This morning when I dropped the little dude off at creche he went ballistic. Wailing, reaching his arms out for me as I left, crying like his heart was going to break. I felt mine rise up and choke me, I was blinking away tears as I drove off to the desk job.
The transition is not going as well as I’d hoped, but perhaps it is going as well as can be expected. I’m glad to be back in the office. There are lots of perks. A full catalogue of white-collar privilege. I appreciate it more now, contrasting it with at-home-full-time-parenthood; and even more again if I imagine what it would be like to combine parenting with something like low-paid service work. A chance to do work I enjoy without interruption, a chance to have personal space that no-one else gets messy, the ability to do errands at lunch time, interesting conversations with colleagues, and an increased disposable income (even if a horrifying proportion is eaten up by creche fees). I feel like my time is valued again. Also, having a bit less time with the little dude makes me enjoy my time with him all the more.
Oh, but to walk away and see him cry. To pick him up at the end of the day and have him be overtired because he didn’t nap well at creche, so hard on him, so hard on us both. That look in his eyes when I come and get him “Where were you mama? Why did you leave me here for so long?"
He’s in three and a half days a week. It’s a bit much for him. But any less and I wouldn’t be able to do my job. As it is I’m feeling the tug-o-war fairly acutely. I left early today, so I have some hours to make up over the weekend or while he naps tomorrow.
I wish, I wish, I wish that my husband could work fewer hours. With the need to get the whole family up early and out of the house and into town, the little dude is going to bed earlier too, so he barely sees his daddy in the evening. I wish that my parents could also work fewer hours, so someone else he’s closely bonded to could have him for an afternoon one or two days a week, for a bit of quiet one-on-one time (my mum has just started a new job that is more responsibility and less scope for a scaled-back working week). I wish creche wasn’t so expensive – spreading my hours evenly across the week might be better for the little dude but then we’d have to pay for an extra day of care, and while we could do that it’s a big enough chunk of our take-home pay already to make us reluctant to do so.
This will get easier, he’ll settle in, we’ll all adjust to this new scheme. Being at home with him all the time was starting to get to me, I don’t feel conflicted about returning to my job. I don’t feel guilty. I just feel sad and angry. Sad that it’s hard for him, and angry at a world that presents only two options. Option one: stay at home for several years until all your children are at school, by which time you will need to start a career from scratch. You will be overwhelmed at times, and lonely, and bored, you will be under-appreciated, people will suggest that what you do is easy and isn’t real work. You will fume because they have no idea that your day is so much harder and so much more important than the myriad variations of paperpushing that get rewarded with a decent pay cheque. Option two: walk away from your baby, and try and juggle paid work with still meeting his needs. Your career will take a hit, but you will also be judged for not being completely devoted to your motherhood role. You will be overwhelmed at times, and feel torn, and stressed, and you will be under-appreciated. Some people will suggest that you should work longer hours, that you’re not committed to your job; some will suggest that you shouldn’t work at all, that you’re not committed to your children. You will fume because no-one judges fathers according to the same metric.