Milestones. They often seem to be such an important part of our children’s lives, especially in the beginning. Many of us write down the details in baby books while others share the news on social media. Most of us let grandparents know the details. So, you might imagine I wasn’t feeling all that great when I ended up missing my daughter’s most recent milestone because I was working.
Rewinding to the first year of my daughter’s life … I captured her very first smile on my phone. It’s blurry because I grabbed the phone as fast I could so I could hold onto that memory forever.
On the very last day of my maternity leave, my little girl gave me a wonderful gift. I watched her roll from her belly to her back for the first time. I was ecstatic and I truly felt at the time that it was a little sign telling me, “It’s really going to be okay that you’re back to work.”
For the rest of that first year, I didn’t miss a milestone. I was there for the first time sitting up, the first crawl, and those first wobbly steps. I was there for the very first word that was uttered. I was the one who was there for it all!
Looking back on those memories make me smile. For one, she’s a big girl now and thinking back on all those firsts is just fun. But it’s also rather unrealistic to think I happened to be the one and only adult present for all those first moments. My daughter is so fortunate to have a very involved father, grandparents who see her frequently, and a day care provider who is my best friend. Surely, surely one of them witnessed one of those things first.
But if they did, they never told me. They let me enjoy those firsts and savor all the sweetness of my young child meeting her milestones.
Now, fast forward to an almost 5-year-old. That tooth in her mouth was as wiggly as it could be. So much to the point that I was worried she might swallow it in her sleep. I fed her corn on the cob and apples on the core all weekend in the hopes that it would fall out before I headed back to the office on Monday. But no luck. It wasn’t ready to come out.
Just as I was sitting down to lunch on Monday afternoon I got a call. My daughter was on the other end with her voice about 10 octaves higher than normal. Her tooth had fallen out. I couldn’t help but smile as she told me the story of how brave she was when it came out as I envisioned her grin, sans one tooth. There was no hiding that milestone. And despite my own smile, there was still a slight tinge of sadness while I was on the phone.
When we all got home that evening we did all the normal things. We still took the standard photos. I still was the one who got to play the part of Tooth Fairy. One week later another tooth fell out and this time it was at home. It was a super special moment (even if it was the second time).
It’s when I realized it was quite possible that I didn’t happen to be the first one around for all those first year milestones. But I’m still the mom that delighted in it when I watched my daughter accomplishing those first tiny steps. I’m still the mom that wrote down her first word in her baby book and I share the story with her today of her pointing to our cat and saying “tat” for the first time. Or at least the first time that my ears heard it.
Yeah, as a working mom, there will be things that we miss. As they get older, it may not be milestones that we’re missing. There may be a time that we can’t get off work to go to a recital. We may not be able to make it to every game. This is true for all moms, working or not.
We cannot be present for every moment.
So, what happens when you miss milestones as a working mom? There may be times that we feel disappointment, and yes, even guilt. But we smile through the phone call and enjoy the moment as best we can. We watch the video or share the picture that was taken (and feel thankful for technology!). We share in the excitement once we are home. We adapt to the moments as they come. And we are present for our kids in the best way we can be.