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04277121_zi_blue_silverLast night around 6, when I was waiting for a friend to pick Zoe up for tae kwan do because I didn’t want to bring Zeke because he was coughing and his shoes were soaking wet because I let him stomp in a puddle when we were picking up Zoe from school and when we got home I discovered the dryer, which we just paid $400 to get repaired, was screeching mercilessly whenever I turned it on, I started feeling panicky. I was upstairs waiting by the window with Zoe to spot her ride when it arrived while downstairs Zeke had found a tray of Christmas treats Zoe had left out, and was stuffing chocolate covered peanuts in his mouth. When I ran downstairs to find him, there was a blend of saliva and chocolate seeping all over his face and clothes and his mouth was full of unchewed peanuts because he still doesn’t have that many teeth. He had also managed to open Zoe’s Finding Nemo DVD that she received for Hanukkah the night before and had somehow smeared it with chocolate as well. I wiped off his face and yanked off his shirt and fleece and went to put them in the bucket that we soak stained things in but discovered I had left it outside on the patio and it needed to be washed. And I couldn’t wash it because the sink was full of dirty dishes and bottle parts because even though Zeke will drink water from a cup he still refuses to drink milk unless it’s in a bottle.

I was short of breath, my chest was tight, I felt nauseated and dizzy. I have a friend just a few years older than me who had a heart attack last year. Someone else my age with whom I graduated from college died this year from one. And one of Randy’s grad school classmates just died from a possible heart attack. I was increasingly panicked. I looked up the signs of a heart attack and a panic attack and found several websites that said the symptoms are remarkably similar. How helpful!

When Randy got home he dropped me off at urgent care. I should have just gone to the ER. The people at urgent care did not demonstrate any sense of urgency whatsoever. The receptionists and the physician’s assistant all seemed bored and completely uninterested in their jobs or the fact that people they were helping might have some sort of problem. They acted like they had been hired for jobs at lackadaisical care. The PA greeted me with, “So are you having a heart attack?” I told her I didn’t know what was wrong, that’s why I was there. Later when she was doing the EKG and tears were streaming down my face she repeatedly told me to relax. Oh ok. Thanks for the advice. The doctor, who was at least friendly, said I was fine and there wasn’t really anything he could do for me, as my heart and lungs and blood pressure were normal. He asked if there was anything stressful going on in my life. I didn’t even know where to start. I offered, “I have two young kids…” He said something like, is that all? I didn’t go into the running my own business thing or the fact that it’s Christmas and Hanukkah and so many things are undone or the fact that tragedies local and global are constantly breaking my heart and assaulting my soul. He asked if I wanted anything to calm me down, like a Xanax. I declined, as I have attempted to use Xanax in the past and even in small doses it makes me feel drunk and unable to function. Calm, sure, but not really worth it.

So the good news is I didn’t have a heart attack. The list of things to do remains long and the stacks of stuff to deal with are piled high. I am struggling to resist the urge to climb back into bed with my book–The Gravity of Birds–which is so good. In the meantime, I will listen to John Denver and the Muppets and try to get back to work, and be thankful that my heart is good.

You always hear about how the best thing for babies and kids is consistency. I would rather focus on the virtue of flexibility. As a parent and as the owner of a small business, no two days of my life are ever alike. There’s no consistency from day to day. There are many things I’d like to do every day but don’t, or plan to do but can’t. I don’t do routine that well. Maybe there are babies and children out there who are consistent, but mine aren’t. And their parents aren’t.

We do feed them consistently, although not on a fixed schedule. We keep them clean. We consistently go into their rooms during the night when they cry. We give them countless hugs and kisses every day.

And we are consistently late.

I am almost 40 so it seems unlikely that my consistent inability to do anything at the same time day after day will change. So I just need to stop consistently feeling guilty about it.

