As a working mom, I have felt guilt over the years for taking my young children to daycare. Sometimes that guilt still hits me, like a sharp little stab to the heart, especially on mornings that are calm and sweet. But on the mornings when the kid throws an impressive fling-herself-to-the-floor-and-thrash-about tantrum because she doesn't want to put on her shoes; or when she throws her waffles to the ground defiantly because she wants to eat cheese instead (always with the cheese, this kid); or when she just wakes up on the wrong side of the crib and whines about everything, that guilty pang isn't quite as noticeable.
The truth is, I enjoy my job. Some days I think I'd love being a stay at home mom, and I fantasize about the fun crafts we'd do, and the places we'd visit. I spent most of the week of Memorial Day home with the kids and was pretty frazzled by the end of it, though. And Lord, was my house messier with us in it all day! People who think they'd have more time to clean if they were stay at home moms are insane. At least in my experience, the house is a thousand times messier when the kids are home to make the messes. So I think this working outside the home thing is a good fit for me.
This morning was one of those calm and sweet mornings. After I dropped Nati off I reflected on how special these mornings are to me, and thought I might want to remember it someday.
Our morning routines usually go something like this:
I get up and the house is quiet. I walk into the kitchen, trying not to step on the kitten's head as she shrilly announces that her stomach is empty. Because I am the boss of this place, I ignore her as I make my coffee and take the first hot sip. Only then does she get fed.
And then it's time to deal with the dog, who is patiently waiting to be let outside. I could be imagining it, but I swear that he shoots me a look that says "It's not FAIR that the cat gets to eat twice a day when I only get to eat at night!" He gives the cat, who is noisily scarfing her food, a jealous death glare as we head outside for him to do his thing.
Almost always, this is when Nati wakes up. She's got an internal clock that is set to 6 a.m. It works well during the week, but on weekends, I wish that clock came with a snooze feature. Nati is generally happy in the mornings, and she announces the fact that she's awake by holding on to the crib railing and bouncing up and down on her mattress and hollering, "Mom! Mamma! Mamma!" Pause. "Mom! Mooooom-AAAA!"
It's pretty cute, as long as I've got that coffee in hand.
The rest of our home routine flies by quickly. I give Natalie a bottle and we snuggle together on the couch for a few precious moments. (Yeah, she still gets a bottle. She LOVES them, and she's my last kid. I figure she'll stop drinking from the bottle before Kindergarten. First grade at the latest.) After our snuggle, I leave her on the couch, drinking her bottle, as I hop in the shower. Sometimes Nati comes into the bathroom and sits down to wait for me to finish. I like when she does this, because more often than not, I turn off the shower to hear her softly singing to herself.
I finish getting ready (usually with her 'helping me' in the bathroom) and then get Natalie some breakfast. As she's jailed in her high chair, I run around and gather my lunch and make more coffee.
And then it's time to wake up the older kids and leave for the day. Vali gets up and we have our good-bye ritual. "Love you!"
"Love you too!"
"Have a great day!"
"Best mom in the world!"
"Best Vali in the world!"
Hugs. Kisses. More hugs. Time to go.
On the way to Megan's, we drive through a picturesque stretch of farmland. I slow down when we get to the farm on end of our street so that Natalie can get a good look at the horses that live there.
"Horsie!" She says with glee. Every time.
And then when we drive away, "Bye-bye, horsie!"
We drive for another mile or so until we get to the farm that has cows out to pasture. Lord, but this kid LOVES cows. "Cows, Mamma! Cows, Mamma!" she shrieks and points. I slow down the van. I try not to piss off any cars that might be behind us, but c'mon... my kid wants to look at the cows for three seconds longer. Deal with it for a moment, ok?
"Bye-bye, cows!" She says and waves.
We drive on and I sing the Nati song to her as she smiles. (I made up a song for her, just like I did for Vali when she was a baby.)
The Nati Song
Oh, I know a girl named Natalie
She is so very dear to me
She's very, very sweet, and very, very smart
And she's as tasty as a peeeeeeeanut.
(Yeah, you probably have to hear it sung in my spectacularly bad voice to appreciate it.)
As I sing, we make eye contact in the rear view mirror. Nati cocks her head to the side and sighs contentedly. As the song finishes, she smiles and kicks her little feet. This melts me, you guys. It makes the tantrums, the poop explosions, the early morning wakeup calls worth it.
We make it to the small town where Megan lives and as we walk in the door, we're greeted by the noisy, cheerful chaos of her happy kids. Lately, Nati has been crying as I leave, so the trick is to distract her so that I can sneak out. That only works about half of the time. It tugs at me when she doesn't want me to leave, but when I pick her up for the day, she NEVER wants to go home. She loves it there.
After I drop her off and head into the office, the van seems quiet, lonely. I smile to myself as I'm left with the memory of that particular morning's events.
"Ok, Mamma. Enough with the pictures."