Voices

1.29.2016


I open the door.

My eyes eagerly scan the room. A row of cubbies, a sink, three highchairs. Eight cribs lined up against the back wall, each with a sticker on the front. Noah. Over three months old, the one on the far end reads.

It doesn’t take long to find her. She’s lying on the floor on an activity mat, her eyes focused on a toy hanging just above her head. There’s a boy next to her sucking on a rattle and a girl just a few feet away sleeping in a rocker.

I rush forward.

“Hi, honey,” I say, bending down to kneel on the floor. “How was your day today?”

Her eyes become unfocused from the toy, and she turns her head toward the sound of my voice. She smiles—a gummy, five-month-old grin—and my eyes fill with tears. “I missed you,” I say.

“She ate the full bottle,” the teacher tells me. “And she took a long nap this afternoon. She was tired.”

I am about to reply when I hear it. A whisper in the back of my mind. Just a small poke, really.

A real mom wouldn’t have to ask how many ounces she ate. A real mom would know. A real mom would have been there.

“Great!” I say with a forced enthusiasm I am far from feeling. I turn back to her and reach down to pick her up. “Honey, are you ready to go home? Mama missed you so much today.”

I turn toward the door, her bag over one shoulder, her tiny hands clinging to my scarf, chubby legs wrapped around my waist, and I tug a hat over her baby fuzz.

“You’ll need to bring more diapers tomorrow. She’s almost out.”

I look back at the teacher. “Okay,” I say. “Thank you so much.”

“See you tomorrow.”

I nod, unable to speak. I try to ignore the voice, but all the way home, it pokes me, digging deeper.

What kind of poser mom are you, showing up at the end of the day like this? Where are you when she’s crying in the morning? Where are you when she’s hungry in the afternoon? You know you’re not a real mom.

I tell myself it’s not true, that I am doing the best I can, that she’s cared for and watched over during the day while I’m at work. That she knows I love her.

But still it twists.

She’s going to forget you, you know. You aren’t there, and she won’t remember who you are. She’ll love them more than you.

All the positive self-talk in the world can’t silence the nagging voice in the back of my mind. I blink to force back the tears that threaten to fall and glance in the rearview mirror. I can see her reflection in the mirror we hooked to the back of the seat. Her hat is slipping into her eyes, and she’s starting to fuss. I reach back, twisting my arm awkwardly to pull the hat back off her face.

I pull into the driveway, turn off the car. I open the door and lean into the backseat. She’s fallen asleep. When I unhook the car seat, it makes a loud pop, and her eyes open. She looks confused at first, and her eyes glance around quickly, searching.

They lock onto mine.

“Hi,” I say. “I love you.”

She kicks her legs out in excitement, reaching her arms in my direction. I lean forward, and tiny fingers grab my face. She opens her mouth wide and giggles, and a new voice, louder and bolder than the one that spoke before, prods the back of my mind.

She knows you. She missed you. You’re doing a great job, Mama.

I balance my purse, her diaper bag, and the cooler bag full of milk I pumped that day with one hand, my other arm straining with the weight of the car seat as my heels click across the garage floor.

I open the door.

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*I wrote this four weeks ago, during the first week I took R to daycare. As of today I have now been back to work full time for one month. This voice that says I'm not a "real" mom for not being with my daughter all day is still there, although some days it's louder than others. It's hard that my time with her is much shorter than I would like, but I'm trying to make the most of the time I do have. Squeeze in as many kisses and "I love yous" as possible. She can't say it back yet, but I know she loves me too.

38 comments:

  1. Exactly. This is 100% accurate for me too. Let me go wipe the tears...

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    1. Thanks for the comment. I'm so glad to know you can relate :)

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  2. This made me cry. I'm not back at work yet but I'm already feeling all the feelings about it. You are definitely a "real" mom and you are killing it. BRB, need to go cuddle a baby.

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    1. The anticipation of going back to work was definitely worse than actually going back to work, so that's the good news :) Some days it's just harder than others.

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    2. I'm so glad to hear you say the anticipation is worse. I'm so sad that I've been anticipating it since Olivia was born, but I just hope so much that once it's here and I know what it's like I can relax and know that it really is all going to be okay. I keep telling myself that it's going to be okay, but I just want to know that it really is.

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  3. You are the most real mom and she loves you the most! Beautiful post.

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  4. I have tears in my eyes! I can relate so much to this. I have often had that same voice in my head. Being a working mommy is so hard, but I know it's what I have to do for my family. I cherish the time I get with my baby boy, and I always love coming home to his smiling face.

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  5. Aww this is so sweet. We do our best as mothers and for a lot of us that means we have to work. From your last post about a typical day in your life it sounds like you are doing an amazing job being a new mom. My kids are teenagers now and I still feel guilty leaving for work every night. It just seems like I should be there. I don't think those voices ever go away.

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  6. i'm not crying.
    i know you wrote this weeks ago, and i know i have no idea what you are going through.. but hugs. i know you know she loves you, and i know positive talk won't help.. a friend of mine was going through this recently (Still going through it) and it was really tearing her up and i just asked her if she remembered anything about daycare from her childhood.. she called her mother immediately, she'd been in daycare from a teeny tiny infant until school started. she had no idea, no memories of it. her mom and her are super close. i know that doesn't help now, but hopefully it will just a little. R knows you love her, and she always will. Hugs.

