A Facebook friend shared a link the other night to a blog post that made me shudder. It wasn’t written by me, but it might as well have been.
In a post entitled “The Wake-Up Call,” dad Henry Blodget writes about chatting amiably with his 6-year-old daughter in the car about their made-up “native-American names.” She declared hers to be, “Eliza Who Says She Is A Vegetarian Until Mommy Makes Bacon,” and his, “Daddy Who is Boring.”
“Like any connected individual these days, I work everywhere, all the time,” he says. “And it turns out, of course, that when I’m working, even when I am physically there–See? Daddy Who Doesn’t Work All The Time!–I’m not mentally there. I’m mentally at work . . . [and] it turns out that, if I have to work, it would actually be better for me to work somewhere else, so I won’t be “Daddy Who Seems To Be Here But Actually Isn’t. Because that Daddy, it turns out, is boring.”
As I write this, my 2-year-old daughter is planted in front of a “Dora the Explorer” marathon. She’s content enough to admonish Swiper while simultaneously playing with her blocks, but her first choice this morning was to go outside and work on the snowman and snowbabies she and my husband crafted a few weeks ago.
“Mommy’s working,” I tell her gently. “Maybe later.”
But later is lunch, nap and while she’s sleeping, a babysitter will slip in so I can slip out to work on a story. When she wakes up from her nap, I’ll still be writing, and she’ll inevitably compete with the computer for my lap. Sadly, the MacBook and my deadline will trump her pleas for me to help perfect the tower she started building with the blocks this morning. It’s not that I don’t want to play with her, but like Blodget, it’s that I have to work.
She’ll get outside in the snow, but not until tomorrow, at which time our babysitter will arrive before naptime to ensure she does something other than sit in front of the TV or look at me and wonder why it seems I’d rather stare at a computer screen than her.
I thought I was doing us both a favor before she was born and decided I’d do anything necessary to keep her out of daycare and with me at all times while still furthering my career (besides the fact that I have to work). I know endless studies say kids thrive in daycare, but I knew I couldn’t survive it. I’m sure it’s selfish, but believe me, I’m far from perfect.
The first six months to a year after she was born were relatively painless (minus the struggles with former co-workers whose jealousy and bitterness oozed out of their pores due to my non-linear work schedule, even though, as it turned out, I ended up working more than when I was full time). But the issue has been glaring in the past year. And to make matters worse, my husband usually has to come home from work and do more work, so even though our daughter brightens like the North Star when he walks in the front door, his presence isn’t the bright spot in her evening that we all wish it were. Not only does she not have two fun parents, on many nights we both barely make up one.
It’s not all dismal, of course. We cuddle, giggle, read books, go to music, gym, dance and the library every week. We tried parent/tot skating lessons last week, but future lessons are on hold until she bawls less on the ice. We go on playdates, for walks and I’m her hero when we make it out to lunch for pizza. I’m always right there when she pokes herself in the eye or when she’s happy, she knows it and she wants us both to clap our hands.
But I sink in bed most nights feeling guilty and wondering how to pack more work into less time so I can carve out more time for her without my Blackberry or computer. I’m not incredibly optimistic a solution will present itself before she starts preschool next year, and yet, even though our time spent together wouldn’t pass the highest quality tests, I still think the quantity is serving us both well and will continue to do so in the long run.
Is quantity ever better than quality when it comes to spending time with your children?
Image: Wikimedia Commons