When I returned to an on-site job I didn’t realize how long it had been since I’d worn real shoes every day. My child had grown proficient at dressing just in time for me to forget how.
We stay-home moms in SoCal wear flip-flops for months on end, barely brushing our hair unless it’s our turn to volunteer. Weekdays after coffee I ushered Junior along in the divine comfort of yoga pants and t-shirts. Then I’d turned right around after drop-off to do laundry, dishes and freelance graphic design work, while most other cars turned onto the freeway.
I was proud Junior didn’t need my help to get ready, now and one of the highlights of returning to the office after ten years was our being side-by-side at the bathroom mirror, prepping for our days apart in the world.
I worried about her being in day camp after school and all day during vacations. Truly I missed picking her up at 3pm and hearing grade school gossip over froyo, after a chat with the moms in their flip-flops waiting for the bell.
But every grade her peers’ parents became more and more scarce. At the school gate there appeared toddlers and preschoolers in tow (I’d watched their antics, rarely wistful). I spoke wisely to remaining moms of years to come, while eyeing the latchkey fourth-graders walking home in self-reliant groups to wait for parents to come home, maybe in time for dinner.
I only imagined what unsupervised ten-year-olds did in those after-school hours, but I’m willing to bet it’s the same thing my child did while I was busy at home nearby: had a snack, finished homework and played computer games until dinner.
Now I’d become the mom in the grocery store at 6pm with the child sprung from day care (“Can we go home now Momma?”), coming home in the evening to face still more work.
I decided to spend half a paycheck every month on an after school program, where perky young “counselors” with admirable energy levels led group activities and chatted with my girl. They seemed wholesome enough, and the behavior of the fellow “campers” was no more nefarious than her classmates’ in general. Junior proudly told me she was making friends she wouldn’t have met during the school day, with its restrictive cliques and structure.
Would she have been better off with me and her screens at home for those hours? For our family it was no longer a choice, but I came to realize that being the not-at-home mom after ten years was working out for the best. My child had company, safe supervision and less screen time in child care.
Those ten years with her stay-at-home momma would always be a part of her.