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A Bittersweet Working Mom Moment

Posted Feb 12 2013 9:40am

0134_grimes_3145T There are some days when I miss my kids terribly while I’m at work. I mean, to the point where I physically ache for them.

Does it happen when we’ve had a rough drop-off at daycare that morning? Was Mimi clinging to my legs and crying big crocodile tears, begging me not to leave?

Nope. It usually happens on random days like today, when I ran to a local café to grab a coffee before a meeting, and I saw a mom and a little girl about Mimi’s age. They were sitting there, giggling at this or that while the mom enjoyed a steaming mug of coffee and the little girl looked at an Eric Carle board book and they shared a blueberry muffin.

I tried not to cry.

Most days I’m at peace with (or perhaps I should say, “accepting of”) my decision to be a working mom. But sometimes it happens: I’ll be going along just fine, and then I’ll see this mom and daughter having a lovely morning and BOOM! I’m hit with an uncomfortable mix of sadness and guilt and envy and just the pang of not being with my kids (even after being snowed in with them for three straight days).

Unfortunately for me, my office is situated in a residential, family-friendly urban neighborhood, so I often see moms and dads out walking with their kids. When I see them, I have to look away. I can’t help it. It’s the same reason that I avoid walking past the neighborhood playground in the warmer months. It just hurts too much.

But I know the reality. I’m sure life isn’t all sunshine and roses for that mom in the coffee shop. I bet that for every idyllic morning like this, there are plenty of other times when the little girl throws a tantrum or a fit and the mom wishes she could close her eyes and disappear.

However, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days – like today – when I wouldn’t give anything to trade places with her. When I can’t help but think about all the things Mimi and I could do together if I was home with her (not to mention all the various odds and ends and errands I could take care of).

Trust me, it would be so easy to dwell in my melancholy for the rest of the day, playing endless games of “what if” as I look at the pictures of my kids plastered around my office. But really, who is that helping?

Instead, I’m going to break out my inner cheerleader and remind myself that I enjoy having a career and the financial stability that it gives my family. I’m going to think about how both my kids have blossomed and learned so much at daycare.

I’ll smile thinking about the moment when I pick Mimi up at the end of the day and she runs into my arms with a big grin, squealing, “Mommy!” And, honestly, I’ll think about those mornings when the kids are exhausted or cranky and I’m happy to be dropping them off at daycare and for the reprieve that work provides. Because I’m not quite sure I have the temperament to be home full-time, so this arrangement – while totally stressful and crazy at times – is working for our family, at least for the moment.

And you know what? I’m also going to cut myself some slack and give myself permission to feel sad sometimes. Because it’s okay to miss my kids when I’m at work – even miss them to the point where it hurts, like today. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad employee or a bad mother. It means I’m human, and that some days are simply harder than others.

Standing there in line, it struck me that the mom in the coffee shop and I probably have more in common than I thought. I bet we both feel some guilt and self-doubt about our decisions, yet we know we’re doing what’s best for our families. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes feel that the grass is greener over there on the other side.

As I walked out of the coffee shop, I glanced back over at the mom, made eye contact and gave her a small smile, and she smiled back.

At that moment, I’m pretty sure we were both thinking the same thing.

Moms: Do you ever have those “grass is greener” moments? How do you handle them?


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