8 Things I'd Rather Be Doing...A Working Mom's Regret
The other day, I was about to head into a meeting and I got an email from the mother of a little girl that Ellie met at the local library. The subject read: VIDEO FOR MOMMY. I downloaded the clip and watched it as I was walking into the conference room and it was 45 seconds of Ellie, taking her hat off, and putting it on the head of her little friend. Frankly, it was adorable.
And frankly, seeing it made me sick to my stomach.
I’d rather be there…I’d so rather be there…
And then I cursed myself, in true working mom fashion, for not being 100% focused on my career.
What the hell is wrong with you woman? Wanting to be anywhere other than this conference room is playing into the exact stereotype that working moms are fighting against.
But I couldn’t help it - the proverbial genie was out of the bottle and there was nothing I could do to stop myself from thinking of the places I’d rather be – with Ellie.
#1 I’d rather be wiping Ellie’s nose with my shirtsleeve, even if it means that later in the day I will be desperately scrambling to find a way to get the snot off my shirt before heading out in public.
#2 I’d rather be trying to figure out what exactly she is referring to when she aggressively does the ASL sign for “more”. Some days it’s anybodies guess, and most days she doesn’t have the patience for my guesses. Doesn’t matter. And even when she flings her head back in frustration – I’d still rather be there for it to thud against my chest.
#3 I’d rather be changing her diaper, while asking her when exactly she thinks she will be ready to potty train. No matter how disgusting it is, it still beats not being there.
#4 I’d rather be chasing her around with the nail clippers, cutting approximately one nail every hour because apparently the discomfort is too much for her to handle.
#5 I’d rather be watching Ellie make new friends, and witness how she implements the law of love that I work very hard to demonstrate, no matter how sleep deprived I am. No one gives a sweeter open-mouthed kiss to a strange child better than my girl, and I’d rather be there to see it with my own eyes.
#6 I’d rather be picking up the remnants of her past meals off the ground, picking out her outfit for the day, and picking the crusty snot out of her nose – instead of interviewing, writing, editing or shooting any topic, any day.
#7 I’d rather be teaching Ellie her letters and numbers, and how to hold the crayon the right way, while explaining repeatedly that we don’t eat or lick our crayons. And I’d rather be there when she turns her back to me, and sneaks a quick lick of the coloring instrument.
#8 I’d rather be reading her all of the books she loves, while she turns around and backs up into my lap – scooting her little butt right in the space between my legs, because when she looks up at me with her huge green eyes, I realize there is really no place I’d rather be.
But here is the thing…I majored in Broadcast Journalism and minored in Gender Studies, and I landed a job in network news right out of college. So by some standards, I am living the dream – the dream that we all discussed in my sociology classes. The classes where we dissected the wage gap between men and women, where I would sit there telling myself, if I worked hard enough and long enough, I would help close that wage gap.
But there was another gap no one told me about in those classes - the time gap between mother and child. There is a gap in the amount of time I want to be there, and the amount of time I can be there. And that gap feels like a pound of lead sitting in my stomach.
I don’t have working mother guilt. I have no choice, as a single parent, I have to work. And when I hopefully become a married parent one day – I will likely continue to work. My parents and I put over 100,000 dollars toward my college education and I am still paying 400 dollars a month in student loans. And I think it is important for me to always have a way to support my child and myself – with or without a partner.
So no, I don’t have working mom guilt. I have working mom regret. I regret not being able to be there every single moment of every single day, to soak up every last disgusting body fluid. And every missed moment, shared or unshared by those that are with Ellie, makes me pause and think of all of the places I’d rather be.