People often ask me, “Isn’t it so hard to leave your kids every morning?”
Nope, not at all, because when I leave the whole house is still fast asleep.
The hardest part is actually coming home.
This sounds shocking, I know. And it’s not an easy thing to admit. But it’s the truth.
I spend 2+ hours per day commuting. On days when I don’t have any traveling or business dinners, I head home after a mere 9.5 hours in the office. I’ve usually passed the whole day talking to clients on the phone, typing explanations of why stocks are up and down, yelling so my voice will be heard, defending myself from idle locker room chatter, and sometimes in random spurts of singing as the only way to stay sane in the hectic, intense environment.
I so look forward to going home. I usually speak to Gull and email throughout the day about the odds and ends of running our life outside the office, but I think of my kids about a bazillion times a day (without interfering with all the activities listed above, of course). I often wonder how their day is going, what they’re eating for lunch, if they wore a sweatshirt because it was chilly in the morning, who they’re playing with, if they struggled learning any concepts in class, and even if they were having a good or bad hair day (our clan is surely folically challenged!).
I can’t wait to walk in the door in the evening and have the three of them run into my arms, crying “mommy, we missed you” or “mommy, I aced my math test” or “mommy, I scored the winning goal in gym class” or “mommy, we just finished the healthiest dinner including every food in the pyramid and every color in the rainbow.” Then I hang my coat on my designated cubby hook, excuse myself to the restroom, take 10 minutes to change and unwind, and five minutes to reset my mind from work to home. But that’s never how it goes, is it?
Never. My prodigal return home from a long day at work usually begins with howls heard from the outside before I even approach the garage door. Someone is tantruming. I trip over a mess of sneakers in the mud room, drop my bag on top of a pile of once-worn hoodies of different sizes and colors strewn on the bench, and fend for myself as an onslaught of whines and complaints get hurled my way relentlessly. I don’t even get to pee without someone following me upstairs (if not demanding to be held) and insisting on carrying on while I take off my work “uniform”.
It’s transition time- and no one handles it well. My babysitter can’t wait to get away from this crazy brood but also needs to download me about homework, play dates, activities, and behavior. My kids didn’t finish their dinner (chicken nuggets again?!), didn’t touch their veggies, and definitely don’t want to shower despite having run or skated the afternoon away at another sweaty sports practice. My husband has no idea what he’s making for dinner, can’t find his money clip, and erupts with frustration from the kids’ endless barking. I lament the fantasy world I’d been pining over all day, and return to reality with nothing but agita and a giant headache.
Yes- we’re all happy to see each other. But it’s messy, it’s complicated, and it’s more calamity than calm. It’s a critical time frame all five nights of the week, and while we hit our stride by bedtime (which is non-negotiable quality time for each child no matter how old), the panic and preciousness of time we waste getting there is squandered as we scramble to get settled. Bedtime is a procedure in and of itself, but it’s during those special cuddly moments that I get all the good news, the important questions, the hints of the people my little humans will someday become.
This is why I don’t watch TV during the week (oh, how I miss The Bachelor!) This is why the laundry still isn’t folded. This is why coming home is the hardest part of being a working mom. You don’t get to just step into your house coat and slippers and pick up where you left off. You have to build it, earn it, deserve it.
Leaving them is easy, coming home is hard, but loving them makes it all worth it. At the end of the day, the hardest part is the end of the day.