I was just telling someone last week, that I was so grateful for Jenelle’s school, and her wonderful daycare provider and her many therapists. Because of these people, I get to simply be “Jenelle’s Mommy.” This idea is not my own. Way back when the problems first surfaced for Jenelle, I spoke with a woman who was working full time as an attorney and who had a child similar to Jenelle. She was giving me advice on Regional Center, and requests to make with social services and the like. As the conversation ended, she said something I’ll never forget; “Remember Kelly, your job is to be her Mother. Not her doctor, not her nurse, not her teacher or therapist, but her Mother. You should not be trying to practice her therapies at home, but be the one to kiss her after she gets a shot, and to hold her when she cries. That is your most important job with a child with special needs like Jenelle.”
So, putting aside those “special needs”, why can’t this be true for all children as well? Why isn’t it acceptable to voluntarily work as a woman, and leave others to care for your kids during the day? This issue of the “Mommy Dichotomy” seems to be a hot topic this week, and a recent post at a very popular blog really hit me the wrong way. After getting up the nerve to comment about it, the author responded and I later realized she was truly being sarcastic, and actually trying to give credit to the Mothers who choose to work. However, In reflecting on my hurt, I think I now realize the real issue that hit home with me is that I wonder whether or not people think I’m wrong to continue working, especially with a child like Jenelle.
I’ll never forget when Jenelle’s first Neurologist (a doctor I didn’t really like) point blank told me to quit my job to take care of Jenelle. I think I recall him saying something to the effect of “You are not showing me that you are very dedicated to Jenelle’s medical needs if you continue to work!” and “Wouldn’t you want to enjoy the little time you might have left with her now than regret not being there because of work?” He said things like this on more than on occasion. And he couldn’t have been more wrong. Sometimes people have to work. And of course I drop everything when there is an emergency with Jenelle. Who wouldn’t? And my employer understands. Thankfully, our current Neurologist doesn’t see things that way.
When Jenelle’s medical issues got worse, I was struck with the realization that I was forced to continue working for our insurance. Being that Brett is self employed, our only health insurance comes from my employer, and if I left, I’d lose not only my income, but would be paying more for private insurance (and risking that other insurance might not carry Jenelle!). Clearly, that was something we couldn’t afford at the time. Now, Jenelle receives Medi-Cal, and should we ever lose my insurance, she would always have that to cover her medical expenses. And I’m still working. By choice.
Jenelle’s care-givers during the work week do more for her than I could ever imagine trying to attempt. But of course, that is their job, and that is what they were trained to do. Because of her care-givers, I can go to work and come home to be her Mommy. To love her, hug her, bathe and care for her like any parent would do. And our life is better for it. And because of it, Jenelle knows her Mommy. She knows I am her comfort, and she knows I love her. That really is a Mother’s job, isn’t it?
Ironically, Brett and I have recently discussed my maybe going part time in a year or two. Not necessarily because of Jenelle, but because of our typical son Jack. Jack will be starting school in the fall, and is very busy with his many extra curricular activities, even at age 5. He will need someone to help him after school and to take him to all his activities and such. But even with families where both parents work, people manage this all the time. Somehow it works, and it’s OK, and if I don’t go part time, he’ll be fine. I'll still be his Mommy.
The real question is - Why do I have to justify this to anyone? I think the answer is because as a Mother, we also carry guilt. But when I get tired with work, and start to dream that maybe it would be nicer to be at home, I think about Jenelle, and realize I’m a better Mother to her because I work. And isn’t that the real goal in the end? To simply be a good Mother, whatever way you choose to Mother your children? At least that is my goal, no matter what anyone else thinks!
Just a little update - Jenelle continues to do well with the wean from Topamax. Unfortunately last Thursday she had a grand mal - her first since last September. She had it at daycare, and her provider said it only lasted a few minutes, and didn't even require Diastat. In fact, she didn't even feel the need to call me, and told me the next morning. And you know what? I'm not sorry I missed it. I have complete confidence in the people that care for Jenelle while I work. And Jenelle has been just fine ever since.