My Daughter Is 1,300 Miles Away — And I Don’t Miss Her
I don’t know much. I know ice cream is tasty, laughter really is the best medicine, and if I leave a snack on the kitchen table, it will be gone when I return from the bathroom. Who stole it? Only the crumbs can say. I also know that if this article is published, a large chunk of the internet will be preparing their pitchforks and lighting their torches. For a witch hunt, of course. And in this scenario, I am without a doubt the witch.
Four years ago, I’m sure I would have readied a torch of my own. What kind of mother doesn’t miss her child? What kind of monster, utterly lacking in maternal instincts or human decency could fly two states away from her precious progeny and not miss her?
I’m the Monster
I discovered what a colossal failure of a mother I am after I carelessly uttered those words over dinner with my uncle. “I don’t miss her as much as I thought I would. I’m excited to see her, but I’m really enjoying my space, too.”
I looked up from my fries to see an expression of horror, bordering on disgust. That isn’t normal, my uncle told me.
Huh, I Thought
Let’s back up a bit: My daughter and I just spent six glorious weeks on an island near Seattle. I had to get back to work, but she loves it there so much that I chose to let her stay with her grandma for an extra week. After some flight challenges, one week became two — the longest we’ve ever been apart in her four short years.
She’s in the care of her favorite person, second only to myself — a full-time playmate, teacher, librarian and tea party provider. There is no doubt that she is safe, cared for and very happy.
Apparently, Happy Kids Aren’t Enough
The very idea that a mother could possibly take a break from parenting for two short weeks without some kind of instinctive, maternal angst was incomprehensible. Abhorrent, even.
I did not miss my child, and therefore I must be a broken mother. Is it so hard, I wondered, to imagine that a good, loving mother could leave her child in good hands for a short while without guilt or grief? That she could, dare I say, love her child and peacefully enjoy a break?
Most Would Say No
When I was expecting my daughter, I read all the books. I attempted to follow them even when their advice didn’t seem to work. I chose to stay home most of those early years, sending my daughter to a co-op preschool so I could participate in her education. She eats mostly organic, non-GMO foods, her screen time is limited to around a half-hour a day, and at four years old, she is already learning to read.
Our house is by no means perfect, but few would argue that she isn’t a well-rounded, happy kid. More than anything, she knows she is very, very loved. That’s the point of motherhood, isn’t it? To raise happy, healthy, secure children?
Sadly, There’s More to It
“People” are much more concerned with how your child is becoming so healthy and happy, not if they are. Was formula involved? Daycare? An occasional slice of cake? And while all of that debauchery is going on, are you, by any chance, having some semblance of your own life?
If so, you, the mother of a perfectly healthy and happy child, are going straight to mom hell to drown in a fiery pit of eternal guilt. My uncle considers himself an open-minded, easy going individual. Yet, when I had the gall to admit there is more to my existence than being a mother, he was quick to put me in my place.
Motherhood Isn’t Measured by Success, Only by Devotion
For dads, if kids are fed, clothed and staying in school, no questions are asked. If I were a father, my independence would likely be supported. My commitment to work would be encouraged.
My dedication to building a better life for my child would be applauded. If you’re a mom, however, you’re shit out of luck.
We Have Different Expectations of Moms
Our expectations are not just different because of gender stereotypes, but because of the honest truth that motherhood is different than fatherhood. Our role as a parent is almost always greater and more challenging.
But if it’s so hard, why do we continuously judge moms so harshly?
Remember: Judging Does Not Help
If you find yourself guilty of raising an eyebrow at a so-called slacker mom, I have to ask … has your disapproval ever helped? When has condemnation ever provided the energy or motivation to grow? Rather than judging and condemning moms for not being able to do it all, why don’t we lend a hand to help them succeed?
As moms, there are many weights we gladly carry. The weight of sleepy heads on our shoulders, the weight of all those expensive classes our kids have to try, the weight of being someone else’s lifelong role model. These are the weights we want to carry as mothers. The heavy weight of societal expectations, however, we never asked for that.
I’ve Chosen to No Longer Care
When a dirty look or snide comment reminds me of my supposed inadequacy, I chose to say “No.” As a millennial, I was raised in an era of girl power. I was told I could be anything I wanted to be, and I believed it.
No one ever told me that if I chose to be a mother, that was all I was allowed to be. If we don’t choose to absolve ourselves of this rigid, unsupportive, ill-fitting mold of motherhood, what legacy are we passing down to our daughters?
It’s Our Duty
For our daughters’ sakes, we have to dispel the shame of daring to be human before we are mothers. Our duty is to love our children. To do our best to give them what they need and teach them how to live. Our duty is not to be their everything.
When we deprive ourselves of what we need, we are teaching our daughters to do the same. When we deny our hopes, dreams and sanity for the sake of being the perfect parent, we are teaching our daughters that being perfect is more important than being whole. If we don’t teach them how to balance self-care, personal aspirations and motherhood, who will?
Parenting Is About Taking Care of Yourself, Too
These last two weeks, I worked harder than ever. I got around to many of the items on my to-do list that never seem to get done. I planned my daughter’s birthday party — bouncy house, surprise bicycle, handmade cake and all.
I basked in my free time, aggressively pursuing my writing career. I fought with all I had to get one step closer to being the woman I wanted to become. I also took a walk on the beach, all alone. I thought of my daughter often, and I was also proud of my decision to work on me.
I’m Setting an Example
It’s a cliché, but I really do love my daughter more than I ever believed it was possible to love someone. My heart warmed with every picture of her that appeared in my inbox. That’s why I also chose to give myself permission to be fulfilled without her. Her happiness is important, but being her role model? That is my job.
These last two weeks, I didn’t miss my daughter. And that’s okay.