I have a beef, a bone to pick with all the moms who shared willingly and openly the horrors of labor, the agony of squeezing a bowling ball (or, if you prefer a watermelon) through a MUCH smaller orifice of your choosing. Answer me this:
Why didn’t you share, with similar gusto, the pain of a new mom’s first day back to work?
I just want to throw this out there for the moms-to-be in the audience. The pain of labor doesn’t hold a candle to having your heart ripped out via your womb when you drop that baby off at the daycare/sitter/nanny/grandma’s house for the first time. Honestly, I’d go another few rounds with labor (granted I’m taking the epidural) to avoid the moment the sweet-faced lady who will now be raising the fruit of my loins closes the door. She is his mother now, or so it feels.
While I have long fancied myself a hip, modern career woman, ripe with ambition and ready to claw my way to the top of the payscale…I’m not. I’ll forever personally refer to the time before childbirth as Molly BC and the women who emerged after delivery as Molly AD, because there needs to be a clear distinction between the two. Apples and oranges.
Molly BC may have been chomping at the bit to work, work, work, but Molly AD is having a much rougher time of it. Molly AD looks a hell of a lot more like Donna Reed, replete with apron and holding a piping hot tray of chocolate chip cookies.
Molly BC thought maternity leave was for punks; that 6 weeks was an eternity that would not only afford me ample time to bond with my sweet angel, Jeffrey AND plenty of time to spare to catch up on personal, pet projects Molly BC just couldn’t find the time for. BWAAAHHHHH!!! Not even close.
Molly AD didn’t manage to get a damn thing done between nourishing my young and gazing lovingly into his eyes; well, not much more than making sure the bills were paid and that Target hadn’t been the victim of any act of international terrorism. Just doing my job as an American.
My guilt and grief countdown began weeks in advance of my return to the University. Admittedly it was pathetic, but it was real. I did NOT want to go back. Uh uh. No way. I’d win the lottery. My parents would win the lottery. SOMEONE would win the lottery and relieve me from the yoke of my guilt.
So I wept.
I wept when I read to him, as though I would neer read another word to my soon-to-be-orphan boy. I wept when he slept, like the little orphan baby would never sleep or dream in such peace again. I wept when he smiled; surely the orphan babe would never feel joy in his dear little heart again. His mother is an awful failure. Clearly.
Enter “The Captain”
I spent the entire day before my return from maternity leave with “The Captain,” hoping that she would lavish me with pity and reveal to me that my biological parents are the Kennedy’s, and that there is a huge trust fund with my name on it.
She told me to suck it up. She told me that someday my little prince would fall in love with some girl named Audrey from Rhode Island, and would leave me forever. She told me to go to work and get a pension. Then “The Captain” polished me off in her signature style, “If I had to do it all again, I’d NEVER have quit my job to stay home with you kids. I’d be retired with a big, fat pension.”
Where’s the pity, Captain?
Herein lies the moral of the story from the wise lips of “The Captain.” As a young mother, she could never have conceived of giving up the precious time she had with her kids. The tough as nails Captain called my dad 16 times on her first day back to work until he refused to answer. She quit her job two weeks later to start her own business. That was then.
The Captain’s reality is harsh but true–Kids grow up. Parents get old. Life isn’t free. Jeffrey won’t live in my basement like some weirdo for the rest of his life, even if I want him to at this moment.
Then my mom, “The Captain,” told me how much she expected of me. That her sacrifice damn well better pay off in the currency of my achievements. She’s right. (God I hate when she’s right). I owe her big time, and I owe my son the greatest lesson I can give him–Chase your dreams little man and never stop learning.
So, I sucked it up. I dropped him off with the most wonderful caregiver in the world, next to “The Captain,” of course. I cried the entire drive in like a complete jackass, wondering if I was somehow failing him for choosing to go back. I pulled myself together and gave it as much hell as I could muster for the first day, and I survived.
Jeffrey survived too, and he still knew I was his mother even after 9 long hours apart from me.