Sometimes you end up nursing your baby in the driver’s seat of your minivan in the parking lot of McDonald’s because his persistent screaming from the back seat was about to make you plunge your car into a snow bank. No varieties or volume of music would assuage him, nor your own voice, which is admittedly becoming less soothing. You’re on your way home. It’s been a long day filled with things that did not go well. Why is he screaming? It’s anyone’s guess. He is probably teething. Although he has seemed like he has been teething for the past six months or so. He is probably hungry, because it’s dinner time. You’re hungry. You plied him with cheerios and yogurt melts earlier, and you attempted to give him milk. But as is his habit lately, he will not breastfeed when there are people or things nearby that might be remotely stimulating. He drinks a few sips and–although you know he is hungry and you know plenty of milk is available–he wrests away and tries to throw himself onto the floor so he can crawl toward something compelling, like a glass object. He may be crying because his sister is not in the back seat with him as she usually is, since she has just been dropped off for a sleepover. She is a reliable source of companionship, entertainment, and cheer, and she is missing. He may be tired–as you are–and crying is his favorite way of expressing that. He may be frustrated that he has removed one of his socks but not the other. There is no telling. But you realize you cannot make it home while enduring the screaming any longer, so you pull into the parking lot, as far away from other cars as possible, and try to nurse. At first he refuses, clinging to his tears and then distracted by the novelty of the steering wheel, the gear shift, the buttons that control the music and temperature. Eventually, thankfully, basic desire for nourishment overcomes innate curiosity and he turns to you for milk. And he drinks.

After a while you step gingerly out of the car and oh so carefully try to put him back in his carseat, talking softly to him to try to erase any lingering memory of his previous activity there. He is quiet. You strap him in. You get back in the driver’s seat and start to pull back onto the road. He starts to cry again. Your heartbeat accelerates and your hands clench the steering wheel. You start to sing “Old MacDonald” (no relation to the restaurant–different spelling) and run through your mental catalogue of 15 or so animals. He is quiet again. You are so tired you start getting the animal noises wrong. You switch to “The Wheels on the Bus” and exhaust the list of bus features and riders. He is still quiet. You stop singing and feel profound gratitude for the silence.

On good days, parenting is made up of many ecstatic moments interrupted by a few exasperating ones. On bad days, the reverse. Some days as a parent I can rejoice in the trivial triumphs, like getting Zeke’s nails clipped so he won’t claw himself or us in fits of excitement or fatigue. Other days I look around at the colossal mess and the long list of undone items and struggle to see what I’ve accomplished, other than keeping everyone fed and alive. Which is something, but sometimes seems like a low bar.

While I am a working mom, my work only happens during the hours that Zeke is in day care and Zoe is in school, or sometimes at night if necessary. Although night office hours are much fewer and further between since Zeke was born since his sleep patterns are utterly unpredictable. But I am on my own with the kids most afternoons, and with Zeke on Fridays, and typically on snow days, so I did identify with this post by The Ugly Volvo. Parenting a baby can be so spectacularly joyful and so thoroughly frustrating from moment to moment.

At this moment, thankfully, Zeke is asleep. It was a hard-fought nap. He has a cold, so he was only willing to nurse briefly because breastfeeding makes it hard for him to breathe when he’s congested. I knew he was tired and still hungry but he screamed and battled fiercely when I tried to keep feeding him. Eventually I liberated him from his napping cocoon and took him downstairs to play while I pumped four ounces. Luckily I was able to entice him to stay in the play area instead of crawling off to find uncovered electrical outlets while I was tethered to the breast pump. Then we returned upstairs and he sat up and gave himself the bottle while I sneakily eased him half into the cocoon. As soon as he finished drinking and discarded the bottled I zipped him all the way up, singing “The Wheels on the Bus” at the top of my lungs to distract him from his capture. Then I rocked him and toned it down until he zonked out.

At nine months, he seems gigantic. He’s wearing 18-month clothes and stretches out way beyond your arms when you’re holding him. And he’s so tough and sturdy. He hardly seems like a baby because he appears indestructible (don’t test this, please). He just steamrolls over toys of any shape or size to get what he wants. He crawls so much faster than you expect and then you really don’t have time to look away or do anything you thought you’d have time to do between when you put him down and when he’s at the top of the stairs, or in the kitchen. He’s made a game of taking a toy and throwing it on front of him and crawling to get it and can repeat this over and over circuiting around the first floor of our house. At long last, he has two teeth–one fully in and the other emerging–and loves to use them to crunch. In fact he’s so excited to feed himself that more often than not he wants cheerios and the other little crunchy things instead of the baby food. I think the baby food is getting boring. But we haven’t quite gotten to the point where he can eat what we’re eating. Probably what has to happen is us putting in the extra effort to make some table food that’s appropriate for him, but we haven’t quite managed to do that yet. And I’m also not sure that anything I can make will be as nutritious as these little pouches of spinach, apple, and rutabaga, or plum, berry, and quinoa.

