I have been a fan of the it takes a village mantra for a very long time. In a sense, it might be the only way we survive as working moms. It’s not about outsourcing our parenting, but about rallying our troops, circling our wagons, and cashing in all of our chips. Every single day. In today’s society, there is just no way to hold a full time job and manage to be a super-parent at the same time.
Last week I was discussing potty-training with a follow working mom who was frustrated with the day care workers. They continued to ask how potty-training was going at home. How could they not understand that we literally have our kids for 1 potty time per day during the week? How can we effectively make a difference in this process when they have our children for the majority of their bathroom trips?
On the other hand, I have always fully credited our favorite and beloved teacher from my daughter’s two-year-old class for potty-training her. I am pretty sure I contributed to about 2% of the efforts, and day care did the rest. My village totally came through for me.
It’s always been a balancing act; sometimes it is more of a struggle than other times. I have never really been hurt or offended when my kids cry for their teachers or explain how they might do a certain task differently (or better). I take comfort in knowing that my kids have come to love the people they spend every day with, even if they occasionally prefer a teacher to me.
This all came to a head yesterday, though. I think it was inevitable, a perfect storm of contributing factors …I’m still in recovery mode and not feeling well, and I do not really have a ton of energy yet. My two-year-old is in a very stubborn phase in which he wants to do everything himself. Our hot, muggy, stormy weather made day care pick-up difficult to begin with, so when my son wanted to buckle his own car seat (a task he is not yet capable of completing without help), we butted heads. I didn’t have the patience to let him try. He didn’t have the ability to understand why I just needed to get it done and get home.
He yelled. I yelled. Then it happened …
“I don’t want to go home. I want to go back to school. I don’t want to go with you.”
His words were like daggers to my heart. I already felt like I had let everyone down while I was sick. I had intentionally distanced myself from the kids to keep them from getting the same bug I’d had. I was already missing them, missing their snuggles and the sweet moments we should have been sharing over the last week. I was already in a fragile state emotionally.
When those words came, I lost it. I cried the whole way home, right along with my toddler. He cried for the comfort of his teachers, and I cried because I couldn’t give him the comfort he needed. He didn’t want me. He wanted his teacher. He wanted her.
My daughter watched the whole thing unfold and so sweetly comforted both of us. I explained that I was just really tired, and that having the energy to cry probably meant that I’m finally getting better (silver lining!). Once we were inside the house, I was able to make peace with my son by helping him remove that last pesky sock that he couldn’t get himself. And, just like that, he needed me again. He wanted me again. We hugged and apologized and made up over reheated soup and milk in his favorite Mickey Mouse cup.
Logic tells me that this was just a perfect storm: two-year-old tantrum meets exhausted mom, but in that moment, my heart broke. In that moment, I questioned every decision I’ve ever made about my children and child care and working. I wanted to be the only one my kids thought of when they needed comfort. I wanted to be their soft place to land.
The moment passed, though, and I remembered that I am all of those things for my kids. They just also happen to have other options, and that’s okay. In fact, I actually like that they have lots of soft places to land. I know they won’t always turn to me, especially as they get older, and I am grateful for a strong and loving village that is here not only to support me, but to support and comfort and lift up my children.