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.