Zeke recently discovered clapping, and today I saw him pick up two blocks and clap them together and enjoyed his reaction when he created his first hand-held percussion instrument (aside from one of his favorite hobbies of smacking and tapping all wooden surfaces). Much like his sister and his parents, he loves music. Yesterday we went to the open house at Zoe’s former preschool, which will hopefully be Zeke’s preschool next fall. One of the first people we ran into was the music teacher there. One of my favorite times when I used to co-op in Zoe’s class was going to music class and seeing the kids either enthusiastically sing and dance and stomp around, or just observe mutely. I am reading the book Quiet right now and gaining a better understanding of how personality develops and what it means when kids are introverted or extroverted or low-reactive or high-reactive or sensitive and the various combinations of all of those factors. And I know participating in preschool music class isn’t really everyone’s thing, but I think all of the kids are still taking it in on some level, and how it comes back out remains to be seen. Zoe was not always a jubilant singer, but that didn’t inhibit the development of her fascination with and intense enjoyment of music. Today in church, she was sitting with me in the front row, right behind the grand piano, percussionists, and bassist, with a great view of the choir. On the first Sunday of the month, kids start out in the sanctuary and participate in the first part of the service, then listen to a story for all ages, and then go to their religious education classes. But after the first couple songs, Zoe said emphatically, “I want to stay for the music. I don’t want to go to class.” So she stayed, and she seemed as entranced and moved by the music as I was, singing to herself quietly, but clearly part of the moment.

Is it easy to be hard on yourself as a parent, or as a nursing mom, or as a nursing, working mom. Sometimes things do not go the way you expected them to go, or the way you think they must magically go for everyone else. But sometimes they work out fine. And sometimes your baby beams at you for minutes at a time without breaking eye contact, showing you the best way he knows how exactly how much he loves you. And sometimes your first-grader holds your hand and sings with you in church, or snuggles up to read, or gives you a kiss when she knows you’re feeling beaten down, and she even says “I love you,” because she can, and she does. And a nap would be nice, but you know you’ll make it through one way or another.

 

I’m sure everyone in my family has now seen more of my breasts, and more often, than they ever expected or cared to. My boy Zeke loves to nurse. And why wouldn’t he? Thankfully, he’s a good sleeper, usually going through the night without needing to eat these days. As a result, however, he packs it in during the day, breastfeeding six or eight or a dozen times a day. I lose count. Every day I intend to keep track, but my brain is so cloudy that I forget. He enjoys long, luxurious meals. He appreciates quick snacks. When I’m out in public, especially in a crowded place or if strangers are seated nearby, I feed Zeke under a nursing cover. I can’t imagine it’s very discreet, because anyone would see what I’m doing, but at least my boobs and my belly are not exposed to a room full of people. But at home, or on vacation, I don’t bother. So Family, I hope you haven’t been offended. I am nutritious.

After a long and thorough search for an acceptable day care provider to care for Zeke when I go back to work in earnest, I found someone who has run her home-based day care for 33 years. Her house is five minutes from ours and she seemed conscientious and the kids there seemed happy. Zeke won’t start there until September, and even then he will only be with her two days a week and with my parents for two. I’m sure he’ll be fine, and if I decide I don’t like her, we can always take him out and find someone else. And yet. Putting him in day care at all feels like a colossal betrayal. I am his source of sustenance. Sure, he’s taken bottles of breast milk from his dad and grandparents and great aunt. But it’s me he loves to eat from and with. Sure, there’s some ego involved here. Being the mother of a baby is nothing if not a rush to the ego–look what my body developed and birthed and now I’m feeding him and he’s growing and WOW — I am doing this. Even if it’s basically all happening automatically and you’re not really doing anything yourself, just letting yourself be used as a vessel and a milk factory. Still, it feels impressive and gratifying. Much as you feel pleased with yourself when you take him to the grocery store in the stroller and buy $100 worth of groceries that you shop for with a basket attached to each side of the stroller and then you stroll home the half mile with 9 bags hanging from the hooks on your stroller handlebars. You don’t always have that many opportunities to feel really physically competent–or at least I don’t–but taking care of this baby provides plenty.

I realize that soon after he starts day care, he will likely start eating some solid food, so he won’t be as dependent on nursing as he is now. At some point, that will be a relief to me and certainly to Zoe, who is visibly frustrated with the lack of intimacy she is able to share with me now in terms of snuggles and lap time because Zeke is so often occupying my arms and taking priority. Life will be easier for me, just simpler and less demanding, when I don’t have to nurse so much. But at the same time that intensity of being needed, and being able to provide such an essential service for this wonderful little person, will diminish. And as much as constant breastfeeding has driven me insane, when I just want to eat a sandwich or go to the bathroom, the thought of giving it up makes me equally sad. I know I’m not giving it up just because he’ll be in day care, but it will all be different. And we know change is hard. Although when you have kids, change happens about every five minutes whether you like it or not.

