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Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Where's the love my child?

My daughter Maggie is getting to be more and more fun every day. I hate thinking about all the fun I am missing when I am at work. All the tackle-hugs, and wobbly drunken sailor walking, The open mouth toothy "kisses", the grinning "HI YER!"s, the pre nap- snuggles and bottles, the stories, the crawl-chase-stop-look-over-your-shoulder-and-giggle's and the tiptoeing around the house while she naps. The occasional peeking in on my adorable sleeping amazon baby.

It's hard to miss that stuff during the day.

When I get home from work, it's the typical working mother mantra / complaint. It's a bit of a tired hungry rush to get dinner on and cleaned up, and get ready for the next day and spend some quality time with Maggie. Sometimes I smile when I don't feel like smiling. On rare days I can't even fake it. On these rare days I am tired and defeated and it's too taxing to muster up a smile and a sing-songy voice.

I am fortunate to have a husband who is a neat freak. He gets home from work about 1:00 each day and when I arrive home at 5:15, our house is usually spotless. I am lucky that way. I honestly don't know what I would do if I had to clean up the house every day in addition to the regular dinner / bath / pajama stuff. On the other hand, it's hard to hear my dear Baby's Daddy talk about how hard it is to be home with her in the afternoons. It kind of makes me want to cry in frustration. I really would love to be the one to hang out with her every afternoon. It's just not in the cards at the moment. It's hard to hear that he doesn't love it all the time.

You know, nearly every day when I get home I am greeted by an enormous, gargantuan, blindingly sweet, enthusiastic high-beam, only-for-mommy smile. In that second, 99% of my angst about working falls away. I am there in the moment and it really seems to make everything okay.

Last night I didn't get one and it sucked. I walked in to find Maggie in her high chair. She looked and me, popped a Cheerio in her mouth, and stared out the window. It was such a letdown.

That part of me that sometimes feels like an unfit mother whispered in my ear: "Psst! Hey you! Yeah, you. The working mother! She would rather be with Grandma! Grandma sees her every day for FIVE HOURS! Grandma gives better hugs! Grandma teaches her where her eyes are! You have only gotten to the nose! You work, you aren't around enough, and when you are around you are tired! You are stunting her intellectual development! She wishes she was at Grandma's house instead of here with you!"

I think this is the voice that feeds the mommy beast. The beast that posesses women to judge their own mothering skills harshly, and the beast that posesses mothers to judge eachother harshly. Epidural vs. natural childbirth, breastfeeding vs. formula, cloth vs. disposable, Working vs. stay-at-home, TV vs. no TV, Organic vs. commercial, French immersion school vs. Open school, in-home daycare vs. day care center, pacifier vs. thumbsucking, bottle vs. sippy cup, spanking vs. timeout.... the list goes on and on and on. And on. And on. How do you silence the beast? How do I stop being my own worst critic?

Maggie may be teething, or perhaps she was tired. All night she was like Attila the Hun with bipolar disorder and a borderline personality. Going from happy to whiny to inconsolable at the drop of a hat. One minute she was happy in my lap being read to, and the next she was screaming and lobbing the book across the room.

I am the adult in this scenario. I understand that as the parent, I need to be loving and patient and kind and warm even if I am not getting anything but accusing screams and wails in return. I love my daughter all the time, no matter what. I hate to admit that her feedback helps to keep me going. I mean, she is only eleven months after all. I can't rely on her. That's way too much responsibility for a child of that tender age.

But those 5:15 smiles sure make it easier. Just one day without one made me realize how much they help to keep me going. They help to keep that voice of insecurity at bay. I hope they come back soon.


Anonymous Kari said...

Lovin' that your husband is a neat-freak. Send some of those vibes over to mine, would ya?

I can see the disappointment in my husband's face when he comes home and both boys ignore him. "Hi! Daddy's home!" and nothing.

The odd thing, though, is that all day long, my oldest pesters me about Daddy: "Where's Daddy? I want Daddy! Let's pick him up at the office! Why does he have to be at the office? Let's go! I want Daddy!"

So chances are that in Maggie's pre-verbal mind, she is thinking about you frequently, so when you come home, the world is right even if it doesn't show on her face. Bonus when you get the smile!

I know you've heard it all before: quality, not quantity. It sounds like the quality is wonderful. :)

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Jenny said...

Ah, early onset PMS.

Hah! I keed! My mom (and you know, she's got issues) insists that in order for kids to make an appropriate fuss when a parent returns home, they must be trained. The parent on duty, (in this case, the neat-freak Dutchman) should leap to his feet, applauding and showering you with kisses while exclaiming "Maggie! Mommy's home! Ooh! Goodie! We missed you Mommy! We love you Mommy!" And he should keep on with that forever, or at least until Maggie starts her own greeting. I mean, why settle for a smile, you know? Heh.

3:52 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I remember feeling EXACTLY the way you just described when Alex was the same age. It's so tough - I have zero advice for you. Just know that you're an excellent mother. Trade-offs are just a bitch.

2:19 PM  
Anonymous pjindy said...

No one, I repeat NO ONE can connect with her kid like a mom. That is forever.

Work has nothing to do with the connection Meghan, it is broader and deeper then a fleeting temporary smile (tho they are wonderful). Mom connects in the heart and mind, even the cells of her child.

Thank God in Heaven: you are Maggie's mom, now and for ever.

10:44 AM  

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