“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

My son, who has barely noticed my existence since his Mimi showed up to help out during my infirmity, picked this morning to suddenly decide that he simply could not handle his life without his mommy. While I had been feeling a bit cut out, and can’t say the newfound attention is entirely unwanted, the timing is awkward. His Mimi is going back home this weekend, and he will not have the undivided and doting attention he has had for the last three weeks. It naturally follows that he will be going back to preschool this Monday.

This morning I got a preview of what is in store, and it ain’t pretty. Harry, in his Thomas jammies was crying “Mommy, I want to go WITH you, I want to GO!), clinging to my legs and my hands as I was trying, unsuccessfully, to crutch my way through the garage to the car. I am already running late because he woke up wanting to cuddle with Mommy and I am a total softie-wimp and could not keep myself from acquiescing to the point where Kris and I were both throwing on clothes and shoes while going out the door. I am trying to tell him that it is okay and I will only be gone a little while today, all the time trying to hold back tears myself and resisting the screaming urge to simply call in sick. Heartsick. Homesick. IwannastaywithmyBabysick.

There are those out there that will throw the “simple” solution of being a stay-at-home mom at me. Sometimes I get weary of the unspoken assumption that those of us who do work outside the home are doing so because we aren’t committed enough to researching the rearrangement of our lives that will enable us to do so, that time with our children is traded away to the desire for the bigger house and the nice cars and the yearly vacations to resorts. Well, please, don’t think I have never entertained the idea. But my time with my son has a different price tag – and the price tag is security for his future.

I live in a modest house. I buy my cars used. I shop for clothes on bargain racks. I horde business flier miles and bum rooms in the time shares of friends for vacations. I cut coupons, I buy bulk. I don’t drive when I don’t need to. I likely spend too much on restaurants than I should and more on my hobbies than I like, but I shun all other entertainments; no concert tickets that aren’t freebies. Most movies are seen in the dollar movie house.

I fully expect that within the next ten years I will be supporting at least one of my parents. Through a combination of bad luck and poor planning, my mother and stepfather are living paycheck to paycheck with no cushion against retirement other than a failing social security system. I will almost certainly be among those who are raising their children and caring for their parents at the same time. This is not the future I want for my son, an only child that will bear the burden of elderly parents alone.

I worked my way through college and graduate school. While I am proud of hauling myself up by my own bootstraps, the end result is that I have a foreshortened schedule to prepare for my golden years, a preparation that was shared by the late arrival of my son. I walk the tightrope between knowing that my time with my son is more limited than most, and the realization that I cannot, will not, force him to be caring for me during the prime of his life. I also don’t want him to have to make the same choices between school and family, between his child’s future and his parent’s present, that I have had to make. I want to help him on his journey, not the other way around.

I am like every other parent. I want my son to have a better life than I did. Not a more expensive one. A more secure one.

So I work. And I save.

I know it is hard for Harry to understand why his Mommy has to leave him for a while each day – some days it’s hard to make myself understand. Some day I hope I can explain it to him; that I work because I love him so very, very much. And I miss him every moment of the day, more than he will ever know.

August 15th, 2008 at 12:12 pm
13 Responses to “Held by the leg and the heart”
  1. 1

    I sometimes think that this is something our (relatively) prosperous society can be kinda clueless about. Life is a financial struggle for so many people, and choosing to be a working mom to make that struggle a little easier for the kids is a loving choice worthy of respect. There is something insulting in assuming that the only reason moms work is to preserve a cushy and luxurious lifestyle. And the burden of caring for parents is so overwhelming sometimes. Please know that this SAHM respects what you are doing for your family.

  2. 2
    Kat Says:

    I get bugged by the folks who assume that the decision to stay home is an easy one. It is not — especially when it’s the mom who’s the breadwinner. It’s a heartwrenching choice that cleaves at you no matter the choice you make. I have the same decision ahead myself — and while I can reason that I can be lucky enough to share most of my time with my daughter when she arrives, there are going to be many days when the road will beckon with a paycheck I must bring home to keep us all going. But by choosing the in-between path, where I neither live 40 hours a week at a job nor stay all of my time at home, I may be preventing her from receiving the security of a financial hammock or from having my attention when she needs it most. Motherhood is not a simple decision in itself, and the decisions never stop coming. And you never stop learning more about that.

  3. 3
    magpie Says:

    oh, i know precisely what you’re saying. precisely.

  4. 4
    OS Says:

    It’s hard not to judge other mothers by our own experiences. There are so many hard decisions, seems as if there is a new one every day. I’m sure Harry will understand that one day. Because of the carefully made decisions that you keep making. He’s a great kid and you and Kris are great parents.

  5. 5
    Deirdre Says:

    You are making (every day) a reasoned, considered decision and anyone who assumes that you are doing this with a disregard for your child, simply doesn’t know YOU.

    Bri you are amazing.



  6. 6
    Maysun Says:

    Days like that make you feel like your heart is being ripped out.

    I wish — and sounds like you do too — that there was an easy way to find balance between all the facets of a mom’s life.

  7. 7

    Tom is 20 now, and my heart still hurts at that. I wasn’t working, but leaving him in Kindergarten so that I could do Grad School. There is nothing on this earth that eats at you like that cry. 🙁

    And I know exactly what you mean about security. I graduated the December after I turned 54 — and I’ve got a boatload of student loans. I don’t want to leave him with that!

  8. 8

    I think you just did (explain that is). Someday, he will read your words and understand.

  9. 9

    […] at My Level of Awareness writes poignantly in her post "Held by the leg and the heart" about the hard economic realities that make her a working mom, and the love for her son that […]

  10. 10

    I think you said it so well, but wish you didn’t have to explain yourself at all. Unfortunately I think there are many (especially moms) that need to see your perspective.


  11. 11

    Very well said. I am in a very similar situation, and it is such a difficult, heartwrenching, complicated decision.


  12. 12
    Beck Says:

    This was beautifully put.
    And it’s so hard, financially, for so many families. I know how much we struggle, and I know many, many families who only keep their heads above water by having both parents work.

  13. 13

    Came here from 5 Minutes for Parenting…

    My mother is a handicapped widow and I am her only child. I have to choose every day to work full time and put my daughter in child care or become a SAHM and put my mother in a nursing home of the government’s choosing. There are days when I want to crawl into a ball and cry because I feel I don’t get enough time with my little girl but when I am able to go back home and she can play in the house and yard I grew up in and stay overnight at her Grandma’s house I know that I made the right decision for our family.

    I too, do not want Princess to have to make the same awful choice as an adult. So I work and we eek out every precious moment of togetherness on the weekend and every weeknight. Princess knows that her mommy loves her, I stay involved with day care and know her teachers. I am very much her mommy and the one raising her even though I spend my days at the office.

    I understand what you put so beautifully into words in this post. We’re not alone in being mothers that happen to work full time.