Being a working mom is hard. By far, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do—leaving my daughter all day long with other people, while I work—to think about her, miss her, wonder if she’s having fun, or being sad, or missing me.
I’ve long sat on the fence between being a working mom and being a stay-at-home mom. Both sides seem to have advantages, hardships and differences. I’ve walked into the office more times than I can count, wiping away tears, missing my kids like crazy while telling myself to “pull it together.” Trying to “stop crying” before I face my team because you can’t be a successful female leader with mascara running down your cheeks.
Then the weekend rolls around, and a few hours into a Saturday, I’m exhausted, out of ideas, drinking cold coffee, and longing for Monday when I’ll be sitting at my desk ALONE cranking on spreadsheets.
There’s no easy answer: should I be a stay-at-home mom, or a working mom? Which is better?
For all the times I’ve wished to be with my kids and thought about how wonderful it would be to get to stay at home all day—to watch them grow up and to be there for every little milestone—I’ve never been able to pull the trigger. I’ve never seriously considered quitting my job, no matter how big my tears have been.
Mortgages, car payments, college tuitions and future vacations weigh heavily into this decision, as does the fact that I’m successful and pride myself in being a good role model for my daughter. But besides all those things that could be figured out easily if they needed to be, there really is something else.
My daughter’s teachers. They tip the scales. They are the ultimate factor in my decision to work or stay home.
They are the reasons I’m able to go to work every day. I am fortunate to work for a company that has amazing childcare on site. And while all the teachers are great, our’s are incredible. My daughter loves them, they love her, and they love coming to work every day.
Every day, I know that her next eight hours will be safe ones, fun ones, happy ones. I know that she will learn, and grow, and laugh. I know that she’ll paint pictures and run around the playground and stretch her imagination.
And while I know the women who spend her days with her aren’t me, they are the next best thing.
These women have become our family.
They have been the ones who have helped us navigate first-time parenthood, and they are the ones who’ve given us the best tips on how to handle nap times, biting and tantrums.
They’ve given us a heads-up when our daughter bonked her noggin on the playground, and they have given her comfort when she was sad.
They’ve held her hand while she fell asleep at nap and have offered to babysit on their days off.
They know the ins and outs of our family, ask me about my day and drink wine with me on weekends. They have become some of my best friends.
Today I had to say goodbye. Our three-year program ended. Next week my daughter starts preschool, and the teachers we’ve had since she was 16 months old will start over with new babies, new parents, and new memories to make.
They’ll watch a new mama’s struggle with packing bottles for work, tearful drop-offs and sandy-shoe filled pickups. Their days will no longer be filled with wild three-year-olds, but rather replaced with the coos and cries of tiny infants, across the building from where my daughter will now be a short two years away from kindergarten.
And it broke my heart. Saying goodbye was awful. I’d been dreading it for weeks—the countdown to the last day. It would be the last time we chatted about the day, while my daughter ran around the playground with her “boy” friend, begging me for just a few more minutes of fun.
It would be the last time my daughter excitedly told them about what we did the night before, and the last time they would be there to pry my crying daughter out of my arms, so I could hurry to a work meeting.
Today was the last day the women I trusted with my most precious gift would be there for my daughter when I wasn’t.
Physically leaving today was a tear-fest of epic proportions. Another teacher had to cover the room while we walked down the hall. And even then, my daughter just couldn’t let go.
By the time we actually made it out the door of the building, I was crying, my daughter was crying, the teachers were crying, even the front desk staff was crying. My daughter was so upset that I physically had to carry her to the car screaming, while she pinched and poked me all the way to her seat.
It broke my heart. She was in hysterics. She was feeling big sadness for the very first time. We were all hurting to leave.
They’ve given us a gift and formed a special bond with our family, one that three years ago I never could have dreamed of. When I started this whole working motherhood journey, I thought it would be impossible for anyone to take care of my daughter like I could. I thought I’d give it a few months and see how I felt, but I never actually imagined I’d make it this far.
And yet, here we are.
We are happy. We are thriving. We are learning. I’m balancing work and motherhood, and it’s because of these teachers. I’ve found someone to fill my shoes when mine are busy elsewhere — someone who loves, teaches and laughs with my daughter to make her days just as good as the ones she would have with me. To my daughter’s teachers—thank you from the bottom of my heart. You really are amazing.