I am not a Supermom.
Today my daughter was crying when I left her at preschool. The rain was falling; the skies were gray.
As I emerged from the shower this morning, I heard my daughter’s whines and protests over the monitor as she argued with Daddy about getting up. “Do you want a time out?” was his final exasperated offer.
“I want mommy.”
That is how the day started. She dragged her feet all morning. What patience I had quickly disappeared. By the time we made it to the car, I yelled at her because she wanted another kiss from her daddy. All the way to school I lectured her about how I couldn’t be late for work. I hurried her; I snapped at her. I didn’t say one thing to her that would make her feel good about herself.
When we got to preschool and I went to help her out of her car seat, I was greeted by a sad-faced little girl who was biting her finger nails. I stopped short in my tracks. What had I done?
I got her through hanging her jacket up and putting her blanket and Floppy Dog in her bin. Then we stole a moment of quiet in the stairwell at the school. I held her close and hugged her.
“Sweetie. I am so sorry I was rough on you this morning. I really do need you to help me out in the morning. I can’t be late for work, so I need you to do what Daddy and I ask you to do the first time we ask it. My job helps pay for the fun things you do, like dance and swimming. Without my job we can’t have those things.”
She looked at me in silence with deep brown eyes, and in those brown eyes I saw a reflection of myself. She seemed to say with her silence, “I don’t want these things. I want you.”
I cried a little inside.
I remembered how I hated it when my mom put fiscal responsibility on my shoulders. She would often tell me that I wouldn’t have much of a birthday because she had to pay taxes, or I would have to forgo this, that or the other thing because of a dentist bill or car repair.
I know that many children have far more on their shoulders. In some places, three-year-olds are sent to work in factories or scavenge for junk in garbage dumps. In some homes children just try hard to stay out of the way of the violence.
But, that is not my child’s situation. She just wants to spend time with her Mom and Dad.
Am I being selfish for working?
No, my job does far more than provide dance and swimming lesson money. It provides our health insurance. It provides retirement savings. It provides college investment funds.
It also provides a much needed intellectual and social outlet for me, and I really do believe my daughter needs to see her mother as a role model—working in the sciences, with a career.
Even so, as I looked into those teary, chocolate brown eyes, my heart broke, and I felt guilty for dumping the stresses of my morning squarely on my daughter’s shoulders.
So, we sat at the bottom step and had bear hugs and tickles.
“Look, I promise to try really, really hard not to be so rough on you, and not to push you so hard. Will you promise to try really, really hard to listen to Mom and Dad and do what we ask when ask? Deal?”
“Race you to the door.” I said, standing.
“Okay, Go” she was up and to the door before I had compelled my creaky joints into submission.
When we reached the play area, she balked and clung to my leg. I didn’t yell. I didn’t fuss. I picked her up and handed her to her teacher.
“Honey, I have to go to work. I love you.” I turned my back and left the building.
I bit my nails and choked back tears as I drove to work.
© 2011 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.