“What’s daycare?” my son asked. Then, after my explanation, “Why don’t we go to daycare?”
“Because mommy loves you so much. I want to take care of you myself,” I said.
“Oh. The other mommies don’t love their children so much,” he concluded.
“No, that’s not true,” I said. “The parents who take their children to daycare love them too, but their situation is different. We don’t know the whole story.” He accepted that explanation without further questions, and skipped off.
But the conversation lingered in my mind. I suppose I’ve been guilty on occasion of judging other moms for their decision to work full time, but the longer I live the more I realize that I don’t know anyone else’s whole story. And it’s not my place to judge. What I didn’t explain to my four-year-old is something that he’ll realize on his own – some day, at least if he’s a parent: parenting requires a good deal of sacrifice. Whether you stay home with your children or work full time, you sacrifice for your children. You do it because you know they’re worth it.
Bringing a newborn home certainly involves giving up sleep. Bringing up babies means sacrificing time – temporarily giving up my own interests and hobbies in order to take care of helpless little ones who are counting on me. It means giving up my reading agenda and embracing theirs. It means handing out the last two cookies and leaving none for myself.
It means scraping by, at times, because our income is less than half of what it once was (when I was working full time.) It means wiping runny noses, cleaning up spills, and patiently teaching them how to carry out simple household chores instead of doing it quickly myself. (Though I am expecting some dividends on this last investment.)
I’m less than 5 years into my parenting role, and it’s bound to get less intensive in some respects. Perhaps I’ll be able to reflect more eloquently on the whole picture some 14 years down the road. But one thing I don’t expect will change is that I’m happy to be a mom.