I can see Zoe changing by the minute since her brother was born. While she seems less likely to listen the first time and increasingly able to stand and stare at us when we ask her to do something, or why she did or didn’t do something, wearing this expression of complete intransigence, she is also more independent and both able and willing (if sometimes resigned to doing so with a loud sigh) to amuse herself for long stretches. I guess she realizes it’s either be her own entertainment or stand around being pathetic while we take care of her brother. Last summer I took her to the pool almost every day after camp and played with her in the water. This summer it has proven complicated and exhausting to get in the water with Zeke, although I’ve done it a handful of times, and Zoe has adapted quite nicely. She swims by herself, throwing in pool toys and diving to catch them, or she makes friends, or she plays with kids she’s met before. She’s adapted.

Before Zeke was born, Randy and I easily agreed that we would be sure to spend one-on-one time with Zoe to make sure she got enough attention. Of course that makes sense and is what any good parent would do. But then life happens and it’s harder to do the things that obviously of course you should be doing. I had this idea that I was spending all this time with Zoe because I spend a lot of time driving her places and watching her swim, or do tae kwan do, or what have you. But Zeke is always there. And as often as not, screaming in the car.

So finally, I took Zoe out today for a mommy-daughter outing, to get our nails done. Something definitely not appropriate for babies and something only big girls get to do. She chose neon orange for her toes, and what she called sparkly indigo for her fingernails. And she got flower designs on her thumbs and big toes. Then we went out to lunch, where Randy and Zeke met us. Thoughtfully, Zeke slept through lunch.

Then after lunch I had the opportunity to indulge myself in some mommy-alone-without-kids-and-not-attempting-to-do-work-or-errands time, while Randy hung out with Zoe and Zeke at home. I had a reflexology foot massage, supremely relaxing in its own right, but also just blissful in that I was just on my own, being taken care of, and not taking care of anyone else at all. Even for a minute. My breasts safely cocooned inside my shirt.

It’s good to be needed, even when it’s exhausting. And it’s good to have the chance to give something to other people who need you besides the little one who just likes to suckle and smile. And it’s good to take care of yourself once in a while. And now that it’s bedtime for the grown-ups, that means it’s time for me to pump, to make a bottle for Zeke to enjoy with someone else who loves him.

Sometimes I wish Zoe would magically behave like some mythical girl I imagine from the 50s–perhaps like how I imagine my mom and her siblings were taught to behave by my Nana and Papa. I don’t know how they actually behaved, but I imagine a lot of “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir” and looking adults in the eye and shaking their hands politely when the adults said “you look so nice!” or “you’re getting so tall!” I somehow imagine they never had to be told (again and again) to sit up, or to stop scowling, or to stop kicking the back of someone else’s seat.

But that’s probably not true. That’s what kids do, right?

And in general I’m thrilled we don’t live in the 50s.

I often think about how vastly different the culture was and my grandparents’ circumstances were from my own parents, and–somewhat less dramatically–how the expectations for parents and children are for my generation. Paradoxically I wish for the simplicity, respect, and determination to appreciate what you have and not waste so much of everything that I feel was characteristic of my grandparents’ parenting and my parents’ upbringing. But I realize that times were different and some of that leanness was born of necessity. They had less so they had no choice. We have more so we can afford to make poor decisions more often. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Sometimes I don’t know how to stop it though.

I read somewhere that moms today spend way more hours actually engaged in activities with their children than moms 50 years ago, despite the fact that more moms today have part-time or full-time jobs outside the home than did previously. Because that’s what’s expected of us. We have playgroups, we take our babies to music classes and sign language classes and playdates. My own mom, who was a stay-at-home mom at least until my sister and I were in school all day, doesn’t recall scheduling playdates with us and our friends. Friends would come over to play or we would be dropped off somewhere else. But that didn’t really happen until elementary school. We went to preschool. But we didn’t take weekend classes at the rec center when we were three. I’m making no judgment here whatsoever. I’ve signed Zoe up for and schlepped her to plenty of classes, some of which I thought she would love, and some of which I felt like I was supposed to bring her to. And certainly when your kid crosses the threshold where you don’t have to participate in the class, and you can sit on the sidelines and watch, what a relief to have a break! In recent years Zoe has said, “I wish you were one of the counselors at camp so you could stay there all day with me.” Um, don’t you get it? If I was going to be with you all day, I wouldn’t send you to camp. We would just stay home. I have to work. That’s why you go to camp. But I don’t say that.

