Sometimes when I see how fast my children are growing up, I torture myself. I torture myself by doing something I cannot abide in others, with something that I challenge on an intellectual and emotional level when I see it.
I torture myself by judging my past decisions by how I’m feeling in the present and not honoring the decisions that I’d made way back then for the reasons that I did.
In this case, I torture myself with what I would have done differently if my children were babies again.
And I keep coming back to wishing that I had stayed home with them longer than I had, instead of leaving them with a caregiver so that I could return back to work.
Oh, I had good reasons, excellent ones.
For one, I absolutely hated staying at home. There, I said it. I hated staying at home. I need a schedule, I need deadlines, I need to shower in the morning. Being at home with a baby overwhelmed me. The clutter, the stuff drove me crazy. The inability to have a conversation with another adult without being interrupted didn’t help. Neither did the knowledge that once my baby was napping that was my one chance to get absolutely everything that I needed to get done- done. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely women who make staying at home with their children work, and I have the greatest of respect for them. But I’m not one of them. When I was home on a full time basis, the center did not hold.
For another, my family needed the income that my working outside the home brought. Even with the childcare and the dry-cleaning factored in.
And finally, I loved working. I loved it. I had an exciting and interesting job, friends at work and my identity was very much tied into the work I did.
I absolutely remember going through my list of why I should return to work, I even remember the feelings that went along with it, but I still can’t help feeling tinges of regret.
There is a part of me that worries that I worked a big part of my children’s childhood away and I’ll never get it back and I am so sad about it.
But I think those feelings are inevitable regardless of whether I had been working or not. I have friends who worry that they had worried their children’s childhoods away, or didn’t appreciate many of the moments enough.
Maybe all parents have regrets about the time they could have had with their children– regrets not grounded in fact, but as a way to mark the passage of time.
Because if we are very, very lucky, our children grow up. And there’s nothing we can do to stop the passage of time.