Becoming a Not-at-home Mom

working-moms

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.

Or by 7am I had styled my hair, applied make-up and put on office attire. As my child got the hang of totally dressing herself, her momma was remembering how to get through a routine of her own.

Stay-at-home moms here in SoCal know we wear flip-flops for months on end with maybe a few chilly weeks in Uggs. We barely even brush our hair unless it’s our turn to volunteer at school. Monday through Friday I had coffee and ushered Junior along in the divine comfort of yoga pants and stretchy tee’s. I’d turn right around after drop-off to do laundry, dishes and freelance graphic design work, while other cars were turning onto the freeway.

After ten years I was proud Junior didn’t need me to help her get ready for school, but one of the highlights of my returning to the office grind was our being side-by-side at the bathroom vanity, prepping for our days apart in the world.

I had worried about her being in day care after school and all day during vacations. Truly I missed picking her up at 3pm and hearing grade school gossip over froyo, after chatting with moms in their flip-flops waiting for the bell.

But since about 3rd grade her peers’ parents had become more and more scarce. At the school gate there were toddlers and preschoolers in tow (I’d watched their antics, rarely wistful). I spoke wisely to the remaining moms of years to come, while watching with interest as latchkey fourth-graders were walking home in self-reliant groups to wait for mom and dad to come home, maybe in time for dinner.

I only imagined what unsupervised ten-year-olds did for those after-school hours, but I’m willing to bet it’s the same thing my child did while I’d been busy at home nearby: they had a snack, finished homework and played computer games until dinner.

I was to become that other parent: in the grocery store at 6pm with the child sprung from day care (“Can we go home now, Mommy?”), coming home in the evening to the shock of more work,

I decided to spend half of one 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 her fellow “campers” ran the same gamut as her classmates’. Junior proudly told me she was making new friends she wouldn’t have met during the school day, with its restrictive cliques and minimal free time.

Would she have been better off with me and her screens at home for those hours? For us, it was no longer a choice. But I came to realize being the not-at-home mom after ten years was one of those things that had worked out for the best. My child had company, safe supervision and less screen time.

And those ten years with me would always be a part of her.

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