Conflicted

By: Shannon Ralph

the debate between two moms over a double date

My daughter misses me. No, I haven’t gone anywhere. As a matter of fact, I sleep in the same room with Sophie most nights when she creeps upstairs to snuggle up in my bedroom chair. Regardless, she misses me.

I can tell she misses me when she begs me for “one more” hug and kiss at bedtime. I can tell that she misses me when she declares that she doesn’t want to see the new Farm Babies at the zoo without me. I can tell she misses me when she asks me longingly when we will bake together again. I can tell she misses me when she looks up at me with her big blue eyes and begs me to “cuddle-bug” with her.

I am still here. Only, I am not. At least, not like I used to be. For the first time since my daughter was born, I am working a full-time job. Only, it’s not just a job. It’s a ten-hours-a-day, putting-out-fires-at-5:00-on-a-Friday, checking-email-on-the-weekends, rushing-home-just-in-time-for-nothing-more-than-baths-homework-bedtime, mentally-consuming kind of job. It’s the kind of job that instantly makes the other parent the “fun mom.” The kind of job that instantly makes the other parent the “school mom.” And the “birthday party mom.” And the “library mom.” And the…well, the “mom” mom. I am the working mom. I am the missing-out mom. I am the absent mom. I am the half-ass mom. At least that is what I feel like when my daughter walks up and closes my laptop as I am working at home. I am the checked-out mom.

I know my sons miss having me around. I know they love me and cherish the time that we spend together. My daughter, however, is different. She aches for time with me. I can feel it. She doesn’t understand why mommy no longer has the time to bake cakes and paint toenails and play dress-up. She misses being a girly girl with her mommy. And I miss her. I desperately long to be with her.

So why am I working? Simply put, I like my job. I like getting out of the house. I like going somewhere where I feel intelligent. And validated. Where my opinion is sought and valued. I enjoy talking to adults. I enjoy utilizing my vocabulary. I like conference calls and PowerPoint presentations and working lunches. I enjoy wearing clothes that are not stained with juice and caked with snot.  I relish solving problems more complex than fruit snacks versus goldfish crackers. I enjoy my job.

So what does that make me? What does it say about me that I made the conscious choice to spend less time with my children? To spend precious hours on this Earth away from the tiny creatures I love more than anything. To look my daughter in the eye and say, “Mommy will paint your toenails tomorrow,” knowing full well that tomorrow will be no different than today. What kind of mother does that make me?

An agonizingly conflicted mother.

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Comments

  1. Madgew says

    Shannon, by working you are making their lives better. I am sure when they grow up they will see the fruits of your labor. They will have money for college and for treats and prom dresses and tuxedo’s and other things they want rather than need. They will appreciate that you worked and maintained your intelligence. It will make you an even better Mom. I went to work when my kids were 5 and 7 and I did all the late pickups from sporting practices and tried my best to get to their activities. Was I tired you bet but I found a balance-you will too. You are a great mom. Can’t wait to meet all of you in May when I visit.

  2. Samantha says

    Nicely said. I think most parents that work outside the home struggle with the same battle you describe. In our home, my partner and I both work full time and attend school (me part time and she full time). We try to make sure to let our daughter know that work and school are not her competition by giving her a little extra snuggle time or reading her that extra bedtime story or playing her favorite game. When she’s awake and we’re home, she’s first. This might mean that we have to bust our asses with work/school once she’s in bed, but it certainly makes for a happier daughter and, ultimately, a happier us. That said, I too am guilty of pushing of nail painting to the following day knowing full well I will not get to it. Such is life. There has to a balance. There has to be give and take. Chin up. You’re not doing anything wrong.

  3. Brandy Black says

    This made me cry. Surprise. Surprise. I just started work up this week and it’s been rough. I always appreciate your thoughts Shannon.
    You are an amazing mom.

  4. Kathy Mcglothlin says

    A mother’s heart will always be conflicted. If your a stay at home mom you worry if your doing the best for your children every night when you lay your head on your pillow. The same holds true for working mom’s. All of us have to remember that there is no replacement for a hug. Or a well-deserved “good job”. You must take care if yourself first so you will be able to be all you can be for your children. And your employer. Your doing the best you can Shannon and Ruanita. Your both wonderful people and fantastic parents!

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