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A Letter to My Kids From Your Newly Working Mom

Many people say that kids are adaptable. That means they'll get used to pretty much anything. Is that true, or is it something that grownups say to make themselves feel better about tough decisions?
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Dear boys,

Mommy is hoping to explain something to you, but first she needs to understand it better herself, so she's writing it down. Writing can help you put order in your thoughts. It's kind of like "tidy up time" but for your head. Maybe one day you'll feel the same way about writing as I do.

Many people say that kids are adaptable. That means they'll get used to pretty much anything. Is that true, or is it something that grownups say to make themselves feel better about tough decisions?

I've been thinking about how strange it's been for me to go from being your full time consultant, administrative assistant, butler, chef, nurse and playdate event coordinator to being just one thing. And for someone else. The fact that I TRULY get to see you for only a couple of hours a day is a reality too unpleasant to confront, so I try not to think about it. But you, boys, seem to have adapted.

Most days I open the door to hungry embraces and dances of joy, and wish that I could magically transform into a one woman choir so I could properly respond to the polyphony which is the two of you describing your day and observations -- B. in your long operatic aria and D. in your single words staccato -- always greedily reverting to the refrain "Mama, mama, mama!"

On other days, you barely acknowledge my presence when I open the door to a mumbled "Hi, mom" and indifferent TV-glazed eyes peering from behind a blanket and a glass of chocolate milk. I am equally okay, no thrilled, with both, my wonderful silly boys, because -- listen to this piece of parenting wisdom -- if your kids miss you when you're at work that's great, right? If they don't? Even better. I know this sounds a little confusing, B., and maybe even like the kind of thing that elicits that deep, throaty-from-the-bottom-of-your-heart "BAAA" cry, because what kind of a thing is that to say that YOU didn't miss ME and even worse for me to be happy about it, right?! But let me explain. All it really means is that you've adapted to a new situation and that it's okay for mommy to not feel that terrible, yucky sense of guilt.

Remember how we talked about white lies, B.? Sometimes grownups (and kids too, I think) tell themselves white lies, about themselves and the things that they're doing because the truth is too embarrassing, scary or bad. I used some strong words with myself today and admitted to some truths (I wonder if you would think that "black truths" is the opposite of white lies. You know what? Maybe it is.) and that got me thinking, that maybe the fact that the two of you adapted seemingly well to this whole me going back to work thing doesn't necessarily mean that it's NOT a big deal to you.

A month into this new full time job, you and I, D., have established our little routine in the mornings. Some days you pout your wonderful cartoonish little pout as you protest "No, work!" I, in turn, do my little bye bye dance outside the house and hide behind our silly Dr. Seussish front yard tree. On rainy mornings to your delight I'll add an umbrella twist to this number and then sign off the same way I did when I used to drop B. off at daycare -- drawing a heart shape in the air and blowing you kisses. Some days "work" shapes your lips into a pout. On the weekend it widens and stretches your eye lids into their naturally inquisitive look as you try to understand "where work?' and on other days like today it stretches the vowels of your little squeaky "w-OOOO-rk"? as you head determined to the blackboard with a pink chalk in your hand and decisively hand it to me asking me to "paint work!"


I understand that work is a new presence in your lives. A pink rectangular building on a blackboard. A big unknown to you, D. I know that to you, B., like any other place full of people, work is a promise, a possibility of potential conversations to be had, a magic carpet delivering a family vacation in a hotel, a social commitment mama can ditch whenever you ask her to walk you to school.

Remember how I wasn't sure what I wanted to say? Well, it's coming to me now (to paraphrase B's "See, you can learn from TV sometimes" just replace the word "TV" with "writing"). I guess, my beloved ones, that what I need you to know is that work is a thing and a big deal for me too. It's big and unknown for me as well and I'm still figuring it out and it changed my life, not just yours, and I need you to know that I'm doing it not because I would ever choose anything over you, but because work allows us to do the things we want to do together as a family and alone as individuals and it allows us to learn and to feel good about ourselves in new ways.

Remember last summer and how you with your infinite wisdom, B., told me that maybe we need to separate as a family and to each go our own way during the day so we could enjoy each other's company more when we get together? It looks like you were right, once again. See? Sometimes grownups can learn from kids.