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Dinner with My Daughter

Cathy Donovan is brutally honest about the guilt she felt as a working mom over missing the little moments in her child’s life. Sometimes the smallest moments are the most important. 

That little face. My daughter had a face like a kitten. Being an only, she had developed the ability to amuse herself on her own, just like a cat!

To me, the middle child in a big family, this was a marvel. I was always in the fray. Unlike my child, I could not amuse myself and I never had the time or opportunity to try.


When my daughter was born, I negotiated six weeks of leave with an extra two if I had a C-section.  I didn’t have the section but I took the two weeks anyway. When I went back, I pushed for a four-day week and got it. I became sort of a champion of “working moms” in a tough fast-paced ad agency.

Herein lies the rub we all know. In those four days, I worked longer and harder than I ever had. When I got home, most often quite late, there was my little kitten, padding around our kitchen in pj’s with Dad or our live-out sitter Michelle. She would run to me with her sparkly eyes and her Mamie (a fuzzled lamb she usually had pressed to her face.) I would put her to bed and sing to her—she loved my versions of old Broadway tunes.

Working late was my norm, and an unspoken requirement in management. When I left the corporate world, my homecoming was sweet. My daughter made me a drawing to welcome me home, and it brought me to tears. “Hello…Hi..Hello…welcome home…I missed you”…those words still bring tears to my eyes.  She drew a picture of me with my fur-trimmed coat, earrings, a hairdo and lipstick.

What I never got was how she missed me so much in the evening, when the day winds down and families eat dinner and hang out. I talked to her about it as a teenager. Her response to my query was quick and poignant. “I was so proud of you, Mom…. but I missed you, I really missed you. But I know you were busy in your job.”…she let me off the hook.

I feel I shortchanged her. I can’t take the time back and the larger notion of my career was positive. But I wish I had been home for dinner more in those days. She would have liked her spaghetti with Mom at the table too.

Cathy Donovan, Author

Cathy Donovan, Author

Cathy Donovan

Catherine Donovan is a mother, writer, painter, graphic designer and active baby boomer. She writes about topics relevant to the women of the mid-life generation. Catherine has written three children’s books and is working on a fourth. She is a contributor to An enthusiastic entrepreneur, she had a successful career in advertising for many years, succeeding in helping many fellow women workers carve out job shares and part time work weeks. She also owned a confection company, Milton Point Sweets, whose cookies were featured on the Today show. Catherine now concentrates on writing and her painting. And keeping up with her daughter who is a sophomore in college.

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