It’s 5:15 a.m. I am dreaming of swimming in turquoise waters, electric blue fish darting around my toes when a wailing siren wakes me. My eyes flash open and I’m climbing out of bed before my brain even knows what it’s doing.
Blearily I trudge down the hall and into Tori’s room. Her face is red, tears are tracking down her cheeks and one hand is stuffed all the way in her mouth.
“Oh baby. Do your teeth hurt?”
“Ye-ahh,” she says, raising her arms to be picked up.
I reach down into the crib and hoist her warm, pajama-clad body into my arms.
“My mimi,” she sighs and collapses around my neck.
A stabbing pain cracks my chest.
“No, mommy,” I say.
“Mimi,” she insists.
That’s the name of her teacher at daycare. She’s begun to confuse the two of us, and worse, ask for “Mimi” every time I’m doing something she doesn’t like. And try as I might not to let it bother me, each time she says it, my heart breaks a little more.
I know I should be grateful that there’s someone she loves so much at school. And that they’re taking such good care of her there. And I am. Most of the time.
But these repeated reminders that there’s someone she cares for almost as much as me? Especially when being dragged out of bed long before I’m ready to wake?
Are like salt in the never-healing wound that is Working Mommy Guilt. And that? Is not something my conflicted heart needs any more of.