Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I Only Travel on Guilt Trips

Most mornings, CG is still sleeping when I leave for work. He wakes up, sees the babysitter (CS), and plays happily all day without even remembering that I exist. It's a little depressing, but a comfort nonetheless.

Yesterday, for whatever reason, he woke up early. He was apparantly crying when CS arrived (I was in the shower). She got him up and brought him in the living room. He cheered up. Then he saw me come out of the bathroom. He smiled huge as if to say, "Hey! Mom! I forgot all about you! Let's play!"

I said good morning to the two of them. Then I snuck into my bedroom and closed the door.

He started crying.

I had to get dressed, and I knew if I took him into the bedroom with me, I'd spend 17 minutes pulling every dangerous item in my room out of his hands instead of 3 minutes throwing on my clothes. I opted for dressing. When I finished, I snuck out of the bedroom into the bathroom to comb my hair. He saw me again and smiled. I shut the door.

He started crying again. Sigh.

I finished my morning pseudo-primping routine and moved quickly into the kitchen to make a bowl of cereal. He was at my leg in a flash, hugging my calf and crying.

If he could speak, he'd have been saying, "Why do you keep abandoning me? Don't you like me? Don't you want to play with me?"

To quote the Dixie Chicks: "Well, hello, Mr. Heartache. I've been expecting you."

I picked him up and made my cereal with one hand. I tried to lower him down once, and he started sobbing all over again. I stood by the counter and ate it quickly, spilling Rice Krispies all over the floor.

When I had finished gulping down my breakfast, I took him into the living room. He finally let me put him down and ran to his overflowing toy box. He came back to me holding Sheep in a Jeep. I read the book to him for easily the 900th time. He pointed to the tree outside the window. He lisped and screeched happy phrases that I couldn't understand.


He looked at me, very proud. I smiled.

I looked at the clock. I wasn't doing either of us a service by delaying any longer. I knew what I had to do. I handed him to CS and waved goodbye. I mumbled something about calling later to check in. He was sobbing hysterically when I left.

I got in the car and shut the door. I just sat there and sighed about 13 times. Finally, I started the engine and drove to work.

On the way to work, in the wealthy suburb I drive through, I saw at least a dozen mothers walking with their children. Pushing them in strollers. Riding bikes with them. I was feeling especially bitter. They didn't have to go to work. They didn't have to peel their child off their leg to leave them. I hated them all.

I felt so guilty. I kept thinking, the boys deserve better than this. Better than me.

Ethan doesn't know the difference if I'm there or not. Somehow, I can rationalize leaving him. He's just happy to be loved, fed and changed. He doesn't care who does it. But CS knows the difference. He knows that I'm leaving him. And he lets me know it.

I am constantly trying to salvage what little time we have together. I only see him 2 hours a day before he goes to bed. Weekends are for catching up on everything I couldn't do during the week. Our "quality time" consists of taking him to the grocery store with me, or letting him play with every plastic container he can find while I make dinner.

I wish I could give him a different kind of life. I wish I could stay home with him full time. I wish I had the mental strength to do it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To have enough energy to deal with all of Ethan's issues and the stress of an active 1-year-old All. Day. Long. To keep a safe and relatively clean house, make him healthy meals, and still have time to play peek-a-boo once in a while.

I wish I could decide at 9 AM on a Tuesday that I'm going to take him to the park. I wish I had the luxury to work only when it is convenient to his schedule. To get up in the morning and decide, "I am not going to the office at all today". Or, "I am going to work, but only for the 2 hours the boys are napping".

But I can't. And I don't. I start to go a little crazy when I am home - Alone. All Day. - with the boys for more than a week. I'm not ashamed to admit that it is too much for me to handle.

And even if I could, we couldn't afford it. I make significantly more money than Jete where my income is not optional. We would have to sell the house if I left my job. There aren't many places we could afford on only his salary. That is not an option for us. We have sacrificed a lot over the years, but we will not sacrifice their home. Their safety. Their stability.

So I rush around every morning, hoping he'll sleep long enough for me to get my shit together and get out the door on time. Most days, it works out fine, and he forgets to miss me.

Last night I got home at 6 as usual. I opened the back door and dropped my keys on the counter. I could hear his feet pounding on the floor. He ran from the living room to the kitchen, with his face beaming.


We went into the living room, I put him down on the floor and said hi to Ethan. CG ran back to me, holding Sheep in a Jeep. I sat on the floor in my work clothes and read to him. He was happy. All is forgotten. He has forgiven me.

Now, if only I could forgive myself.


sete said...

It's hard not to forgive yourself, but remember for every stay-at-home mom, there are probably five moms just like you. They go to work everyday leaving their home, or worse-daycare. CG doesn't understand why you do it, but he forgives, forgets, and so should you!

erica said...

What Sete said. I can't understand what you're going through, but I can tell you that you ARE a good mom.
I promise.

KGrams said...

I totally understand where you are coming from. It's good that your son can stay at home and not have to be carted off somewhere every morning. I had to take my sleepy son in his pj's every morning to the sitter and that was even harder. My son is now 17 and is doing just fine.

Yes, the children forgive and forget, you must do this as well.