I’ve spent the last several weeks scouring the Internet. Desperately searching, calling and meeting various child care providers in preparation for the long awaited and dreaded moment in this journey of divorce and single motherhood that is all too fast approaching. The moment in which I will have no choice but to hand over my heart to a stranger for 50 hours a week so that I can go to work. The moment I’ve done everything in my power to avoid since my twins were born 2 1/2 years ago.
I’ve worked full-time and part-time since their birth, as well as been a stay-at-home mom. When I worked, I was blessed to have either a sweet woman who just loved my boys take care of them in her home for a very small cost, a friend, or for a while, my husband watch the boys while I was away. It was still painful every time I left them, but it at least didn’t cost me my heart AND my whole paycheck.
The reality and the weight of being a single mom has finally started to sink in and I can no longer avoid the inevitable. I have to go back to work. I have to go against my natural inclinations and fight my very being in order to someday stand on my own two feet as I provide for myself and my three boys.
I’ve been like a scavenger trying to find the perfect mix of quality, trustworthy care for my boys as well as an affordable option for me. The fact is, often the numbers don’t match up. Even with a master’s degree, social workers just don’t make much money.
I find a great deal of irony in the fact that while I want to save and heal the world, I’m struggling to take care of my own. It causes a literal ache in my chest.
Today I spoke to someone who asked $4,000 to watch my boys in my home. AND she asked if I’d be providing health insurance.
I honestly have almost no words for this.
Once I got over the shock of such a number and politely as I could replied, “I don’t even make anywhere near that much. We clearly aren’t going to be a good fit for you,” I thought about what those numbers mean.
The thing is, my boys would be worth it. They’re priceless. You can’t put a number on knowing your children are in good hands if those hands can’t be yours.
The other thing is, someone requesting $4,000 a month plus benefits for watching my sons eight to 10 hours of the day reminds me the value of what we moms do each day. Our presence is priceless. You can’t put a number on the value of a mother in the life of her child.
Trying to place a dollar sign in front of motherhood feels impossible. There simply isn’t one. What we do cannot be matched. It cannot be measured.
Motherhood is a 24/7, often thankless, no breaks, no holidays, no PTO job. There are no benefits in the career world of benefits. There is no pay and no compensation. At least not in the traditional sense.
What we get is worth so much more.
Mothers pour their whole selves into their children day in and day out. Whether we work in the home or outside of it, we give all we have to our babies. Some of us have to seek outside pay in order to fully care and provide for these people we created, while others work without pay at home. Regardless of the situation, moms get no breaks.
The cost of motherhood is high. Too high. If we got paid what we’re worth, I don’t even know that Hollywood could handle it. We are simply priceless.
But unlike the childcare providers we often have no choice but to rely on for a portion of the day, we don’t do it for the pay. We do it because we choose to. We do it because our heart beats for it. We do it because God called us to it, and because we can’t imagine not doing it.
I look at my boys and I see my soul. My purpose. My destiny and my legacy. How do you place a number on that?
I now have no choice but to surrender both my heart and at least 1/3 of my paycheck to someone else. If I think about it too long, my heart stops beating for a few seconds. There is an indescribable connection mothers have to their babies and when I’m away from them longer than a few hours, my body feels it. I don’t just miss them, I yearn for them. I feel like a piece of my body is missing and I am walking around incomplete. Skinless.
The ache of that coupled with the financial burden of being away is almost too much to bear. But I, like so many other women, both single and married, have no choice. Moms do whatever we have to do to take care of our families. Even if it means we have to sacrifice our heart and our income to someone else.
Maybe there are people out there who can afford $4,000 a month for child care. I cannot. Thankfully, there are cheaper options that I can manage. I may not be able to eat anymore, but hey, I’m breastfeeding my youngest still, so worst case, maybe I can up my supply enough for all of us and we’d survive!
Motherhood is an expensive calling. The most precious gift in all of life. I haven’t started work quite yet, but I already feel a gnawing sense of jealousy for the people who will get to be with my boys each day while I work. I feel angry. I feel a sense of injustice. The social worker in me wants to rise up and speak out about it. I want to advocate for something to be done about this cruel exploitation.
But it’s the reality of a working mother. Moms never really leave their children. We take them with us in our hearts forever. We feel the weight of them every second, whether they are physically in our arms or in someone else’s for a time. The cost of motherhood is great, but it’s worth everything. Even if it means my heart bleeds for 10 hours a day while I pay someone else to love them while I’m away.
So here’s to finding an option that costs me less than $4,000 a month. And here’s to us, moms! To pouring our hearts out everyday. To trusting other people with the most sacred thing we have so that we can provide for those precious people. To sacrificing everything for their wellbeing, even if it goes against everything we hoped we’d do as mothers. To knowing that even though we may hate leaving our children, we will always be their home base and no one could ever take our place. To paying the high cost of motherhood each and every day, and to thanking God for the chance.
You all are my heroes.