I wrote most of this in response to a blog article a woman wrote about defending wanting to avoid overnight trips away from her kids at the expense of “having fun.” Actually, she and I are on the same wavelength, the biggest difference being that she’s a stay at home mom and I work full time. But, it was the comments criticizing her for her attitude and the fact that there is any such thing as “the mommy wars,” that prompted my response. I mean judging women for breastfeeding too long and judging women for not breastfeeding at all – shut up already and worry about your own boobs! And so, here is my response about leaving my kids behind:
I had to leave my daughter for two nights when she was twenty-nine days old. I was pumping for her because she had latching problems. I never nursed, but both of my kids had breast milk for their first year except for the 11th month when I had to switch to formula for my son, because I was pregnant with my daughter.
I left my daughter with my mother for two nights because my son was having his fourth heart surgery. He was fourteen months old. It was a “minor” heart surgery in that the work on his heart happened through a catheter threaded through his neck and another threaded through his groin.
I left my daughter again for more than ten days when she was eight months old. This time my son was having his third open-heart surgery. I have never felt so torn in my life and one of the worst moments of my entire life was listening to her cry for me when my mom brought her to visit the hospital and not being able to take her because I had to talk to a doctor about my son’s prognosis, which was undeniably grim at the time.
My son turned a corner, but he was and is still very fragile. The following year, when my daughter was 20 months old, I kept her with me the entire five weeks we were in the hospital for my son’s fourth and fifth open-heart surgeries. She stayed at the Ronald McDonald House with either my husband or myself.
When my son has his next open heart surgery, she will be with us. We’re in it together. She’s almost 8 and he’s 9 now. I am not, and will never be a stay at home mom. My husband was a stay-at-home dad. I have never taken a vacation without my children and never will until they’re adults or just don’t want to go with me. I have traveled for business and for the advocacy work I do to fight congenital heart defects, but I always miss my kids terribly when I’m gone. On the rare occasions my husband and I have date nights, we end up missing our kids. We’ve stayed away overnight the last three years for our 15/16/17 anniversaries and we’re always so happy to be home to see our kids again.
I look at the messes in my living room, the stains on my furniture, and the chaos of grade school and I treasure it. Someday my house will be spotless. Someday my kids bedrooms will be cleared of their things because they grew up and moved on . . . maybe. I don’t know if my son will clear his own things or if they will be cleared by my compassionate friends or my own hands because he is gone forever.
This is my real life. This is the reality for so many moms out there like me who live askew and look at the “mommy wars” and sigh. This is all temporary for all of us human beings, for good or for bad, it doesn’t last.
I didn’t choose my battle, it found me. I was drafted into the type of mom I’ve become. For all the moms out there with physically healthy kids, even those with learning disabilities and special needs, those kids who are most likely to live longer than you, please focus on what’s under your roof, not what gets under your skin.
What gets under your skin will dry up and blow away some day. This too shall pass. For me, I’m too busy fighting for my son’s survival, for my daughter’s stability in a chaotic situation, and for a shot at “normalcy” to pick a side in the mommy wars. Mommy wars. . . really?