I was wrong.
For the first year and a half, James didn’t make a fuss when I left for work. It was almost as if he didn’t really notice. In my brain, I was relieved and happy that he didn’t seem emotionally scarred by my leaving and he was so comfortable and happy with our nanny. My heart though was slightly broken. It was much harder for me to leave — I cried more tears than he did. Many mom friends told me I should be relieved he didn’t cry because that was really heartbreaking and that his lack of tears was evidence I had picked a good nanny and had a healthy attachment with my little one. I took some comfort in that but it was so hard for me to leave him and I missed him so much and was slightly sad that it didn’t feel like my presence or lack thereof mattered all that much. I know. Slightly crazy and selfish, and that also made me feel bad and guilty for feeling that way. Mom guilt, amirite? But recently I got what I wished for. Since turning 18 months, James pulls on my hand to pull me away from The door and raises his arms to get me to hold him and won’t let go when he knows I’m getting ready to leave in the morning. And when I do leave, he cries and I mean cries and screams — and it’s heartbreaking. Like every bit of my heart shatters onto the ground and I struggle to force myself out that door and to walk toward the elevator and keep walking out that door and onto the subway. Then the whole subway ride I think about him and don’t stop until the WiFi kicks in and the work emails start flooding in and I get distracted by all I have to do that day. Around lunch or when I’m walking to a meeting or appointment out of the office, I’ll have a second to think and I’ll be reminded of his heartbroken face when I left and I’ll text our nanny to check in on him. He’s always doing great and they’re having the best time, which helps me get through the rest of the day but is also the moment when my heart sinks and I really miss him.
It’s really hard. Being a mom. Being a working mom. Being a stay at home mom. Being any kind of mom. I don’t know that there’s a solution or it ever gets easier. But I’m thinking writing and talking about it helps. I know hearing feedback from all of you when I talk about my struggles always makes me feel better and less alone and often times yields really great advice that helps. Having you, my tribe, helps. And honestly, I am often afraid to bring this up with friends and colleagues. They all make it look so easy and seamless. They don’t seem to have the same struggle I do. They always seem like they have it figured out. I wonder though, if like me, they’re too busy just trying to balance it all and get through each day and get some semblance of sleep to wallow in it all. If they’re just as heartbroken each morning as me. I tell myself I’m setting a good example for James, helping to provide for our family and his future, and that one day soon, he’ll be in school and won’t need or miss me in the same way. But none of that makes it easier to say goodbye each day, especially knowing how fleeting this time is. I don’t know. For now, I keep taking it one day at a time, cherishing the mornings and evenings I have with him before/after work and every minute of the weekends we get to spend together and continue to tell myself that, like all the other moms out there, I’m doing the best that I can and (even if I don’t always believe it) that counts for something.