Which brings us, naturally, to martial arts. A couple years ago Zoe attended a tae kwon do birthday party. She was a little scared and a little intrigued. Chalk it up to a new experience. The following year, she attended the party of the same girl (now a black belt) at the same tae kwon do studio. She loved it. She wasn’t scared. She was fearless. She said, “I want to take tae kwon do!”

I file that away and then notice months later there is a new martial arts studio in our neighborhood. We sign up for a two-week trial. It’s not easy, but it’s fun and interesting and Zoe’s on board. Of course the timing on my part was foolish. When we did the trial we were in the midst of a rec center gymnastics session and a preschool soccer clinic. And we were looking forward to a summer at the pool and more swimming lessons. Tae kwon do seemed like too much to add, so we didn’t.

Then, after a summer of successful swimming (which it turns out that Zoe’s much better at than soccer or gymnastics), the pool closed and our thoughts returned to tae kwon do. The people running this studio are smart. The minimum commitment is six months. You can also opt for 12 or 18 months worth of classes when you sign up. You can go once, twice, or three times a week. It turns out that it actually takes a while (or at least it has for Zoe) to get the hang of martial arts.

I was thrilled that Zoe showed interest in this. It’s so important for kids–and I think girls in particular–to have the strength and confidence instilled by martial arts. Zoe is active and athletic but also very girly and princessy. Her parents are conflict-averse. I emphasize compassion and kindness and politeness. Assertiveness has never been my strong suit. So I didn’t make her sign up, and it wasn’t even my idea. But I’m the one who’s made the commitment.

Martial arts is hard. The master who teaches her class is excellent, and a stickler for perfection. He does not reward kids who don’t get it right. And why should he? If you’re going to learn it, of course you should get it right. But did I mention it’s hard? It requires different skills than reading or writing or painting or making up shows or any of the many, many things that Zoe does well at and enjoys. It requires patience, diligence, a lot of repetition. Martial arts requires strength, agility, and amazing motor skills and coordination. For a five-year-old, these skills are still developing, sometimes slowly. So Zoe complains. When it’s time to go to class, she often doesn’t want to. She’s tired. But when she gets to class she usually perks up and has a great time. I often struggle with what to say or do to get her excited about going. She doesn’t understand or care about the money I’m spending on the classes or the commitment we’ve made and I’m sure not going to get into how I want her to be able to fend off attackers when she’s older if she’s ever in a dangerous situation. It’s hard to come up with a reason you should do something that you don’t feel like doing that’s not necessarily mandatory, like school or eating or bathing.

Recently she went to a day of camp at the martial arts studio on a day when school was closed. When I arrived in the afternoon, it was time for her regular class. She’d already been there for seven hours, some of which she’d been practicing moves and some of which she’d been playing and watching a movie. Apparently she was completely spent. And apparently I was totally unable to comprehend that, and deeply frustrated that she was refusing to participate in the class and just glaring at me. I had brought her the day before to a 50-minute private lesson there because she had said she felt like she was behind and didn’t know what she was supposed to be doing, after missing a couple weeks of class because of her surgery. During the private lesson she improved dramatically just over the course of 50 minutes. She was focused, determined, and awesome. When she wouldn’t go to class the next day and she gave up the opportunity to demonstrate what she’d learned and test for a stripe on her belt, I was so angry. So we went home and I fumed and she sobbed and I did not have my best ever parenting day.

She went back to class the next regularly scheduled day and was happy enough to go. I thought she did great and the master asked her to try to test for her next stripe, and while I thought she nailed it, apparently she didn’t quite, because he didn’t give it to her. I was disappointed, but she came off the mat smiling and I congratulated her for working hard. I asked if she wanted to go to class Saturday (which we don’t usually go to, but could since we missed several classes and should really make them up) so she could have another shot, and she said no. I asked her again later and she still said no. But she’s been practicing her form all weekend and her punches and kicks, so clearly she wants to get back on the mat and try again.

