I am reminded constantly that my son has a whole life that I know little about. Just this month, he’s started counting to 10. He’ll randomly just begin counting whatever it is he’s playing with, be it soap bubbles or toy robots. I have never sat down with my son and taught him to count to 10. In fact, I’ve never even brought up the subject of counting, period. So, I can only guess that this is what he’s learning at preschool—along with how to identify a circle and where sharks live (Answer: the ocean, along with whales and goldfish).
My colleague, Jeanine Detz, deputy editor of Shape magazine, shared a similar experience with me. Her 14-month-old son stays at home with a nanny during the day while she’s at the office. Here’s what Jeanine had to say about what she and her husband have dubbed “The Secret Life of Calvin:”
“One Saturday morning, I took Calvin to the donut shop a few blocks away. As we walked in, it was like he was Norm from Cheers—the woman at the counter shouted, “Calvin!” and the two older guys sitting at the shop’s only table, both said hello to my baby. I asked how everyone knew him, and found out Calvin goes to the shop with his nanny nearly every day. I have to admit: It stung a little, especially when another worker asked me, “Are you the mom?” I felt like Calvin’s days were full of people and places that I knew nothing about—and he wasn’t even a year old yet! Was I missing out on all this? And more important (heaven forbid): Was my nanny letting him eat donuts? I guess more than anything, it made me feel like I didn’t have control.”
Sound familiar? As working women, we’re all used to having some sense of control—over our jobs or the quality of our work or even when and where we eat lunch. But as a working mom, you soon realize that when it comes to parenting, you can only control so much.
When I went back to work, my son went to day care three days a week and spent the other two weekdays with his dad. I was confident that the day-care workers knew how to care for my son, so I didn’t worry too much about him when he was there. Plus, they gave me a written status report at the end of each day that told me when he had eaten and napped and pooped and peed. It was (almost) like I was there. As for the daddy day-care days, one of the most important decisions I made was to relinquish all child care decisions to my husband. As Jeanine says, “For me, one of the toughest parts of going back to work was giving up control over Calvin. From the day he was born, I was the one nursing him, bathing him, controlling when he went for a walk, etc. But I realized I couldn’t micromanage my nanny—that doesn’t work in the office, and it’s just as inefficient at home.”
Giving up that control on the days my husband cared for our son made all the difference for me. I could focus on work because I knew my son was being well taken care of, my husband and I weren’t fighting over who-knows-how-to-take-care-of-baby-best and I got to see pictures of all the fun things they did together each day—which was way better than a written status report. It still stings a little when my son says a new word or sings a song that I didn’t teach him. But, if giving up a little control means a happy baby (who’s learning new things!), then this mama is happy, too.
How have you given up (some) control as a working mom?