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Letting Go of Babyhood

I’ve had two babies and lived two very distinct lives during their first few years.

My older daughter was born when my husband was working a full-time job. He was making a good living. At the time — as a freelance writer — I scaled back a bit. I still worked full-time but I did a lot of work at night and on weekends. As a result I was able to play every day. Three days a week I played from 9 until 1 or 1:30. I’d get to work from the time Big Girl went down for a nap until 6. (I had a sitter from 3:30 until 6 those days.) My mom came Tuesdays and Thursdays. She stayed until Big Girl went down to sleep. On those days I played from 3:30 until 6.

It was a glorious time. My happiest time, really. I had a huge gang of mommy friends. I did playdates and lunches and days at the beach. Yes, I cried sometimes when I left a playdate early so I could get Big Girl in her crib and start my workday, but still, I had it great. I truly, truly had the best of both worlds. And I knew it.

Little Girl was born almost ten months to the day after my husband started his own business. Soon after he got sick, and I became our family’s sole breadwinner. That meant I no longer had the luxury of being a best of both worlds kinda mom. Chris, even when wracked with pain and bleeding from his injury stepped up to be the stay-at-home parent. He took Little Girl to mommy-and-me classes, park playdates and along on errands. He was the one who did all the fun things (and the not-so-fun things) while I, thank goodness, was very, very, VERY busy at work. I worked from 8:30 until 6 every day (still do), and worked at night and on weekends to handle the overflow.

If I tell you that my heart aches when I think of all I’ve missed it still doesn’t begin to convey the loss I have suffered not being with Little Girl during her babyhood. Yes, I did take an hour here, a few hours there to bond with her and take her to a playdate or class once or twice a week. Plus, I’m usually the one who puts her in for her naps and puts her down at night so I can read to her and chat with her about her day. And thankfully I was with her a lot when she was first born — the first six months or so when Chris was bringing home some money. However, it was Chris who cared for her during the day from the time she was about nine-months-old until now. My mom, too. While I know I am blessed that at least one of us was able to be with her during the day, I am still sad since I know what I missed all those months. Thousands of blissful, lazy hours watching her delight in her ever-growing world. The warm embrace of a solid mommy group. The excitement of wondering what new favorite thing we’d discover while out and about.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love my job. It’s wonderful. I have amazing editors and supportive colleagues. I am very lucky that I do what I do and was able to ramp up my output and support my family. Still, next month Little Girl turns two. I have been strangely sad. I have missed her toddlerhood. I can’t bring it back no matter what I do. That said I’m hoping that, as we go into her third year, I will get more time with her because while I can’t capture what was lost I can still revel in what’s to come, right?

There’s been so much made of the mommy wars and whether women should stay home with kids. What was your choice, and did you ever regret your decision?

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