I drop my daughter off every morning at 7:45 a.m. Same routine. I kindly hand her to our sitter, who as a mother of seven, is well qualified for the job.
I walk to my car and stand outside the door listening to her cry. I fight every cell in my body to turn around and grab her, but with a faint sound of “Momma” on the other side of the door, I brace myself and hurry to my car. I quickly start it and put on my daughter’s song.
I had many songs I played for her when I was pregnant, but one has risen above the rest to be deemed her favorite. As an infant, it soothed her crying between feedings. Now, as a rambunctious 14 month old she recognizes the tune and claps her hands and squeals with delight when it comes on. I sing it to her in the car, when we go for walks, and in the peaceful darkness of her nursery when she still lets me rock her to sleep.
The chorus is playing now. “I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart.” I turn it up, as tears fill my eyes, I fight them as hard as I can. I check my mascara, chug what’s left of my travel mug filled with pumpkin spice coffee and put a smile on my face.
“It will get easier.” “You’re working for her future.” Or my favorite, “It’s good for her.” A year later, and I can confidently say that was a load of bologna.
So, I look at myself in that tiny car visor mirror and ask, every morning, what if I gave it all up? The three-year-old car we bought in a hurry when we wanted to plan for a family. The four-bedroom dream house we financed on two incomes that isn’t such a fairytale. The job I worked my whole life to get.
I tell the tired face I see, you’re a good mom. You breastfed for 13 and a half months. You made all her baby food. You cloth diaper. You only buy organic. You’re doing your best.
It’s just enough of a pep talk to get me to open my car door and slip on my Target clearance heels. But, I still feel that ache knowing someone else is doing my real job. The ache is somewhere in my bones, I think. I called my mom and told her I think my bones hurt, not a headache, but my actual bones. She told me to say no more, I’m stretched too thin. Drink some water and put my feet up. I’m drinking too much coffee.
She’s probably right. But, I’m left wondering… what if I gave it up?
Ashley Smith resides in Berks County with her husband, Aaron, and her daughter, Gracie; as well as her dog, Sam; and cat, Jack, who runs the show. She is an English as a Second Language teacher at Wilson, and an amateur chef, yoga enthusiast, Modern Family fanatic, and first time mommy.