For the past two years I have been a WAHM (“Work At Home Mom” for those of you not familiar with the countless acronyms thrown around the Internet once you become a parent). This means that for the past two years I have spent much, but not all, of every day with my son. I plan his meals, even if I’m not always the one to feed him. I find fun mommy and me classes around town, and together we do music class or gym class, swim class or story time. I read to him, snuggle with him, and kiss him as much as I possibly can. He’s two, though, so there’s a lot of squirming on his part, but he gives in to my need to gnaw on his chubby legs more often than not.
Depending on the day, my husband or our babysitter pick up where I leave off – feeding, playing with, and caring for my baby. (I will never stop referring to my child as my baby, so deal with it.) But soon, Jake will start Pre-K. For three mornings per week, he’ll be off on his own with teachers and other kids. No mommy in sight. And he’ll still be with his babysitter for a couple of afternoons every week so I can get some work done. As such, I am rapidly seeing my job as “mom” change before my eyes, and I don’t know what to make of it.
Up to this point, being “mom” to me meant being present as much as possible. It has meant being there for every moment, and knowing what he’s talking about when he’s babbling on in somewhat incoherent toddler talk about his day. Usually I’m the only one who can fully translate, not only because I understand his speech patterns, but because I was often right there with him when the incident in question occurred. Up to this point, being “mom” meant being in charge of the majority of information and food and experiences that my son takes in. (For the record, I know that this is drastically different for moms who work full-time outside the home and rely on daycares or nannies to care for their kids. In their cases, I can only assume that they came to the revelation that I’m currently coming to long before their child’s second birthday.)
But now that my son will be spending a lot of time apart from me, I am trying to come to terms with where I fit into his development. I will still have snuggle time, but far less of it. I will still read to him and plan his meals, but on a completely different schedule. Our time together will be truncated.
I know more than anyone that children need various experiences in order to thrive. Being around other kids will help Jake develop social skills and learn important social cues that he can’t possibly learn from hanging out with me all day. He will learn to fend for himself, to problem solve and to self-soothe in ways he wouldn’t ever have to with me by his side. In some ways, this makes me incredibly sad, because I want to be the one to kiss the booboos, to explain how to handle a situation, or to step in for him. But I know that letting him go a little bit can only benefit him. He has to start to find some independence, because that is how he’ll grow into a well-adjusted young man.
But when and how do I remain “mom?” Will he still look to me for answers and comfort? Will it be in a different way? The truth of the matter is that this transition will most likely be far more difficult for me to handle than for Jake. This soul-searching is certainly more about me learning to deal with my changing role than to understand how Jake will adjust. Because I know he’ll be fine. More than fine. He’ll be incredible. And when he comes home and tells me about his day, I will take comfort in knowing that the work I put in during his first two years have helped make him the amazing little man that he has become. But I can’t help but mourn the little loss that I feel as I watch him leave me for a few mornings every week, living his own life without needing his mommy to hold his hand.