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  7. Aww, hang in there! It gets easier, and knock this "real mom" stuff off. You are R's mom and she knows that and loves you, and knows that you are her rock and safe place and protector.

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  8. Sending much love and hugs to you! I feel like I can already relate to those thoughts and I still have months before I make this transition you're currently doing- AND ROCKING, might I add :) You are a wonderful mother and R is so SO lucky to have you xo

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  9. Baby R is a lucky little gal to have a momma who cares about her so much, who worries for her, and who thinks about her so much :) it's hard not to listen to the little voice in the back of our minds but girl, you're doing an amazing job!!! You're rockin motherhood!

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  10. She definitely knows that she is very loved by you, whether you're working full time, part time, or a stay at home mom. My mom worked full time with both my sister and I, and we never doubted how much she loved us, ever! You're doing a great job!

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  11. You're an amazing mom. You're a REAL mom. You are R's world right now. Never forget that. That voice...I know it oh too well. That voice is so loud to me most days. But our babies love us (though not as much as we love them!) You're an incredible mama :)

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  12. Rhat baby knows and loves her mama best. That's the way it is. I can't imagine how hard it must be, but she knows. Also, I can tell you are an editor because you write beautifully!

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  13. This is beautiful. I love that you share the hard parts. Also, this popped up on my Facebook feed today because someone I know (who doesn't blog!) shared it...I thought that was so cool.

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  14. Yes, a thousand times yes! Next week is our first day at daycare. I'm lucky we got to transition and have my husband help and that my in-laws are taking my baby two days per week, but it's SO tough!!! I was so sad that I wouldn't "know" him anymore, but slowly I'm learning thats ok. And you know what, I was literally raised by a village of family growing up and I never doubted my Mom, so I know my kid will feel the same.

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  15. Oh man, all the hugs to you. I won't even let my brain go to these types of thoughts because I just can't deal with how that would feel. I'm so sorry that you ever have to have these thoughts - it breaks my heart. She does and always will love you best, Momma!

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  16. Listen to that new voice. Hold on to the truth that you are a great mom!

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  17. So many Moms can relate to this feeling. It's so tough! But you are most definitely a "real mom" and an awesome one at that. XO

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  18. Love! Not only are you definitely a REAL Mom, you are the best. You'll always be the best one to mother YOUR children. They will love others, yes. But they won't love anyone else quite like they love you. That's one of the beautiful things about being a mother. I can't imagine having to leave my baby with someone during the day (though, some day I may have to). So not only are you the best, you're also quite strong in my opinion.

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  19. You're freaking awesome. I don't have a kid yet, so I can't really relate (and feel awkward even leaving this comment), but I'm still sure you are absolutely doing the right thing for your family and your baby, and as she grows up she will continue to love you for that.

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  20. Little R is blessed to have you as a mother. Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts.

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  21. Mom Guilt is a real thing, and I can totally relate. In the long run, I remind myself that lots of different experiences will be good for my daughter, and her getting these opportunities to interact with lots of different people at a young age will help her adjust socially later on a little more easily.

    It's still hard, of course. But you're right--you're doing a great job mama, and your baby can feel that you love her with a love that no one else has for her. Keep your chin up!

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  22. Oh, Amanda, this pulled at my heart strings. Thank you for being so open and sharing this intimate part of your life. I pray right now that those lies you sometimes here go away, and that if they do come that you know right away they are lies.

    You are a wonderful and loving mama. Baby knows that, your family knows that, God knows that, and I hope you know that!

    <3

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  23. Oh, Amanda, this pulled at my heart strings. Thank you for being so open and sharing this intimate part of your life. I pray right now that those lies you sometimes here go away, and that if they do come that you know right away they are lies.

    You are a wonderful and loving mama. Baby knows that, your family knows that, God knows that, and I hope you know that!

    <3

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  24. Another comment from the camp of "Can't Relate But Totally Feel For You"! The working mom vs. SAHM debate seems like one that just can't be won, honestly. I mean, I don't know, I'm not a mom, but there seem to be so many pros and cons for both that it kind of seems like there really isn't a right or wrong way to do it. I can't imagine how hard it is to leave R when you're at work, but I truly believe you're doing the best thing for both of you. You obviously have your reasons for working and whatever those reasons are, they're valid. And, as someone who doesn't have kids, your sharing your struggles shows me that you ARE a real mom!

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  25. You are absolutely a real mom! And I'm sure she loves you more than anything!

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  26. I stopped blogging (and blog reading) for the longest while. And in the meantime, you have a baby! Congrats! Those are some adorable little baby legs. Hoping to get back into the blogging and reading :p

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  27. Tears. Girl. You are an awesome mom. A real mom. Keep up the amazing work. That little girl adores you and KNOWS you.

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  28. As a hormonal, pregnant woman who will also be returning to work, I really shouldn't have read this! But it is beautifully written.

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  29. This post is beautiful. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom now, but I've seen the other side, when I used to work at a day care. I can imagine how hard it must be to leave your little one in someone else's care all day. The thing that always touched my heart is that no matter how many hours I spent with someone else's little one, they always saved their biggest smiles for mama when she walked in the door. R knows you the best, and will always pick you over anyone else, no matter who feeds her in the morning or puts her down for a nap.

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