Recently my son Jack took his first steps. He had taken a few here or there, but these were the first that weren’t just “controlled falling.” I felt a lot of the same emotions most Mommas feel when their little one meets that next milestone: excitement, sadness that he is growing up, and wanting to bottle up each of these little moments. But I also felt a lot of guilt and sadness, neither of which I expected when he reached this milestone.
You see, I’m a working Momma and this road has been much bumpier than I expected.
Unfortunately this wasn’t the first time I had felt these emotions in the past year. I experienced them dropping Jack off at the babysitter and watching him cry as I leave, kissing him goodnight after only spending half an hour with him before bed, or this latest one – not being there when he takes those first steps.
I won’t get into the hows and whys, pros and cons of both parents working; I recognize that for some, this is the ideal situation. For us, one of us staying home with Jack is what we’d prefer, but it also isn’t possible for this season of our lives. As the old saying goes, oftentimes you can make lemonade from lemons, and this season of sending Jack to childcare has squeezed out a few good things in my heart and life that I’m thankful to have learned in this first year of parenting.
First off, I have learned that I can have a savior complex when it comes to my little guy.
I think that I, as his mother, can train and guide him to make him just the person he was meant to be. I think that if I do everything right, put the right boundaries up for him, manipulate this situation to work in his favor, or catch him at every fall, then Jack will turn out just right.
But this simply isn’t true.
Leaving Jack in the care of someone else has taught me to let go of this a little more each week. I am not his savior and no amount of time with him will change that.
I’ve also learned the value in putting down my phone and turning off the TV.
This season has taught me to be very present with my kiddo when he is home with us. I try my best to capitalize on the couple of mornings a week when Jack is home with me. My little guy loves books, so about an hour before his morning nap we sit and pull out the entire bookshelf. Lately he’s wanted to read The Little Engine that Could over and over, so I’m working on expanding our repertoire. But Jack knows that when Momma sits down next to the bookshelf it is time to read together, and this has become our special time together (if you haven’t already, be sure to look into the Imagination Library for a free book once a month for your kiddo).
We’ve also learned to celebrate the special milestones when we are able to be present.
When Jack came home and walked across the living room, we jumped and squealed, and caught it on camera. My little guy still receives so much affirmation by watching Mom and Dad praise him, so we still celebrate these moments just like they were the first.
If I step back and focus on the big picture I’ll see clearly that our son is loved and cared for by his Momma and Daddy. That Momma guilt usually kicks in for one main reason: I love that little one so deeply.
I know that Jack feels loved by his Mom and Dad in the words we say, the way we love each other, the intentional time we spend with him, the way we train him, and the prayers we pray over him. This is one of the most important things we can give him, even more than spending each moment of each day with him.
I am ever so thankful to my own Momma who sacrificed so much to stay home with me and my siblings. But a recent conversation revealed that Jack and I have more in common than just our DNA and similar features. The one week a year that my parents left us with our grandparents, I took my first steps without my parents there, and to my mother, this was just a blip in the parenting journey.
A moment of guilt, yes, but in the scheme of life and in the big picture, I always had one of the greatest gifts they could give me: their deep love and support. Maybe, like my Momma, I’ll realize what’s really important and seek to focus on those things. And maybe, like his Momma did, Jack will always know the love and support of his parents.