Occasionally, I have separation anxiety, and wonder if I’m the other woman. That is, the woman who isn’t grandma or the daycare teacher. The woman who is around just sometimes, waving hello and goodbye, and putting my daughter Sophie to bed when her eyes are tiny, shrinking slits at the end of a day spent apart… when she already is somewhere else, in that place just between dreams and reality.
Of course there is only one Daddy, and he’s the person who helps Sophie do somersaults, and flings her high in the air to Sophie’s delight and Mommy’s chagrin. In fact, he is the most involved daddy and husband a wife could ask for, and does all kinds of other things too: clips Sophie’s nails, helps wipe her boogies, reads her favorite books, dishes out spoonfuls of bananas and dispenses an abundance of love, so rich and deep Sophie could happily splash in it forever.
Mommy, well, Mommy loves Sophie so desperately, and prays for her so fervently. I stare at photos of my sweet, nearly toothless baby from my desk at work, and they bolster my resolve to work hard for her, and to teach her to be strong and independent. And while I accept that my husband’s schedule is just more flexible right now, and that his relationship with our daughter is beautiful and special, it still stings when she cries for him to hold her instead of me, writhing in my arms.
Meanwhile, I’m behind the scenes, spot cleaning her soiled clothes and washing bottles and paying bills and commuting and working and arriving home close to 8 p.m. and trying to stay afloat. In between all that, there are moments I treasure, playing with blocks on the carpet, singing while I feed Sophie in her high chair, kissing her head while we rock together on the glider and our labradoodle sleeps at my feet. Her smile when I enter a room is transfixing, all consuming, and her gaze when I leave stays with me, the anxiety of separation settling in my stomach as I walk unwillingly away.
I know that, in time, she will recognize me as her mommy, that she is still so young, and perhaps she knows more than she can articulate. Later, she will know too that I love her unconditionally, and I leave each morning because I must, thinking of her all the while. In the meantime, as I dip in and out of her days as a daycare mom, I can only shower her with affection, remain thankful for our family and simply keep going.