WOHMs, as in Working-Outside-home Moms and those who have Mommy guilt because they leave their children, sometimes week-old babies, in the care of others in order to pursue their own career or just make money to pay the bills.
I have been reading articles with varying and interesting perspectives about this lately. My dear friend, Jennifer, wrote about her view as being a mommy who does not have it all; another lovely bloggy buddy, Synnove, wrote about being a proud working mom; and, R’s mom rightly lambasted a blogger who questioned the ‘ethics’ of leaving your children to outsiders!
To all these voices, allow me to add my own in the form of certain anecdotes still fresh in my mind of my forays with my kids in daycare. I have had the good fortune of being able to keep my kids at home until they were one year old. While they were still at home, I researched all the daycare facilities in our area. The really good ones were of course, booked. You literally had to put your name down for a place when you conceive (or, sometimes, even before) to hope to get in at the time you want. Others were so pricey that I would have to hand over my full paycheck to them. I finally found a happy medium of a place that had caregivers who were caring, well-trained; a place that offered enough mental stimulation and physical exercise; and a place that I could afford.
In Big A’s case, I was a first-time parent and hypersensitive about him, and I started taking him to the daycare for short periods of time a few days before the actual D-day. We would go in and come out together and he would spend a couple of hours, looking around, toddling away, touching and grabbing at the myriad toys there. On the day of drop-off, the daycare provider instructed me to drop him off and leave at once. I hesitated, but I put my trust in her and did just that. As I was walking out, I heard Big A screaming as he realized that I had gone. I got into my car, my face wet with tears and I cursed myself and I cursed my job. That day, I called the Director of the facility as many times as I thought was feasible. I listened in disbelief as she trilled about how nicely Big A was adjusting and shook my head, bitterly marveling at how well she could lie to try and comfort me.
My belief was confirmed when I walked in and I saw Big A sobbing and holding out his arms to be picked up. I held him tightly and walked away. The next day, I repeated the whole exercise. I added his favorite teddy bear in the mix, in a desperate attempt to bring some normalcy to his unfamiliar world. It didn’t work and I listened to his heart-rending sobs as I did the self-labeled walk of shame. I felt everyone judging me; what kind of mom walks away when her toddler is crying?
The Director assured me that Big A would take a week or two to adjust completely and also that Big A stopped crying a few minutes after I left. Again, I was completely disbelieving; how was it possible?! I would hear his wails as I walked out and I saw him sobbing when I went to pick him up! It was obvious that I was doing the worst possible emotional damage to my child and I was distraught thinking about whether I could actually leave my job as I now so desperately wanted to. The idea was daunting, but psychologically damaging my child was a far worse prospect to me. The Director, with many years of dealing with cranky moms under her belt, then asked me if I could come over sometime during the middle of the day to the facility and witness Big A’s behavior without being seen.
Skeptical but willing, I complied. I arrived in the early afternoon, feigning a stomachache at work. I walked in by the side door of the building and witnessed with growing indignation, and also relief, Big A squealing with laughter and clapping his hands as his teacher lead the class in a rowdy singing session! Not a damn tear in sight! I walked up to the Director’s table and sat down. She smiled and said, “It’s pretty normal, you know! He really misses you for a few minutes in the morning, but children that age are very easily distracted, and luckily, we have enough to occupy him happily for the whole day. It’s only when he sees you in the evening, that he recalls how much he misses you and that’s why you see him crying again!”
What. Ever! That little no-good Drama King! All that mental agony for no reason!! From that day on, I no longer tortured myself. I dropped him off with a cheery ‘Enjoy your day!’ and went to work with a light heart. Big A also sensed the change in my own mood; that I no longer unconsciously clutched him a little tighter as we approached his daycare, and he too slowly cut down on the crying and instead looked forward to meeting his little friends.
And, Little a? He’s obviously made of sterner stuff. I placed him in the same daycare facility and he took to it like a duck takes to water from day 1. In fact, I still remember once when he was about 3, I happened to get off work early and had decided to pick him up. It was early afternoon and I found him completely absorbed piecing together a jigsaw puzzle with a friend chattering away at his side. When he looked up and saw me, he frowned and said, “Mumma, you came early and I haven’t finished my jigsaw puzzle and after this, we get to play with Legos…so, can you come go back to your office and come after one hour?” I nodded, bemused and walked back towards the door. The Director looked at me, smiled and pointed to the mall next door! “Enjoy!” she said, chortling.
(I did not write this post with the intention of debating the pros and cons of keeping your kids at home versus sending them to daycare. I merely wrote this to help some WOHMs who suffer the same feelings of inadequacy and guilt that I felt at the time mentioned)