Jul 18, 2008

Part-Time Mom

It’s 9:30 p.m., one and a half hours after the end of my shift, and I’m still at the office, waiting for my husband to come fetch me.

It’s usually no big deal, staying an extra overtime-without-pay hour. I love my job. But it’s Friday night, and I’ve been editing all week.

So thirty minutes ago, I decided to close my work-related windows and open my long-neglected blog.

Then I saw it: "Treasure Box," a blog post about my full-time mommying days – a time that now seems so far away.

I had only one child then: my eldest boy. He grew up literally on the palm of my hands. His first smile, first word, first step, first fall, first everything, I was there to witness.

In the blog, I had written about how we read story books eight times a night, sang songs, recited rhymes, and rode on the swing. I taught him sign language. I washed his poop. I gave him his bath.

I was his mommy in every sense of that glorious word.

Then I think of my daughter.

She was two months old when I went back to work. I had to. We couldn’t afford a single income household anymore.

When I had graveyard shifts, she slept with a yaya. I never saw her first step, nor heard her first word.

But I know she said "a-te" before she said "ma-ma."

I tried to teach her to sign, but she only learned to sign "toothbrush" because our only time now for focused interaction is the five minutes before bedtime, when we brush our teeth.

In the weekends, I have the chance to feed her, but I don’t know what she likes to eat.

She still cries every morning when I give her to her yaya before I go to work, and that gives me a sick sort of comfort: She still loves me best.

Despite the fact that in her nearly two years in this world, she has spent more time with our pet dog and I have spent more time with my computer than she and I have spent with each other – despite everything, she still loves me best.

It is nearly ten o’clock. When I get home, she’ll be sleeping in her favorite Dora nightgown.

When the car reaches the front of the gate, she’ll hear the dull hum of the engine in her sleep, and she’ll jump out of bed, as she does every night. She’ll toddle to the front door and scream, "Ma!" half joyfully, half accusingly.

She and her brother will run screaming to the gate, insanely ecstatic that finally, their prodigal parents have decided to come home.

And then she, my involuntarily part-time daughter, will forgive me again for abandoning her all day to her yaya, who is faithful and kind but is still not her mommy, and she knows it.

And I know it.

I just hope she will keep on forgiving me, and understand that if I could, I would leave it all to be with her and her brother: the comfortable job; the comfortable salary; the breakfast, lunch and dinner out; the "work satisfaction"; the "women’s liberation" (liberation to do what?).

I’d leave it all in a heartbeat and go back to being imprisoned at home, looking frumpy and happy, being nothing – nothing but a mommy and a wife.

I’d leave it all if I could.

But I can’t.

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