September 17th, 2008 by Rainey

That is the acronym for the church-based daycare you go to each day, five days a week, for four hours in the morning.  For four hours we are separated by a 20 space parking lot.  But it could be 20 football fields, it feels so far away sometimes.

For nine months you were with me each day all day, except for the occasional couple of hours I received help from babysitters or snuck away while you spent time with your daddy.  So four hours of being alone at the office feels like an eternity.

Not that it is all bad.  Certainly, after trying to get work done with you in the office with me, I have become a much more proficient, efficient worker.  I can get a week’s worth of work done in four hours.  Or at least a whole day’s worth.  I appreciate that freedom.  That quiet.  Someone once asked me what it was like to write sermons with a baby in the office.  I asked them if they had heard of Virginia Woolf’s assertion that you need a room of your own to write well.  They said, “Oh.  So you have that, then?”

“No,” I replied.  And we both laughed.  But that is the truth of the matter.  When you were in the office, I got work done, and it was usually done well.  But that was only because I worked my butt off each and every day to get it all done.  Now, having four hours each morning feels like one of the most amazing gifts.  Just because I have that space and that time to write and think and plan.  Four hours without tugging the mouse back out of your little hands or trying to unwrap you from the phone cord as I talked with you on my lap.  Four hours when I don’t have to feel guilty about putting you in the pack n’ play so that I can run mail down to the outbox downstairs or run to the restroom.  Four hours to worship plan or go make visits in the hospital without finding someone to keep you at the last minute.  Four hours when I don’t have to feel guilty because I am sitting in my office with my lights out holding you or nursing you or trying to get you to take a nap while I was supposed to be working.  Four hours when I don’t have to feel like I am letting someone down.

It is a good thing.

But then there is the other side.  The part where leaving you feels like I am leaving the core of my heart somewhere outside of my body.  The part where you throw your head back and cry as I leave the room or try to crawl up my body as I try to leave with some sort of grace still intact.  The part where I can hear your cries and see your tears and have to leave anyway.  The part where I feel like, as a matter of fact, I AM letting someone down by leaving you there.  The part where I feel like I shouldn’t be working in the office.  I should be with you.  Taking care of you.  Keeping you close.  That is the part I will never, ever, ever get over.  And that is the definition of mommy guilt.  Right there.

I am learning more and more that parenting is an exercise in goodbyes.  I have to learn to let go of you piece by piece.  You don’t belong to me.  I know that.  But you are still mine.  And more and more I am learning that you own me as well.  And so leaving you and letting you go is painful and hard and good and challenging and right all at the same time.  I hate it even as I appreciate it.

I guess that is what growing up is all about.

I am not sure who is suffering more from the growing pains, though.

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