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I have been thinking a lot about this post by Aisha Iqbal earlier this week.  We, as mothers, do a great job at beating up ourselves and others over parenting.  To work or stay home?  To breastfeed or formula feed?  To co-sleep or not?  Regardless of what side of the coin we find ourselves on, and regardless of whether it is by choice or circumstance, I think that neither realm is free from guilt.

I work part-time as an attorney.  I am fortunate that my employer has given me the option to spend part of the week with my daughter, and I am even more fortunate that this arrangement seems to work.  I have seen other part-time arrangements – particularly in the legal world – where this isn’t the case, and the mother essentially gets paid less to work full-time.

In the early days of my dissatisfaction with my first job out of law school, I remember standing in the elevator one morning with a senior associate, who was a new mother working part-time, and a partner.  The partner asked the associate how late she had been at the office the previous night, and she responded, “I was here until midnight.  When I got home, my son was already asleep, so I went to bed.  A few hours later, he woke up crying, and when I went to him, he said, ‘Mom, thanks for coming home.’”  At this point, we had arrived at my floor, and with a backward glance at her, I stepped off the elevator open-mouthed and headed thoughtfully for my office.  The associate announced that she was leaving the firm a few months later.  After she left, I mentioned what I had overheard in the elevator that morning to a partner, and he replied, “Part-time arrangements never work.  Women shouldn’t even try.”

While I will be the first to admit that my part-time arrangement is as ideal as they come, I am not free from guilt.  When I was on maternity leave after having Bear, my employer hired someone to take my place.  I work at a small firm, and admittedly, my absence created a need for another person.  This new colleague has been helpful and is partly why I can work part-time, however, my boss now refers all interesting and challenging work to her.  Not to mention, I make considerably less than I once did and now rely on my husband to provide most of the support for our family.  By having made the choice to work part-time, I have made myself less valuable to my firm and have limited my career.

I feel guilty that I send Bear to daycare.  Bear loves her class and teachers and, for the most part, we do too.  However, there are days when I pick her up late and the regular care providers have gone home and no one can tell me about Bear’s day.  Sometimes when I pick up Bear after work, she has wet rings around her legs because someone didn’t change her diaper quickly enough.  And, my heart breaks when at home, Bear cries because she does not get to go to school that day and has to stay with me instead.

I also feel guilty when work takes away from my time with Bear.  The fact that I must be available even when I am not in the office is an unavoidable hazard of being a lawyer, I suppose.  For example, Bear was sick on Wednesday.  I stayed home with her and did my best to work from home.  I propped Bear up on the couch, and she watched a lot of PBS that day.  I felt guilty.  When she was feeling well enough to play, she’d pull out her blocks or her books, and say to me, “Sit, Momma.  Sit.”  I felt really guilty.  When she was crying from hunger and nausea, I tried to make her lunch and talk to a client’s accountant on the phone at the same time, accomplishing nothing on either end.  I felt really, really guilty.

While I think that I have the best of both worlds in working part-time, I am afraid that I still find guilt in both of them.  Perhaps regardless of whether a mother is home with her child or whether she works away from her child, there is going to be the occasion for guilt.  Like Aisha, I’d like to shed my guilt, but I find myself asking, “How?”  Is there a way for mothers, who by nature want the best of their children, to mother as the imperfect beings they are and not feel guilt?  After all, we feel guilty because we care.  Maybe guilt just the by-product of motherly love.

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I am sitting in my arm chair at home in front of two large windows staring into the cottony world outside, only ten or so feet away.  Bear is sleeping, and all of the sounds of the day are muffled by the blanket of continually-falling flakes.  I think that Bear must be wearing fluffy, white earmuffs, because she slept late this morning and continues to nap without any sign of waking.

I am supposed to be working on a motion.  I’d rather practice yoga in the snowy light.  Instead, I’m writing about it, which is good compromise, I think.

I woke early this morning with the intention of practicing yoga then.  I drug myself out of bed, stopped for a moment to peek outside at the white covering every visible surface, and snuck as quietly as possible down our squeaky hallway and into the room where I now sit with the intention of starting my day with yoga.  I was partway through my first sun salutation – battling my slippery hands that threatened to flatten my down dog – when my phone beeped.  I peered at it in my dark room thinking bad thoughts about the bozo who was spam-texting me at 5:30 in the morning.  Instead, after some contemplation, my still-sleeping brain realized the significance of the message.  Bear’s daycare was closed for the day!

As a hastily worked-out childcare arrangement, I spent several productive hours at work this morning, and then traded places with my husband, so he could practice law and I could stay and play with Bear.  I think that I negotiated the better deal.

This morning, my husband emailed to ask if the Cozy Coupe had all-wheel drive.  This afternoon, I think that we’ll find out!

RANDOM BEARISMs:  At lunch, Bear pointed at a picture of Martha Stewart and said, “Grandma.”  This is almost as complimentary as the time she pointed at a picture of Beyonce and said, “Mommy.”  I choose to understand this as “Mommy looks like Beyonce” rather than, “I wish Beyonce was my mommy.” 

Further RANDOM BEARISMs:  When Bear woke up from her nap, she sat up in her crib and told me, “Me and Margot are going to go out in it.”  Margot is a friend in her class at daycare.  And by “go out in it,” I think that she meant the snow.  I’m glad that my $14 at Target for snow pants will finally see justification.  Now, if only I knew where Margot lived . . . .