I haven't written much about Savannah on this site recently. I haven't written much about anything recently, which is the main reason. The other more specific reason is because the last year has been a little trying with (and for) her.
I thought I would never know which came first: my working or Savannah's attitude. Sadly, the last two months of my not working has answered that for me.
I worked full-time, 50-60 hours a week, for close to a year. There were days that I saw my daughter for 15 minutes. Those were the nights that the ache in my heart was so unbearable I could only silence it by hardening myself to our new reality. Lots of moms work. She just needs to live with it. I just need to live with it.
I worked with mostly moms and they all shared the same sentiment. My child loves daycare! He cries when I pick him up! She misses it on the weekends!
Savannah went to after school care at the Y. I disliked it from the start. And by disliked I mean I spent a lot of time Googling the care providers names and spying through the windows at pick up.
I tried to tell myself she loved it. I tried to tell myself that she would have been bored at home with me. I tried to tell myself to let go and let her grow by having a new experience.
For some kids this may be the case. Not with mine.
At first I noticed her anxiety increasing. A missing chapstick resulted in a morning meltdown. Being picked up after 5:00 ensured she would pick a fight. A fight she would lose. Because she was smaller. Because I was louder.
I noticed a quickening in her frustration. With me. With school. With her friends.
She started feeling her chest and worrying that she couldn't feel her heart "beeping".
She refused to use the Y restroom for fear of "getting locked in" and started 'holding it' for hours and hours until I picked her up.
She started coming home with unexplained scratches.
She started having nightmares.
She started sitting in a dim corner by herself if I picked her up late.
A panic was forming in her little heart. I knew it. Chris knew it. We had to fix it.
We tried talking with her about how mommy "had to work". She tried to understand, but how could she when we couldn't? Chris and I took turns beating ourselves up. Why didn't we save more? Did we really need to buy new cars every year? Did we really need to go on vacations every six months? If I had known then that that new couch, the updated computer, the landscaping, the eating out would all result in my child being cared for by strangers two years later I would have stopped dead in my tracks.
Savannah was paying the price for our mistakes. An innocent victim of the economy.
She had been in the Y for nearly three months when one day I forgot to forewarn them that she would be late. She had her first keyboarding! lesson, so I escorted her to the Y about an hour and a half late. When we walked in the care provider (and I use that term loosely) said to my face "Oh! I didn't realize she wasn't here yet".
My mouth flapped opened and closed. I was speechless. MY 7-YEAR-OLD FAILED TO SHOW UP TO HER AFTER SCHOOL CARE AND NO ONE NOTICED? IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?
I immediately got Savannah a pre-programmed cell phone with strict orders to call me the moment she arrived at the Y, a short 20 feet away from her classroom. I now knew I couldn't rely on these people to acknowledge my child's presence, let alone engage her in fun and learning as promised in their stupid brochure.
From that day forward, every single day no matter what I was doing - arguing with a client, in a meeting, conducting an interview - I would look at the clock at exactly 2:15, the time my phone should ring alerting me to Savannah's safe arrival at the Y. And I would say a little prayer. It was almost eery how spot on my maternal clock was.
The first grade school year was coming to a close when Savannah received her first somewhat derogatory remark on her progress report.
Her teacher wrote: "Savannah needs to work on patience. She always has stories she wants to tell and we don't always have time to listen to them."
I felt like throwing up.
Who's going to listen to her stories if I'm not? Who?
The following week Chris got the good news that he would be working from home. Filling out the "drop" paperwork was probably one of the happiest moments in my life. Followed closely by when I quit my own job a short time later.
As I sat in front of my kind boss he tried to get creative. "What if you work from home? Part time? On call? Consult??".
I just shook my head and apologized because all I could focus on was the Mother's Day project I had received from Savannah the day before. It read "I love when my mom...." and she had written "stays home when I'm sick".
Surely I can do better than that.
Since I've been at home I've seen a complete turnaround in Savannah's attitude. There's a lightness to her again, a levity in her voice, an ease to her laughter. And I have to believe I made the right decision.
I still work here and there - we have yet to find that oil well in our backyard - but now when I tell Savannah I'm working she'll look over my shoulder at the computer and see pictures of herself (or say Halle Berry) and say "Oh, that kind of work".
The best kind, my love.
Disclaimer of the Obvious variety: I know for some kids childcare is enriching and stimulating. I don't doubt that it is The Right Answer for many parents. It just wasn't for us.