The first time I left my month-old daughter in the hands of her new babysitter, I cried all the way to work. Getting home to spend time with her was all I could think about. I had never planned to be a working mother, but life sometimes has a way of pitching hard and fast when you’re nervous about playing T-ball.
They tell you that these things get easier with time, but they’re wrong. Even now, five years and another daughter later, I leave pieces of me along with them at their daycare every morning. Despite knowing that it can be claustrophobic, I would love to be able to spend my days with my daughters, teaching them, loving them, learning from them, and even cleaning up their messes.
I think that if I had never been driven to work full time away from my children, I would have never learned to appreciate every precious moment I do have with them. As it is, memories of my time with them hang like crystals in the windows of my heart, and the rainbows from those crystals sustain me when I must be away from them.
All true mothers love their children. But I have had to learn earlier than many to let them go. Like most of life, the lesson is bittersweet. I can’t control everything they see or hear; I have known that before they were born. I have had to let go of that desire to insulate and replace it with a desire to educate, to prepare, and to cherish. Because of that, they have had to grow up a little faster than some children, though not as fast as many.
Despite the pain that being separated from my children brings, there is also a deep satisfaction that I can provide for them in ways that no one else will. I feel deeply humbled and blessed that I am able to do both, in some ways to be both mother and father to them when they need it. Sometimes it takes acrobatic arrangements to balance the need to make money and provide with the need to give emotional support and caring. There is no going home to relax for me, but I can say that without resentment. I have learned to weave the precious moments with them throughout the structure of all that has to be done.
I have also learned to sometimes demote “has to be done” to “could be done later,” or even, “not as important as I thought.” They may not have swimming or dance lessons all the time, we may not have enough money or space in a tiny home for all the toys they wish they had. But I make time to give them my ear, my arms, and my kisses, even if it means that the bathroom doesn’t get cleaned as often as I like, or dishes stay in the sink for a day or two.
Some people admire how much I do, but I find that it is a blessing to be forced to evaluate activities based on my energy and time and do only the things that are worth it. I choose to focus on that blessing rather than how busy I feel most of the time. Learning to enjoy beauty and blessings wherever they are found is the key, not only to working full time as a mom, but also to life. Positives and negatives exist no matter where you find yourself and what you find yourself doing. You can have everything you think you want and still not be happy. Learning to ride out the negatives and bask in the positives, however, is a necessary skill to reach that elusive, deep-seated happiness.
It has been hard, having my choices stolen from me by the choices of others, but it has taught me that the choices of others don’t have to hurt me in the long run. My faith in Christ has the power to make things, such as whether or not I work for money, irrelevant to the welfare of my children. If precious moments with them are crystals, my Savior is the sun. The dark room I sometimes find myself in is made beautiful.
Despite how it hurts sometimes, working or not working doesn’t really matter. Loving matters. Priorities matter. Patience and forgiveness matter. Working is something I do, but my children love who I am.