The good news is that my work hours are far more reasonable than during my last tour, and that both kids are capable of entertaining themselves for a few minutes at a time now. I’m not spending hours at FSI studying Arabic after class because I can’t get any studying done at the house. Even while going to CrossFit a few evenings a week, I’m getting in more time with my kids here in Jerusalem than I have since Jasmine was born.
The bad news is that as they get older, they’re increasingly and visibly hurt by the fact that I leave for work every day. Sure, toddlers are naturally manipulative assholes, but it still breaks my heart when my three-year-old clutches my trousers and begs me, “Maman, please don’t go! You don’t have to! You can stay home and play with me today instead!” And when my one-year-old breaks out into tears while she’s in my husband’s arms, as I quietly disarm the alarm before walking out the door? Ouch.
I don’t get to hear Grace trying out new words for the first time. I don’t get to calm her tears when she falls. I don’t get to ask Jasmine’s teachers how she’s doing, and make sure that they know that when she says she needs to pee, she really really really needs to pee. Increasingly. both kids are going to their father when they need things, anything at all. I am often the second best solution. When Dad’s busy, they come to me.
Guilt’s a terrible word laden with all sorts of baggage when we talk about working moms, and it’s not terribly accurate to describe my feelings on being a working mother as “guilty.” I suppose I’d call the sentiment wistfulness. Certainly, envy. In the long term, I know I’m doing the right thing. The smart thing. The best thing for my family and the best thing for me. And blah blah blah privileged enough to have one spouse stay at home blah blah blah can afford good private preschools blah blah foreign service lifestyle blah blah blah. Yeah, I know. Believe me. I know.
That knowledge doesn’t make heading out in the mornings any easier, though.