Part of the reason I so want Zoe to stick with this is that it’s difficult and it doesn’t come easy for her. I wish I had had the opportunity to do something like that when I was a kid. The most comparable thing for me was math, but I never got better and there was no joy there for sure. I never played on a team or competed in anything except intellectual pursuits. That’s a whole different post, but the point is I know this could be so good for her. But I don’t want to push her so much that we both dissolve into tears and fury. But I don’t want to let her give up just because she doesn’t feel like working at it one day. But maybe when you’re five your parents should cut you some slack? Or maybe that’s when you need to start learning to be strong?

Randy says when she does get her next stripe, it will mean that much more because she’s had to try for it again and again. That’s probably true. Until then I probably just need to take more deep breaths and not say anything. I should try not to push or pull. But it’s so hard.

When I was a kid myself, fortunate to have a mom who was able to stay home with us or work only when we were at school, I used to think these horrible, absurd thoughts like, “why do people have children if they’re going to send them to day care all the time?” Clearly I was insane and I don’t know what inspired such craziness. Some of my best friends had working parents and would spend afternoons with babysitters or in extended day. But somehow I guess you think your experience is the norm and everyone else’s is the aberration, until you know better. Or at least that’s what I thought.

Now, as a working mom who also attempts to be at home a lot of the time with my child, I realize how complicated it is. Now, few people I know have the income to enable one parent to stay home all the time. I always imagined I would be a stay-at-home mom until I was a grown-up with a job and a mortgage. I knew then it wouldn’t be possible to afford our life (which is by no means lavish) on my husband’s income, and it wouldn’t be fair of me to expect him to support our family by himself. I also knew that I didn’t want to have a regular office job when I was a mom. I once had a (childless) boss who supervised me (then childless) along with several other women who had children or grandchildren. When parenting emergencies arose, he seemed less than compassionate. I vowed that I would not work for him when I had a child, and preferably not work for anyone who might scowl or scold me when I arrived late to a staff meeting because my child had am unexpected doctor’s appointment.

I launched my own business seven years ago so I could continue writing and editing for nonprofits, which I love; earn a living, which is necessary; and enjoy the flexibility of being able to make my child my top priority without anyone getting pissed off at me. And it’s worked out pretty well. My business has thrived, I’ve spent many amusing (and plenty of annoying) hours with Zoe, and I’ve always been able to take her anywhere she needs to be without having to ask permission. I’ve also put in more late nights than I care to remember finishing work that I didn’t get done during the hours she was at preschool or at my parents’ house or, yes, at part-time day care.

Still, five years into being a working mom, the specter of guilt still hovers nearby. I am confident that I am doing everything I can to be a good mom while I’m working as hard as I can to run a great business. But when I registered Zoe for kindergarten in June, and the registrar asked if I would be enrolling her in extended day, I said, “oh I don’t think we’ll be needing that.” When I did the math, I figured the hours Zoe will be in school will be about the same as the hours I had cobbled together child care this past year. So I’d make the best of it.

But sometimes you need to meet with a client after 2:41pm, when school is dismissed. And wouldn’t it be nice to get my work done during the day instead of at night? But I felt guilty signing up for extended day. I have friends whose kids are in child care 40-50 hours per week. I don’t judge. Their kids are lovely. But somehow it seemed wrong for me to leave my own kid at school for an extra hour or two. At the same time, as I’ve raced to pick Zoe up at camp every day this summer at 3:30, and struggled to fit everything in around that schedule, I was beginning to panic about the fall.

Today was the deadline for enrolling in extended day, so between client meetings I scurried over to the extended day office to register and pay and get it done. I was encouraged by a discussion I’d initiated on Facebook, my favorite parent support group, in which several working mom friends who live all over the country said how much fun their kids have in extended day and how it’s an opportunity for them to play and socialize and it will make me not stress about getting to school by pickup time. The thought of getting to totally enjoy Zoe when I pick her up instead of figuring out how I’m going to finish my work, return phone calls, and check emails, is appealing. And I am tremendously thankful that this opportunity exists. Friends of ours just moved from a school district filled with working parents that doesn’t offer any before or aftercare. Then today I read a column in the Post about how the lack of quality, affordable child care is a critical issue in our country–ignored by political candidates–and that it keeps many parents out of the workforce altogether.

It turns out I’m a damn good mom, even though, or maybe because, I am a working mom. I am thankful that I’ve created an arrangement that works for our family. I’m lucky that it’s worked out. And I know Zoe will be fine staying at school for an extra hour or two. Guilt be gone.

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