We got on the elevator.
Her tiny arms were wrapped tightly around my neck. She buried her head into my shoulders and pleaded for me to stay home. Her sobs grew as we descended to the lobby. She kept begging. My daughter did not want to go to daycare that day. I tried to stay strong. I even bribed her with a trip to the toy store upon my return. While she was inconsolable, I could not stay home from work. I had to run a board meeting in another state. Her dad would pick her up later that evening. I told myself she would be fine.
Our nanny had called in sick. I had to take my daughter to daycare. She told me how much she hated it there. But what could I do? I had to go to a meeting where I was giving a presentation. There was no one else to do this job. During the board meeting, my cell phone kept ringing. I kept seeing an unfamiliar number pop up on the screen of the silenced device. After eight calls from the same number, I asked to be excused from the meeting. I apologized.
It was my daughter's school. My daughter was sobbing hysterically. Although they had tried to call her father, she begged them not to call him. She cried loudly and had started to shake. She only wanted her Mommy. I tried to hear what was wrong in between the sobs, but she only managed to get a few words out between the tears. She was gasping for air. My heart sank. I had 12 trustees waiting for me to finish a presentation on a $1 billion asset allocation strategy.
I told my daughter that I had to go but that I would call her soon. I was lying both to her and to myself; after the presentation was over, I had to take my clients to dinner. I would not be done with my day for at least another five hours and would not be able to fly home until 6 a.m. the next morning.
Did this happen today or 17 years ago? Just last week, I was on the elevator with my now 25-year-old daughter. The little girl crying was not my own daughter, but a stranger's child who lives in my daughter's apartment building. The next day, one of my oldest friends from Yale was being persistently interrupted by the calls from her 10-year-old daughter. Whenever I see these events now, even though my youngest is 18 years old, I have flashbacks to my days of working and traveling when my own daughters were very young.
A tear runs down my face; nothing has really changed. Mothers leave for work everyday with a child or several children grabbing onto their legs, pleading for their mommy to stay home. I remember vividly what would happen when I pulled out my garment bag from the closet to pack for an overnight trip. My daughter would become hysterical. Instead, I would pack after she went to sleep and leave before she would wake the next morning. I was trying to keep my own heart from breaking every week I had to go.
No one ever told me that it would be like this when I graduated Yale. No one told me about the emotional bonds that formed when I had my own child. This bond would eat at my soul and make me question my career aspirations. Women every day wonder if their drive and determination is detrimental to the well-being of their children. It is hard not to ask yourself these questions if your child is begging you to stay home. I can still hear the cries, the sobs and the "Mommy, please don't go," refrains in my head.
I was lucky to marry a wonderful guy who allowed me to be a stay-at-home mother when he finished his medical training. My mind, however, wonders why I could not manage it all. It really is an individual decision about how we parent and what we can accomplish based on our personal narrative.
"To thine own self be true."
Hamlet, William Shakespeare