Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Open letter to a toddler

Dear Bug:

In just one short week, our lives will be changing more dramatically than they have since you were born. You will be going to preschool from 9AM-3PM for 4 days a week, and I will be working. Your daddy will be your primary caregiver during the week. I will join the world of beleagured working parents, who see their children for an hour or two in the morning and at night and then try to soak them up like sun on the weekend.

I am not at all sure how I feel about this yet. I am resigning my Stay-at-Home mom commission and turning in the badge I have worn so proudly. It has been amazing, and it has rivalled the Peace Corps in being the toughest job I'll ever love. And yet, I am giving it up. A huge part of me feels this act will generate a huge black mark on my motherhood resume, because I certainly could choose not to go back to work. My salary will help us to not worry about money all the time, but I still won’t be the primary wage-earner in this family. Money is not the reason I’m taking this job, but being paid for what I do in currency that isn’t poopy diapers or even mid-morning snuggles might be one of the big reasons. Does that make sense?

When I went to my interview yesterday and the people there talked about all the things I could do, how many hibernating parts of my intellect they could wake up and use in this job, how much good we could do, it was like getting a hit of something. We talked about education and energy and children’s learning and marketing strategies, and I felt like I was contributing more than just nods or distracted ‘uh-huhs.’ I felt charged, like I met a part of myself I hadn’t seen in a long time and was caught off-guard enough to be impressed. I knew then that I would probably take the job.

Of course, part of me feels like I shouldn’t be allowed to be a mother if even a tiny part of my taking this job is so that I don’t have to hear about your bicycle, the lawnmower, the mysterious activities of the cats, and playing peekaboo over and over and over for most of my waking hours, but it is. It’s not that I don’t love a good stroll with the bike or a rousing round of peekaboo—it’s just that when that’s all I do, I feel like less of a Person, like the Mother side of me is all there is. When you are screaming because we won’t take a 5th walk around the block on your bike, I sometimes wish I were somewhere else. And I don’t ever, ever, want to wish I were somewhere else. I want to love being with you, even if you’re crabby, even if I’m crabby. I want to be able to share my life with you without burdening you with feeling that you are my life.

I feel very selfish, since my desire for taking this job means, to me anyway, that my desire to be a full Person has superceded my desire to be a Mother. I am sure this is ridiculous and that my friend E would likely tell me that you deserve to have a full Person be your mom, too, but I’m not as wise as she is yet. She is also the person who pointed out to me that no decision is irreconcilable and that if I decide this isn’t working, I can stop. Do you see why I made you play with her son Jack for so many hours when we lived in Pennsylvania?

As I watched you meet your new teacher at the school Open House last night, I wondered where we would all be in 2 months or 6 months or a year. Maybe you’ll be screaming for Miss Jenny and your classmates as soon as you wake up in the morning, or maybe you’ll be here with a nanny, or maybe you’ll be here with me. Maybe I’ll be less anxious about money, or maybe I’ll be sitting on more debt, willing the dissertation to hurry up and get itself done already. Maybe daddy will like being the Answer Man around the house. I don’t know. Just know that whatever happens is because I always want what’s best for you and that I don’t always think that what’s best for you is all mommy, all the time.

I love you, love you, more than my heart can say,