I hate leaving my baby when I go to work!
Day-care centers, nannies, and babysitters are a blessing for the Solo Mom, but so many of us feel frustrated and guilty that we can’t spend more time with our babies, especially during the early months of their life. Mommy guilt is real. We, as Solo Moms, feel triumphant that we are “making it all work,” but we also carry around a lot of painful feelings about leaving our children with a caretaker or family member to teach, nurture, and take care of them while we are out in the workforce.
I’ve had many tearful moments when I’ve had to leave my daughter and go off to work a long day or overnight. I feel terrible that I’m not there to witness everything; dry her tears; and share smiles with, hold, and give guidance to my baby. We want to be there for every moment, but how do we effectively pay the bills, run a home, and keep up our lives without making this essential sacrifice?
The answer is not simple, and there is not one way to lessen the burden or the guilt. I do think that we, as Solo Moms, have fewer choices, for example choosing to be stay-at-home moms or work part time. The financial pressures of life are demanding, and it’s just not feasible for most of us. I have found some emotional relief in how I build my day around my child and use my time. I will never be happy that I have to hand my baby off to a caretaker every day, but I do feel better knowing that I’ve been able to spend some quality time with her that is meaningful.
You are providing a rich and wonderful life for your baby. You can be proud of the dedication and love that you give to your children. Take a few moments in the morning and at night to create some meaningful bonding time. Stop running around, answering the phone, and trying to clean up. Sit down for as long as you can, and focus solely on you and your baby. Read books; talk to your baby about your day; and tickle, kiss, and hug your baby. You may want to enjoy a bath together or snuggle under a blanket. Sing some songs, let your baby nurse or drink a bottle in your arms, and—most important—relish in your togetherness.
Turning your frowns into smiles
When you are choosing between day-care centers, many Solo Moms look for a facility that is close to work. Day-care centers can offer unlimited in-and-out times, with extended hours that allow you to drop your child off and pick him or her up at times that work for you. If you have an in-house day care at work or a center close by, you can drop in for a visit and even take your child out during your lunch break. Along with these perks, you may be able to video chat with your day-care center, check in with staff, and have a fun catch-up time with your baby. Many mothers bring photos along and ask their care providers to show the pictures to their baby during the day.
If you are able to work from home, you may find it distracting with a caretaker and your baby in the house. I have found it becomes much easier with time and by sticking to a good schedule. I always know that I’m close by if my daughter needs me, but I can shut my office door and get work done. It is hard when she is crying or I miss her, but I remind myself that if it is serious, her babysitter will let me know. And I can always steal a kiss on my way to get a glass of water, when I am nursing, or on my way to the bathroom. We have an agreement that I’m not to be disturbed otherwise. I’m not always able to work from my home office, but I enjoy having the opportunity to do it when that option is available, and it takes some of the guilt away after long hours away. I do recommend talking with your boss or someone in your company’s human resources department (if feasible) about having some flexibility in your schedule. There may be a way to change around your work schedule so you can be home for more of your baby’s waking hours.
The most talked-about concern when speaking to other Solo Moms who work full time is the emotional and physical comfort of our children when we are away. Try these suggestions over the next week:
Give your child a “lovey.” A lovey is a small item, blanket, or shirt that has your smell on it and is for her to hold and sleep with when you are at work. I slept with one of my daughter’s loveys for a few days before giving it to her to make sure it had my smell on it.
Don’t make an event over your exit when you are leaving home or day care. Your child will take his cue from you and sense your stress. Even in times when I’ve felt my heart ripping out of my chest, I put on a smile and as calmly as possible take my leave without saying anything more than an “I love you” and “See you soon.” With a few waves good-bye and a couple of kisses, I’m out the door and free to take a deep breath and even shed a tear or two.
Of course you have done your research and should feel completely safe with your choice of care for your baby. If at any time you are unsure, worried, or concerned let someone in charge at the day care know about your issues right away. If you have some worry about an in-home caregiver, follow up with him or her or find a new caregiver. There are many providers online that offer background checks and reviews for sitters and caregivers. Good places to find support or information are through online baby groups with neighborhood chapters. Along with forums, classifieds for new and nearly new baby items, meetups, and more, you will find a lot of parents who provide plenty of information on good, trustworthy people and local day-care centers for your child.
Don’t give up!
It takes a village to raise a child, and you are providing your baby with the opportunity to have a wonderfully full and exciting life. Be proud of what you have accomplished as a parent. You deserve a round of applause for being a super Solo Mom. Most important, lean on your community and family. The support system you build will always hold you up. And if all else fails, sharing a glass of wine at the end of the day with a girlfriend always brings a few smiles, even when shedding a few tears.
Rebecca Cherry is an accomplished musician, writer, and creative seeker. She is enjoying her new role as a Solo Mom to her baby girl. You can follow her on Twitter at @CherryRebecca and Facebook at Rebecca Cherry.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.