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Home > Family & Lifecycles > A lesson I learned from a 1-year-old

By Moms, for Moms
A lesson I learned from a 1-year-old

Special to
November 7, 2000

CHICAGO—I don't claim to be a professional mommy. After all, I have only been a mom for a few years now. One thing I know for sure, though: with each learning experience a child goes through, a mom goes through about 50.

I think back to when my son, Gavi, had reached his first birthday. I was determined to be a good "stay at home mom," but was offered a teaching position at Maimonides Day School in Boston, where my family and I were living at the time. At first, I adamantly refused the position, standing my ground that I could be the best mom possible only by staying home with my son. But, when the principal upped the salary to an "offer I couldn't refuse," I had to take it. Thinking about all the "things" I would be able to afford seemed to outweigh me playing patty-cake all day with my son. So, I took the job.

But my first thought after accepting the job was that I was abandoning my baby. I searched for a "replacement mommy" (i.e., a babysitter). I interviewed many people. No one fit the bill. "Too mean," I told my husband. "Too scary-looking, too young, too old, doesn't look like she'd remember to feed the baby." Okay, just too "not like me."

Finally, on a friend's recommendation I found something I had never heard of before, Family Day Care. This woman had three other 12-14-month-olds in her home. She was loving, warm, and pretty much exactly what we were looking for. We immediately hired her.

On the first day, my son and I just looked sadly at each other. He cried. I cried. I would come home from teaching and just feel awful. "These things take time," the babysitter said. "Just be strong," I told myself.

Gavi adjusted to his sitter after a few weeks. In fact, he loved her. He had a big smile for her in the morning. He ran in to play with the other children. He seemed right at home. However, I was still having withdrawal symptoms. Teaching my second graders was great, and rewarding. But I was jealous of the relationship my son had developed with this "other woman."

"You're being ridiculous," my husband said. I knew he was right. But I just couldn't get over the fact that maybe my son's life didn't revolve around only me. It was really a hard pill to swallow. I would come home from work disappointed in myself for not allowing my work and my home life to be equally fulfilling.

After weeks of this overwhelming and constant guilt, I decided enough was enough. I went to a website a friend had recommended where mothers talk to one another about their problems. I felt pretty pathetic, but I needed to speak to someone who wasn't sick of my kvetching. I hoped to find that what I was feeling was perfectly normal, though I doubted that it was.

What I discovered was that many new mothers, even professionals, were going through the same emotional struggle. One wise woman said, "If you feel this way in 6 months, you just aren't ready to be back at work." So, that was it, I decided I would give myself six full months. If I was still in this pit of mommy desperation, I would quit.

A few days later, I was sitting and moping on the couch when I looked over at Gavi playing on the floor nearby. He was so content just sucking his fingers in one hand and playing with his Moo Cow with the other. He must have felt my eyes on him and he looked up. He gave me a smirk out of the corner of his mouth. Then he got up and walked over to me, his little tush wobbling behind him. He put out his arms and I lifted him to me. We hugged.

In that embrace, it hit me like a ton of bricks. There was no real replacement for this moment between a mommy and her son. No babysitter, no "other woman," could take my place. No matter where I was from 7 in the morning until 4 at night, I was his mommy all day. And Gavi knew that instinctively. Here I was, a teacher, but a 1-year-old taught me the greatest lesson of all.

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©, 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.

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