My husband left me as soon as I found out that I was pregnant, and I honestly thought that I was headed for a life of misery and sadness as a single mom. However, I was blessed with an easy baby who soon slept right through the night and was happy most of the time. I didn’t miss my husband, and soon realized life was happier without him around. This isn’t to say that it wasn’t without challenges, especially as I am self-employed with no family in Canada to help me out, but I think that how I’ve dealt with those challenges has helped shape my daughter into the brilliant, resilient and empathic five year old that she is.
I struggled with a lot of guilt over farming her out to babysitters. My pre-pregnancy plan was to be a stay at home mom with hubby bringing in the bacon, but obviously that wasn’t happening so I had to find childcare. I worked every minute she was with sitters, or slept, and hustled like crazy to give us both a decent standard of life. That way, I was able to still work, and save enough money (my divorce wiped me out financially, not that we ever had money to speak of anyway) to buy us a little house of our own.
At 18 months old, I put her in full-time daycare and felt even more guilty, but truth be told, she loved it there. I tried to pick her up early every day, and gave her all my attention when she was with me, but sometimes that just wasn’t practical, and sadly she learned that sometimes mommy had to work. Then my job started to include travel, both with and without my daughter, and I harnessed the awesome power of babysitting swaps with friends, and fortunately my daughter was an ace at sleepovers.
Of course my daughter misses me when I’m gone, and I receive a lot of judgment from other moms, “You don’t mind leaving her like that, she is so YOUNG! I could never leave my babies,” my family, and my ex-husband, who accused me of putting my needs above our daughter’s. To this day, I get irritated when people make comments like that, and I try not to rise to them, but it is hard, I want to be a perfect mom and be there 100% for my daughter, but I can’t. The bottom line is that I have to work.
Here’s the thing though: My daughter is the most confident 5 year old you’ll ever meet, and I think the fact that she has had to learn to cope without me sometimes is one of the major reasons for that. While staying with my mom in England, at age 2, she walked into a daycare and announced “Hi guys, I’m from Canada,” and told my mom to leave her with her new friends. She’ll introduce herself to hotel concierges, ask for colouring in restaurants and talk to adults in a polite and confident manner whatever the situation.
She knows that there are other trusted adults that care for her and she can have fun with when I’m not around. She has developed coping strategies that serve her well in new situations and make her comfortable wherever we are. My daughter is assertive, strong and wonderful, partially because she has to be, but also because I give her the freedom to work stuff out for herself – I don’t have the time or patience for her to hide behind my legs waiting for me to do everything for her.
My daughter also knows that in order for us to have nice things, to put gas in the car, for her to do ballet and violin, that mommy has to work. Though of course she still asks for stuff all the time (what kid doesn’t?) she understands why we save up money and don’t waste it, because that would mean me working more and having less time for her. I love the way we cooperate with everything and work in partnership to achieve goals. She is such a great kid, and I’m so proud of everything that she is, and is yet to become.