Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Today is my daughter's second day with the sitter.

The top of my inbox reads: "FedLoan servicing: Your bill is now ready to view." 
Is this a sign that I'm doing the right thing by staying at my job? To save money so that my daughter doesn't have student loans, like me? Because I could really use a little confirmation.

My mother and I sat on the couch after I came home from work Tuesday night, talking. I went on about my favorite topic since going back to work: quitting my job. I talked as much to convince myself that we could swing our bills without my income as to fish for her opinion on what I should do. If I speak in paragraphs, they all ended with "I just want to do what's best for our family."

I don't know if that's continuing in my career, to show my daughter how hard work pays off and that you truly don't work if you follow your passion. That you can have a good work/life balance. That you can have it all if only you work hard. And don't sleep. 

I don't know if that's staying home with her, to give her the breast when she needs it and maintain a close physical and emotional bond. She's steady when she's with me; easy. 

I don't know if that's being home with her part of the time and taking her to a sitter when I need time to work on freelance writing, showing her in another way that you can live your dream and follow your passion and all that blah blah blah. 

I said to my mother, "You worked. And I don't feel like I missed out on having a mom." 
My mom said, "I did what I had to do. I was the dad in our family."
She didn't say what many single moms do, that she was the dad and the mom. She was just the dad. She was the emotionally distant, demanding, disciplinarian, breadwinner.
Moms are usually a shoulder to cry on, a soft place to land. She was that when I was younger. 

This morning, as I flipped my hair into a bun, my mom sat on my toilet seat with my daughter on her lap and she watched me get ready for work. She explained, "When you said I was frowning at the TV the other night, that's why I need to see the doctor. A lifestyle lift would do me some good. Bring those eyes up."
"You don't need a lift, wear your age with pride," I said, putting my glasses back on. "You should've smiled more. Then you'd have smile lines instead."
"I was married to your father," she said. "There wasn't a whole lot of smiling going on."
I told her that was harsh, not believing that it could have been all bad. 
"Have you met him?" she said.

She did what she had to do. I keep turning her voice in my head, saying that. It was so heavy. Loaded with unacknowledged regret. And what else was it? Anger?
We were poor. I believe your life is absolutely what you make of it. I was born into a house with caving ceilings, a furnace that didn't work. My sister slept on a straw cot in the corner of the room that the five of us shared. I was lucky, I got to sleep in bed between my mom and dad.

Many of the neighbor kids are junkies, living in the ghetto of a town it is now. My mom put everything she bought us on a credit card. She's got debt because of it. 

She's getting ready to retire, and I'm happy for her. That's the one smart financial thing she's done, leaving her pension intact and having an egg for retirement. Now my mom will be middle class like she should be.
I hope she'll smile more. I hope she smiles more because of her grandchildren. Maybe that's why my siblings and I had babies as soon as it made sense for us to. Maybe we wanted to give her something back. I'm just starting to understand the love she has for us, because I never was able to. She's an enigma. But she did everything she could for us.

I stopped in front of my mirror yesterday, looking at the way my eyes are starting to pull down at the edges. I'm 26. But sleepless nights age you faster than cigarettes and binge drinking, or at least they do in my case. Turns out they're a lot better, though, when you're sober and happy and smiling at your daughter.
I smile into the mirror, reminding myself of what my mother said. Hoping my lines will be happy ones.

She did what she had to do.

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