I just spent the past several days at Annual Conference for my denomination. It was such a helpful time for me as a mother. Our culture encourages mothers to leave their children in childcare for the sake of giving the moms a break to do other things. And so, at this conference, there was childcare provided. And it was really excellent childcare. The woman in charge was herself the mother of three, and she was fabulous with children. The rest of the workers were very attentive and loving. There were activities for the children to do throughout the day, food to eat, pillows for comfortable nap times, and even a special devotional time. It was great. But I didn't leave my daughter there. I took her, but I stayed with her.
Imagine that your entire family is going on a trip to visit a new land you have never been to. Once you get there, you are surrounded by new people... and then you turn around and discover your husband, your wife, your siblings, your children, they disappeared when you weren't looking. Ughh. How would you feel? Add to that the fact that you are at a stage in life in which being with your family means everything to you, in which things feel right when you are with them and wrong when you are not. This isn't the case at all stages of life. A teenager equivalent to the experience of a toddler being left by his mommy with strangers would probably look more like having his/her clique of friends from school disappear at a party. But whatever the case, I just couldn't bring myself to do this to my daughter.
When my daughter was five weeks old, a friend of mine asked me, "Now, what do you think you should do when your baby is crying uncontrollably in the back seat of the car and you still have a long way to go?" I replied, "Umm, turn up the radio and ignore her?" My friend taught me how to get in touch with the part of me that would not want to do that. And today, on our way home from the conference, I sat in the backseat with my daughter feeding her Cheerios, reading her books, and singing and signing songs. I've come a long way.
I know that childcare is an important thing - there really are moms who absolutely need it for financial reasons and such. And sometimes there is no alternative but for a child to cry in the car. But often, if we are honest, we who are nurtured in this easiest-is-best culture are inclined to use these methods just because we are worn out and it feels easier to do so in the moment. But often the best way - not just for the child, but I believe for the mother - is the way of the cross, choosing to die. My daughter and I stayed together for the entire conference. The entire weekend was mentally and physically challenging for me as I cared for my daughter 24 hours a day without the comforts of routine and home, and in an environment that required constant vigilance as she was constantly in danger of disappearing from sight in the huge hotel. But the rewards were priceless. I don't even know if I could do justice to them in just a few words. Suffice it to say that our bond grew seven-fold these past 3 days, I am more capable of focusing upon her than ever, she is even more confident and secure, and my maternal warmth has doubled.