The last few times we dropped Jack off at the nursery, he cried his little lungs out. Not for very long - he tends to stop as soon as we leave the room - but it's heartbreaking nonetheless. On Wednesday, I sat him on the floor when we arrived to take off his coat. He leaned forward and folded himself in half, like he was remembering a move from our baby yoga class. He buried his head between my knees as I knelt over him, pushing himself further in as I tried to move away. I got up to put his coat and bag away, and the cries of "aaaaaaaaAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!" commenced. As I waved feebly and said "Bye bye, Jack!" as cheerfully as I could, I ducked out the door feeling like a Very Bad Mother.
I find myself identifying with Lynette from "Desperate Housewives" - although I hasten to add that I have never taken Ritalin to keep me awake and perky to perform mummy duties. I think the recent episodes in which she's just returned to work have struck home the most. Lynette's expressions of guilt and lines like "Mommies don't get days off! It's like being an ER doctor!" sum things up pretty accurately for me. Her boss goes on a tirade about how giving parents time off for child-related duties is unfair to those who choose not to have children and can't take time off to do things like get a haircut, for example. Similarly, one of our HR people stated that using parental leave to go on holiday with your family is unfair to those who don't have kids. (Not only is parental leave a legal right for any parent of a child under the age of 5, it is unpaid. Personally, I don't think it's anyone's business what you choose to do during that unpaid leave. But I digress.) Life imitating art...or primetime television.
When I dropped Jack off this morning, thankfully, he didn't cry. In a strange way, I am certain that my return to work has improved my relationship with Jack. When I was with him every day, most of our time was spent doing other things that didn't focus on Jack (like grocery shopping) and feeling stressed when he'd have a bad day. Although I was with him a great deal more, I think I took this time for granted and Jack was often just along for the ride. Now, I cherish every moment I have with him. We play together more, we cuddle more, and most importantly, I simply enjoy being with him more. When he has a temper tantrum, often I can deal with it without feeling frustrated. I think there's a lot more laughing and fun in the house now, and that's got to be a good thing. Doesn't really stop me from feeling guilty sometimes, though - but that's the nature of motherhood, isn't it?