. dunh dunh - DUNH. According to much of the media, working mothers are responsible for a sizable chunk of our children's problems (like obesity, hyperactivity and bullying to name only a few). We also apparently undermine traditional family values, emasculating our husbands and confusing our children while selfishly and irresponsibly pursuing our own lofty career goals (never mind that most women with children work because they have no other financial alternative). I think we may even be responsible for the revolution in Egypt and the protests in Wisconsin.

Can't find someone to blame? Just chalk it up to working mothers!

Le sigh.

Despite the pangs of guilt jabbing at me, it was a good week. I was happy to be back doing work I enjoy with people I like. It was nice to have a conversation that didn't involve "aah-goo, ehh-brehhh, pfttt" or similarly adorable phrases that are only adorable when coming from your 3 month old. And it was surprisingly easy to get back right back into the swing of things at the office. Of course, at about 2 o'clock every day I start to miss Hector fiercely, to the point where it becomes a distraction.

Hector was a champ adjusting to our new routine and his new daytime care givers. He's generally a pretty happy baby and he was always happy when we dropped him off and happy when we picked him up. The thing that really gets the guilt juices flowing (eww) is that by the time we pick him up at 5 o'clock, he has, at the most, 2 hours of awake time before he conks out for the night.

At one point last week I became completely unglued and cried to Daniel that Hector was going to forget who were we and was going to think Lori and Jim (his day caregivers) were his parents.

All you want is the best for your kid. Who would've thought figuring out or trying to decide what is "best" would be so difficult? I've never felt so unsure about anything in my life before - not Hector himself but the choices we make for him.

A week before he started daycare, we made the decision to switch daycare facilities. Originally we were all set for him to go to a daycare center across the street from my office. A very typical child care center where he would've have been in a classroom with 7 other 3 month olds and two adults. I wasn't completely thrilled with our option, but quality infant care in Nashville is REALLY hard to come by.

And then a space opened up at a small family daycare in our neighborhood and it seemed like a sign to make the switch. So now Hector goes to Green Acres (yes, that really is the name of the daycare) during the day where he is cared for by Lori and Jim. They are retired graphic designers from LA who moved here and have been involved in early childhood education for about 10 years. They only take 5 children at a time and only from 6 weeks old to 24 months old.

We arrive in the mornings to a warm home, clean carpets, the faint smell of coffee coming from the kitchen where I put Hector's bottles for the day in the refrigerator. He is the first one to arrive in the mornings, so he gets Jim and Lori's undivided attention for an hour. Instead of feeling like we're dropping our 3 month old infant off at school, it's more like we're dropping him off at a relative's home. The feel is much softer, more organic and less institutional.

The other children include another 3 month old, a 6 month old, a 12 month old, and a 14 month old. Hazel, Maximillian, Miette, and Nora. Those are Hector's faux-siblings during the day. Miette and Nora already call Hector by his name. The "curriculum" is gentle and age appropriate and there is outdoor time everyday the weather permits.

So far, so good. I don't worry about his well being while I'm at work. I feel confident that he is in good hands.

And yet.

The articles I read online tell me to worry about Hector becoming too attached to his care givers and then suffering a sense of loss when we have to switch him to another daycare in 2 years. To worry he will feel abandoned by me once he realizes what's going on. To worry about the myriad of "behavior issues" that somehow got attributed to children spending a large amount of time at daycare.

Y'all, it's a lot to worry about and difficult to tune out. I definitely need to re-read "The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How it Has Undermined Women" by Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels. It was a good book when I read it the first time. But I think now it will be much more relevant to my life and provide some comfort that I'm not a bad mother just because I'm a working mother.


Jennifer said...

Hang in there. Don't bother re-reading the book...you're a mom now so nothing will quell the guilt! Saving grace is someday YOU will get to be the one who doles out the guilt :-)

I think the daycare choice you made is awesome - I agree that the smaller, more intimate surroundings seem like a great option! I saw the pics and they look like great people and the other kiddos are happy, too!

I still have guilt every single day when I go to work (even when Owen goes to school for most of the day). I feel like a horrible person for going back to work full-time and he's 6 so like I said, it doesn't go away...but we manage...knowing we're doing the best we can until we're independently wealthy! You guys are great parents!!!

schroederjt said...

Really, every single social problem in America is supposed to be the fault of working mothers, or single mothers, or welfare mothers or lesbian and gay couples raising children - so I wouldn't worry about it, as you are in fine company as we all run this great country into the ground.

But seriously, I hope things are going well for you guys. It sounds like you and Daniel are doing a great job.

Gibbarella said...

Ditto :(