This was my Facebook post this morning: "Props to all the work-outside-the-home parents, including Peter. The guilt I have right now is overwhelming, especially as I left Michael crying."
In addition to warm fuzzies by friends, one of my cousins posted that a mother's life includes sacrifice. She isn't kidding. I feel like my heart is being squeezed in a vice grip. Even though I'm home now, I still feel it.
So, today was day 1. I'm convinced that Michael is boycotting my new job; for weeks, he's been sleeping from 7:30pm-3:30am. Since Tuesday? He's woken at midnight and then 1:20am (today). Which means, he'll be ready to eat again around 4-4:30am- when I'm leaving. :( This morning, as I'm getting ready to leave, I hear him stir and then the tell-tale cry of a hungry baby. I thought I'd make it out without falling about; that didn't make it easier. Bobby and Maya were still sleeping and, honestly, it's easier with them because their weekday mornings start between 7 and 7:30 and they are out of the house by 8-8:30 for school, so I'm missing- at most- 90 minutes. That is still rough, but an hour an half leaves me 3 work hours where I don't have to really regret being away from them each day because, home or the gym, they wouldn't be interacting with me (or even home). Michael is a different story. He still does need me; I'm his primary food source and primary caregiver. I know what his moments are like and I knew that I was missing. It hurt. A lot. I turned the music in the car on as loud as I could take it on the way in and just tried to not think about it.
As far as the work morning went, it was fine. The gym traffic is fairly light that early, so a lot of my responsibilities were inventory and straightening. It definitely kept me busy, which made the time go by and, before I knew it, I was in the parking lot, where Peter was waiting with the baby. A baby that cried the entire way home because he just wanted to nurse... which he did... for almost 2 hours.
Enter more guilt.
I've always held a great deal of respect for the parents who leave their mini-me's. From a racing standpoint, it's been tough on me emotionally, but those were always isolated cases with end dates. One of my thoughts today was Wow... Peter has done this for four years. While he always jokes about changing places with me, he dutifully goes to work each morning, swallowing down the lump of what he's missing. Like most of the working-outside-of-the-home moms and dads do every day (most for more than 4 hours at a time).
For me, one of the hardest comments to respond to are the ones congratulating me on getting out of the house or doing something for myself. To me, those are comments that mesh more with running or coaching or my monthly Moms Night Out... I know plenty of parents who love to go to work and, frankly, homemaking isn't for everyone. It is a job, but like many jobs, it's a vocation as well. I know plenty of stay at home's who count down until they can re-enter the work force. To each their own and you'll not find judgment from me. But I believe in the stay-at-home-mom (or dad) model. It requires sacrifice but, regardless of how children and the home are cared for, you're paying for it: childcare, nannies, school, housekeepers, or a lack of being able to do things because you have to do something else. Most of the dual income homes I know stress out because their home is never as clean as they want it to be or because they eat out a lot or can't prepare meals the way they want. The list goes on and on. I have a similar list- don't get me wrong: especially since Michael, my house is pretty much wrecked on a regular basis because the majority of my time is spent nursing or caring for him. But our meals are recipes that, often times, I come up with and cook. I'm able to add homeschooling to what the twins do in class. The laundry doesn't usually interfere with our weekends and tasks like bill paying and groceries get done, usually, while it's just Michael and I, which leaves me the time I need to coach cross country (and to run for myself). Financially, there is a hit when you only one income, but we're happy. We bought a less expensive house than many folks we know because we wanted something we could afford. Our cars are 10 years and 12 years old (but paid off!). One income was tough but doable.
Enter special needs. Enter a new baby. Enter "health care reform". I wont get on my soap box about the state of our government, but I'll say this. A fair majority of the reason I went back to work can be summed up by what happened when I called our insurance. I was told: "I'm sorry; due to the new healthcare laws, you're going to be responsible for more than what your plan pays." Really? I had 27 week twins that spent 9 weeks in the NICU on top of my 7 weeks as in inpatient PLUS my other pregnancies and deliveries PLUS the fees associated with fertility treatments and this pregnancy- my perfect, spontaneous, in-and-out delivery (even with our one overnight due to his jaundice after) is more than all of those... combined???? Oh, and we have to cover, out of pocket, the speech services for Bobby, even though they are as a result of an Autism diagnosis? Wow... How much fun all of this would be if we didn't have good insurance!
But enough about that. I'm pissed off about it, but I'm more grateful. I'm so very grateful that, within a week of making the decision to find part time work, I had an interview. I'm so very grateful that, after interviewing on a Thursday, I had a job offer the following Monday, and started work today. I'm so very grateful for having the chance to work at what most folks consider crazy hours in the early morning which affords me back to full time mommying and housewifing by 9am. It's tough because I cant imagine a scenario where I can get to bed by 7pm in order to get enough sleep before my 3am wake up, but there are so many other scenarios that wouldn't be nearly as advantageous. And I'm grateful to be in an environment that suits me. I knew I couldn't return to library land if I wanted to keep my weekends free for my family, my days free to volunteer in the school, and my evenings free to coach and train. It just wouldn't work. Being in a gym keeps me connected to a fit, healthy lifestyle, offers the possibility for fitness class instruction, and gives me the flexibility with my personal time that I need. Win-win.
It's not getting up and out that is tough; but leaving the kids is rough. I don't know that it will get easier- people tell me it will, but I have a feeling it's like loss. It becomes part of your day, but it doesn't get easier. I'll always wonder what I'm missing and what they are doing without me. But they know I love them and, in a way, running has given them the knowledge that what I'm doing is for them (a healthy, running mama in this household makes for a much happier, laid back mommy and that makes EVERYONE happy!). They'll realize as they get older that leaving them for these few hours that they aren't really all that aware of is helping our household and is for them... It's just another way of me loving them.
I guess that is the lesson that the parents who leave every day take with them and hold close to them when they look at the clock and wonder. Love comes in all ways. It's what I'll be remembering tomorrow morning before the sun comes up...
...Even if I am wiping away a tear, too.