My darling boy, it’s been a year and a half since we left Montreal and you stopped attending daycare. Since then, you’ve been my constant companion, jumping on my shadow, holding my hand, making me laugh with your dance moves and making me scream when you try to get my attention by smashing my keyboard. My baby girl, you’ve never been away from me for an entire day. You might have a great appetite for all kinds of finger food, but you still drink my milk and ride on my back to fall asleep, and get into trouble when you wake up before I’m done my work. As much as I am looking forward to spending two days a week entirely dedicated to my work—instead of scraping by on stolen minutes while you’re entertaining yourselves or watching TV, or putting in hours when I should be sleeping—I also feel like I’m failing you. I’m failing you because I’m not the mother I always thought I would be.
I always thought I would stay home with you until you started elementary school. I always thought this would be enough for me. I always thought I would be completely fulfilled by the day-to-day banality of motherhood. I always thought I would budget and sacrifice and scrimp and save to avoid returning to work. I remember wondering: “Why have kids if it’s just to pay someone else to look after them?” And now I feel guilty because I know I could avoid daycare entirely. We could get by on one income with some careful budgeting. We might not be able to put money aside, but we would still be okay. In fact, I am not even sure putting you in daycare makes financial sense. But it’s not about the money. It’s about me.
I started a blog in the very early days of my maternity leave. I loved taking care of my baby, I loved staying in my pajamas til late in the day and going to play dates that involved watching our newborns sleep and drinking tea. I loved picking out a new cloth diaper at each change. I loved binge-watching Netflix while breastfeeding. Don’t get me wrong: it was exhausting and scary and lonely at times, but I was happy. Yet I also felt an itch. A need for expression. A desire to maintain the creative, pedagogical and linguistic parts of my brain that I once put to use every day as a teacher. So I started writing. And my writing became my blog, and my blog became my business. It was rarely a business that we needed to pay the bills. In fact, for a long time, it brought more conflict that it brought cash. But it has always been what I needed to maintain a part of myself that’s separate from being your mother, though inextricably linked. Without you two, there is no Maman Loup, and without Maman Loup, there is no Lindsay.
I always imagined what I would do as a stay-at-home mom. I imagined playing games and reading stories, baking cakes and gardening, going on day trips and bike rides and picnics. For the past year and a half, we’ve done those things, but I’ve been watching the clock. I’ve been calculating how much time I’ll have to finish an assignment if we spend the morning at the zoo. I’ve been saying “no” to LEGO-building and book-reading because I have a deadline. And I don’t think you’ve suffered, not at all. I think you’ve learned to play independently, and I know the flexibility of my work has meant we get to do a lot of things together that families with two parents working outside the home cannot, since there are just not enough hours in a week. But, unlike a parent who works outside the home, I’m never off. I’m constantly seeking an extra fifteen minutes here, a quick Instagram post there. And I get stressed. I get stressed because I want to do it all. I want to be a present and perfect mother, an attentive and affectionate wife, an efficient housekeeper AND an active and professional blogger. But it’s too much to juggle. And I know that, on paper, it seems like I could drop that last bit. I could wait until you’re both in school. I could scale back, drop my clients, only blog once in a while. We don’t need that income. If I stopped doing it tomorrow, the bills would still get paid. But if I stopped tomorrow, part of me would die.
So that’s why I’m putting you in daycare. Not because I have to, but because I want to. Because I don’t want to put you in front of the iPad every time I have a business call. Because I don’t want to yell at you for just being kids. I can’t expect you not to interrupt me while I’m working, or to understand that when I’m at my computer I’m not playing games. Being able to meet my professional commitments with set hours blocked off every week means I won’t be so frazzled when we’re home together. I’ll be able to make cookies with you and go to the library without simultaneously responding to emails. And I’ll also be able to read a magazine or zone out on the couch while you’re sleeping or watching TV because those moments will no longer be the only moments I can work. Heck, I might even take a shower that lasts longer than two minutes!
So here’s to hoping it works. The cost of daycare is obviously going to mean I get to keep a lot less of what I earn, but the trade-off is keeping a part of myself so I have more to give to you.