Mommy A to Z

Motherhood, Alphabetized.

To My Daughter, as I Return to Work

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My Dearest Daughter,

It was almost eight years ago I left my full-time job to be by your side. I cheered on every milestone, from your first bath to your first word to your first time tasting solid food. I was blessed to be able to work as a freelancer, typing away in an office down the hall from your crib as you slumbered. I had no long-term plan as I lifted you in the air at Musical Munchkins, chased you around playgrounds on summer afternoons, gave out cards at your preschool Valentine’s party. Perhaps I imagined life would always be that way, racing from one sunlit playground to the next, one freelance gig at a time. The two of us against the world.

Perhaps I always knew it wouldn’t last.

Life changes. Reality comes creeping in. I know you can’t understand this right now, but sometimes as a mother, the definition of being there for your family changes.

I know you’re scared. After eight years, your rock, your anchor amidst all the changes in your life, is returning to work an hour away from home, leaving what feels like an unfillable void in her place. I know that feeling, because even though I’m the adult in this equation, for the past eight years, you’ve been my rock too.

There are so many things I don’t know how to explain to you.

I could tell you I’m scared too. I’ve been gone a long time, and while I know it won’t take me long to bridge that distance, sitting here now, facing this change, I feel the enormity of it. While I’ve been gone, everyone else kept running forward. But it’s your love, your belief in me, that gives me the strength to jump back into the race.

I could tell you I feel guilty. Because there’s a part of me that’s excited. Those parts of me that thrived on the collaboration with coworkers; the adrenaline of constant, everyday pressures; being part of the outside world, dressed in something besides my pajamas. It’s calling to me with an old, familiar song. Like being woken from a dream, I’m returning to a world I know, falling back into a life where part of me has always belonged.

I could tell you I can’t stop thinking about you. Even in my most enthusiastic work reveries, my heart returns to you. I’ve mentally parceled out each of my vacation days. Your spring play. Your parent-teacher conference. Your first day of school. That moment I leave work in the evening, racing toward the train that will bring me to you. There will never be enough glimpses of your smile. There will never be enough of the music of your fleeting little-girl voice. There will never be enough time.

How can I explain any of this fully to you? I know you’ll be fine, with your father, your grandparents, your afterschool program with your friends. But I know you feel every pang of our looming separation, because I feel it too. But I also know you’re like me. We give 100 percent of ourselves. We’ll lose ourselves in our busy, chaotic days, and we’ll feel the heartbreak of all we’ve missed when we’re reunited. Push and pull, every day, until it all feels normal.

Yes, months from now this will be the new normal. You, playing with friends after school until Daddy picks you up, excited about a worm you discovered in the playground. Me, managing a dozen tasks at work, filled with stories I can’t wait to tell you (none of which you’ll care about). And these eight years of blissful togetherness, punctuated only by the ringing of the school bell, will feel like a beautiful and distant memory.

I could tell you this “new normal” both comforts and saddens me. But I’d rather just hold you and tell you everything is going to be okay. Because we’re stronger than any distance between us. Because wherever you go, I’m with you.

Because, no matter how life changes — and it always will — it’s still us against the world.

* * *

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