You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello

Owen’s first word is “bye-bye.” Not Mama, Dada, Ball, Book, Cat, or Hippopotamus. I actually had a guilt pang about this yesterday (does he feel like we’re always leaving him?), which I quickly got over (he says and/or waves bye-bye for hello as well as goodbye, and says it repeatedly as he crawls across the room, turning around for a confirmation “bye-bye” before grinning and crawling another couple of feet.)

I was at a party on Saturday night with a whole bunch of childless people. I don’t know if they want kids or not, but there seemed to be a lot of apprehension over losing your entire life if you happen to be caught in the black hole of  parenthood. (The unknown can be a scary place for a grown-up*).

One question that came up (as it so often does) is whether I like being back at work. The answer: an unqualified YES. This answer shocks people. Really? But you must have a good daycare. Yes, I do. But don’t you miss him? Not really… I don’t. I don’t miss him when he’s napping or down for the night, either. I don’t miss him when Duncan takes him out for a run. I feel weird about this, because it seems to be taboo to admit that you don’t pine for your baby when you’re away from him. I look forward to seeing him, but I don’t think that’s the same thing.

I went back to work when Owen was 7 months old. Was I ready any earlier? Absolutely not. Was it difficult at times? Of course. But overwhelmingly, my return to work was a relief. It was a return to the person I was before I had Owen, a person I had, quite frankly, missed. I enjoyed teaching, reading, talking to students and colleagues, and I also enjoyed picking Owen up from daycare at the end of the day for a jaunt to the park or a walk or an hour of playtime before dinner.

At my staff party last week, a couple of my colleagues admitted that they’d felt the same way. Another friend of mine has always insisted that she is not cut out to be a stay-at-home mother. And of course I know others who love spending every day with their kids. For me, though, daycare has been miraculous.

I still want to clarify that I love having a child and that I am not racing to be away from him every day. Owen is a giggling, squishy bundle of sunshine who radiates joy onto his surroundings. I think I could spend every single day with him (and never crave daycare’s breaks) if I had another adult around all the time. Part of what I found difficult in the early days with Owen was the profound isolation I felt. The good days were always the days I’d had coffee with a friend, or lunch with family. The difficult days were the days I spent alone with Owen. Some days I would go to the drugstore just to have a conversation with a grown-up. It didn’t even matter if Owen was having a good day or a bad day. It was just the long lonely stretch of having only a baby to talk to. It’s not the baby. It’s the loneliness – it’s free time that you can’t occupy with any of the normal things you do to relieve boredom.

Owen is at daycare as I write this. He happily waved goodbye when I left… because I think he knew he would see me soon.

* Scaredy Squirrel… again!

3 comments on “You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello

  1. Audrey on said:

    I amso impressed at theh way you put your thoughts into this blog. You are addressing some very sensitive mommy topics… I am happy to go to work each day, and ever so grateful to have 10 weeks off each year tospend with the children. It works for me, and it seems towork for them as they are doing well. In my mind, a happy, healthy mommy leads her children by example, not by trying to be someone she does not feel happy being! Kudos to you, my dear friend!

  2. Mary-Ellen O'Neil on said:

    I have four children. I adore them all and their baby-childhoods were a time of wonder. Did I personally witness every first word? No.Did I toilet train my first (daytime 12 months, night time 15months!!!), or any of them for that matter? NO, YIPPIE! Does that mean I missed out, I don’t think so, since the first time I witnessed was good enough for me. I returned to full time work when each of my babies was 5 months old and did I miss them when I was in a classroom full of teenagers? No. The teenagers kept me mighty entertained and challenged. Did I get excited as I drove up the driveway or into the day care? Absolutely! Did they all turn out to be extraordinary, resourceful, independent, smart, affectionate, well adjusted human beings? A resounding YES. Don’t forget that the nuclear (isolated) family/mother is an anomaly of a tiny piece of history in a tiny part of the world.

  3. Kina Contrerras on said:

    Thank you for the recommendation! I am going to try it out.

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