Or have they?
I’m the mother of a three-year-old boy, Theodore. We call him Theo for short. Theodore is not only named after my late father – one amazing man – but the name means “gift of God.” It was perfect in both regards for our new little one.
When Theo was six months old, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The doctor’s initial diagnosis was Stage 3 – with five years or less to live. My husband and I lived in complete terror for six very long weeks, believing that the diagnosis was correct – until, thank God, further testing showed that I was not a Stage 3, but a Stage 1 – with a 99 percent chance of full recovery. But even with that sunny prognosis, I find myself battling with fear and separation anxiety when it comes to my son. So, this is my question:
How do you conquer fear?
I know that even if I hadn’t faced a breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment such a short time after Theo’s birth, that there would still be anxiety. Perhaps not with such intensity. But I know myself. It would still be there.
I want to be two places at once. I love what I do – I’m a freelance writer and editor. I also blog on the topic of genetic breast cancer (http://itsinthegenes.wordpress.com/). And, I’m putting the finishing touches on a memoir – A Matter of Life or Breasts – the story of the four generations of women in my family who have been identified as carriers of the BRCA 1 (Breast Cancer) gene.
And even if I didn’t love what I do – I’d still need to do it, as my financial contribution to our household isn’t optional at this point.
But, the other part of me wants to be with Theo – all the time. My cousin – the mother of three and an incredibly wise woman – says if I do that, I’ll smother him. And I know she’s right. So, I don’t. But it doesn’t stop me from wanting to.
I’m an incredibly lucky woman. The type of work I do not only allows me to keep a less-than-full-time schedule, but it gives me lots of flexibility. So, in my busiest months, Theo is away from me three full days a week – but we have one-on-one time every Tuesday and Thursday, plus as a family on the weekends.
That’s a lot of “together” time. Yet, I sometimes still wonder if I’m doing the right thing. Will studies published a decade from now determine that the true-blue stay-at-home mom is best when it comes to raising children? Would it be better for him if I was home with him all the time? Or is a little time apart good for both of us? In the moments when I’m filled with the greatest uncertainty, I hear Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s voice echoing in my head – telling her millions of listeners that, hands down, mothers should stay home with their children ‘til their first day of Kindergarten.
My shrink recently offered me this advice: “You can’t live in his skin,” she said. “You’ve got to let him have his own life experiences.”
I know that to be true. And I think that it will get easier as he gets older and I see him as needing me less. At least, I think that will be the case – I won’t truly know ‘til I get there.
But in the meantime, I’m at this crossroads. And though I try to deal with fear and separation anxiety in a rational, reasonable way, it’s not easy.
Are there any other mothers out there who feel this constant tug – this strong desire to be two places at once, who wish they were two people instead of just one? If so, how do you deal with it? And what’s your take on working vs. being a stay-at-home Mom?