Friday, October 29, 2010


I never know what will trigger it.  The pain attacks me without warning at least once a week.   It’s not a pain that can be felt in my bones or in my body.  It is a pain that strikes at the center of my being.  Today the pain was prompted by a perfectly pleasant conversation with the college switchboard operator, a petite older woman named Nancy.  I was leaving some outgoing mail on her desk and we began chatting.  Nancy is one of the friendliest people on campus.  She greets everyone who walks in the front door of the administration building with a “Hello, how are you today?” and the sincerest of smiles.  And yet I walked away from our conversation struggling to hold back tears.  (The tears are coming again now, as I write this.)
Nancy was telling me about watching her four year-old grandson’s soccer games this fall, and all of the funny things he does – how he gives his dad a thumbs-up whenever he does something he thinks is good; how the entire team stops in mid-action to ogle at a small airplane as it files overhead; how her grandson’s teammate paused one time at the sideline to ask his mom when the game was going to be over because he was getting hungry, all the while eyeing the post-game snacks. 

As cute as Nancy’s stories were, I could hardly bear to listen.  The anecdotes reminded me too much of my own cute four year-old, Christian, who is away from me today, and every other work day.  It’s been two months since I started working full-time.  Eight weeks since my boys began day care.  I wonder if or when we will ever adjust.     
This morning Christian told me he didn’t want to go to school today.
 “I want to stay home, mommy.” 
“Oh, Christian.  Are you sick honey?”
“No, I just don’t feel normal.   I want to have a break today.”
“I’m sorry sweetheart.  I know.  But Christian, today is the big field trip to the pumpkin patch.  You’ve been looking forward to this day for weeks.  Are you sure you want to miss it?”
“I don’t want to go.  I want to stay home with you, mom. It’s more fun to be home with you.”
Sometimes I feel like, for survival’s sake during this moving and transition period, I’ve had to put up walls around my emotions.  Most of the time the walls are sturdy enough to contain my feelings.  But every once and a while a strong wind will blow and knock my four flimsy walls down.  My emotions become exposed.  My feelings become vulnerable to the elements.  Today the wind was blowing hard.

Of course, Christian couldn’t stay home this morning.  I had to go to work. Although I seriously considered calling my boss and taking my fourth personal day since I started work at the beginning of September.  (We only get five a year.) 
Thankfully, by the time we were loading into the car, Christian was excited again about the field trip.  That was good.  But these conversations with Christian are becoming harder and harder to handle. 
It’s not always a conversation that brings on the pain either.  One week, digging through my purse to find a piece of gum, I was reminded of my gum-loving, purse-digging two year-old.
“Piece, gum mommy.  Piece gum peese.” Henry will say.  I will usually give him a piece of gum, and then a few minutes later (after he’s swallowed it), I hear his sweet little voice making the same request again.
Another time I was at Wal-Mart.  You would think I would have been enjoying grocery shopping solo.  But I wasn’t.  My heart was aching for my two little grocery store grabbers.   I saw other moms with their young children and had to look away.  It made me want to cry.  Oh how I missed those days, I thought.  (How twisted is that?)
There are both benefits and sacrifices to working outside the home.  There are positives and negatives of the boys going to “school.”  The purpose of this post was not to debate these, but just to share my struggles in being separated from them.  I suppose if not now, I would be going through this experience next year when Christian starts kindergarten.  And it doesn’t have to be a job that separates parent from child.  In another family it could be a vacation, a long hospital stay, a divorce or even something worse and utterly more permanent.  No matter what our situation is, there will inevitably be times when we really, really miss our children. 
So how to cope?  For me, I don’t think the answer is quitting my job, although I have certainly thought about that.  I know it helps to be thankful for the four years and six months I had at home with Christian, and the two years and two months I had with Henry.  I have certainly tried to put the computer and cell phone away and put off the household chores in order to make the most of the time I have with my boys.  These things are all fine, but they only treat the symptoms.  Nothing I’ve discovered yet prevents the pain in the first place, the sudden tears, the sick feeling in my stomach, brought on by the most unexpected or mundane moments. 
So next week, when I look into my rear view mirror and see two empty car seats, or look down at my wool cardigan and see dried snot (thanks, Henry) or start singing Thomas the Tank Engine songs to myself in front of the computer, I won’t be surprised when the pain comes.   In some ways, I hope it never stops. 


  1. i like this post. a lot. it puts things in perspective for me, a mom who stays at home but sometimes (ahem...oftentimes) gets annoyed that i don't have more time to myself. love you. praying for you.

  2. I got to visit Emily last week. As I headed back to TN, I stopped at the coffee shop where she works for a cup for the road, and a last goodbye hug. Met her manager, Kevin. "How are you today?" he asked. "I'm about to have a long cry," I answered, "on a long drive home."

    You know that heavy, deep, pulling feeling in your gut before and after delivering your child? Not the sharp pains of transition, but the sigh of the placenta letting go when everything is over? I swear, as I headed east across Iowa, I could have told you the precise spot where the placenta had last been attached, at the birth of my first child. The umbilical cord has been severed. Some other, deeper, heart-cord still remains. Painful sometimes, yes, but I wouldn't be free of it for all the world.