Working full time and being a mother of a young child are two things that are often at odds with each other. While there are moments where I feel my time at work is a welcome break from the tantrums of a toddler, there are also (often simultaneously) moments when being away at work makes me miss my son so much it makes me rethink everything.
Even though we were super broke, I was fortunate to have had the first year and a half to just be a mom. Hands down, those days were some of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I ever had. But once the unemployment ran out, (even though I still couldn’t find a full time teaching-or any-gig) I had to take anything, so I found a part after-school teaching position. Those days were even more challenging, because I wasn’t working enough to really get a childcare break, (or enough money), yet was still away from Ali long enough for Mom-Guilt to kick in…
He was growing and changing so fast that I wasn’t only afraid that I would miss something, I was also terrified that his childcare provider (any childcare provider that wasn’t me anyways) wasn’t a good place for him. At that point, I had received so many mixed messages about the positive and negative sides to daycare; increased behavior problems but increased social skills, increased exposure to germs yet decreased sick days in later years, increased independence yet increased neediness…that my brain felt like it was in a slow cooker, simmering in a Mom-Guilt stew.
To make matters worse my local hospital’s monthly childcare e-newsletter-which in my early days of mothering provided me with interesting and guilt-free baby care articles-was now featuring articles on the childcare/no childcare debate. This month, they posted a Q and A about my most dreaded fear:
Q:I’ve heard that children who attend childcare may develop behavior problems. Is that true?
A:What you have heard is probably based on the results of a large, long-term
study conducted by the National Institutes of Health. The study is
ongoing and its results are complex. Two of the findings are fairly
straightforward, though. One concerns behavior: a small percentage of
children who spend long hours in a center setting may exhibit behavior
problems at age 4.5; this effect can still be seen at age 15. The other
concerns academic achievement. When comparing childcare settings, the
study found that high-quality settings were associated with better
academic achievement. While every child will respond to these settings
differently, it is best to choose a high-quality setting, and try to
keep the number of hours a child spends in a childcare center to fewer
than 40 if possible.
WHA? I am screwing my kid up till the age of 15?!? Are you freken serious? And what do you mean to TRY to keep the hours to less than 40? ARRGG!!!!
So after much hair pulling and general Mom-Guilt moments, I felt that I needed an opportunity to make Ali something. Something he would have while I was away, that would somehow remind him of how much I think of him when he isn’t with me. I had the same urges as a nesting pregnant woman who stitches a blanket to welcome her new baby… except I completely lack any yarn skills and this urge is coming over me two years too late…of course
I took matters into my own hands and decided to do what I love and get crafty. I planned to make a warmer lining for Ali’s light jacket, a project I hoped would have us work together and make his jacket wearable into the colder winter months. It was a win-win all around… or so I thought.
I went online and was excited to find an organic, family owned farm so I ordered a batch of their cruelty-free feathers.
The feathers had simply fallen off the hens and were washed in vinegar and rain water. I visited my local fabric shop and got a yard of stretchy fabric for the lining to stuff the feathers into. I hand sewed the makeshift lining into his jacket and TaaDaa!
Instant warm built-in vest. He visited his grandmother’s house wearing my creation. Not even an hour into the visit, I get a phone call.
“Um, you know those feathers you put in his jacket?”
“Ali keeps saying ‘feather hurt.”
“Yeah, and they are coming out all over the place.”
I get Ali home and low and behold…feathers everywhere…poor kid got poked with sharp cruelty-feathers all over…they even got in his shirt…
….after the mess was cleaned up and the feather lining swiftly eliminated, Ali found a stray feather on the floor.
“Ouch! Noooo! Feather Hurt Me!” He said pointing at the feather that seemed to shift guiltily away from his small accusing finger.
So much for cruelty-free.