Kindergarten was a hard transition year for Momo, and consequently for us. It was a year of lots of parent-teacher-administration meetings: Momo’s not listening in class, Momo’s leaving the classroom, Momo doesn’t do what the other kids are doing, Momo’s sensitive and has trouble getting a handle on her emotions. And then, on our end, there was the constant struggle to just keep our heads above water at home, between my long commute and Kev’s inflexible schedule and the endurance race of early dismissals and sick days, and how much we relied on daycare and babysitters to make it work.

It was chaos, but it was a chaos we thought we had a decent handle on – Momo was cheerful despite everything, and she loved her caregivers, and we kept the wheels on the jalopy. That’s what you do, when you have to – there’s no shame in doing whatever you need to do to survive in a system that puts so many obstacles in the way of families.

And then… I got laid off, and as we rounded into another school year and the prospect of finding childcare all over again, Kev and I decided to try it with me going back to freelancing and taking on more of the relentless domestic management that’d fallen by the wayside. And, after a painful summer adjustment period of being a full-time SAHM, things have gotten a lot calmer over here in Chez Baby. Momo gets picked up and dropped off at school by a parent – which means we’re actually talking directly to her teacher – and dinners get made, and shopping gets done, and the whole family is together again at 4PM every day instead of snatching only an hour together after I get home from work.

And… god, it super doesn’t make me feel great, but Momo is thriving this year. After a bit of an adjustment to the new school, she’s been a total angel, and her teachers have been working so hard with her to support her and integrate the way she learns into the classroom. It’s been really good. So when her teacher made an offhand comment about how it probably helps that I’ve been around more often, it’s…

…well, it’s hard, to not take it personally. To not look at the very obvious evidence in front of us that, while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing what you need to do… for us? Specifically?

What we’d needed to do was this. Every kid and family situation is different, but our Momo needed more stability, more attention, more time, and she didn’t know how to ask for it. Like us, she was putting on a brave face and making do with what was available, and all the burdens she couldn’t carry were dropping out of her little arms.

It’s hard to make an argument for my self-actualization, for my career and autonomy and my desire to work outside the home, when it is so clearly obvious that Momo needed me to pay closer attention. She needed me. And after… everything, after how hard I’ve struggled this whole time to balance having a career and being a caregiver, the weight of knowing I hadn’t been doing it well enough hit me like a slap. A good, hard one, though; the kind you need to wake up.

It’s unwinnable; working mothers are expected to mother like they don’t work, and are expected to work like they aren’t mothers. It’s hard not to look at the whole situation and smell how it reeks of how women are forced out of the workforce by quandaries like this every day, because by and large it’s mothers that are expected to be the ones to do so. Not everyone can pivot to freelancing, like I’ve been blessed to be able to.

So I’m feeling a really complex way about this all, right now. Relieved that we can see the light again, grateful that I’ve gotten the support I need to make art from home, angry that mothers are expected to do this so often, grieving the choice I couldn’t make to work outside the home. But mostly, I’m happy because Momo is thriving, and that’s… no matter what, that’s the important part.