After a rushed morning (the kind that always follows a night with too little sleep), we arrive at daycare. Mind already ensconced in my yellow chair at work, I pull Tori out of the car and listen with half an ear to her chatter as we get her purple polka dotted coat (suddenly looking too small) off and in her cubby.

She starts to run to the interior door.

“Wait, Tori, we need to take your shoes off.”

Reluctantly, she trudges back. “I at school now!” she grins.

“Yes, you are,” I say, pulling off her sparkly tennis shoes and stashing them away. “Are you going to have fun today?”

“Yeah!” she bounces.

Then she’s tugging me to the door, and as I pull it open, I see her two teachers and classmates playing with whatever the week’s new toys are. She’s off like a shot.

I make small talk, but my mind is on the ticking clock—the seconds counting down to the Inexcusably Late mark. Before I go, I drop to my knees for our good bye.

“Tori, come give mommy a hug,” her teacher says.

She turns and embraces her teacher. And just like that, the air squeezes out of the room. Pain stabs deep between my ribs and I feel small droplets of blood drip somewhere inside.

“I’m not your mommy,” her teacher says. “Go on. Get over there.”

Then she’s hurtling toward me and the moment is over.


I sit, alone, on the couch in the too-still house. I’m staring at my Kindle, but my mind is busy replaying a conversation from my writer’s group months before.

The six of us sprawl in comfy, overstuffed furniture. The conversation focuses on careers, on the choice between working and staying at home, and on finding what we’re meant to do with our lives.

“What about you, Amber? Do you really like your job?”

I pause, almost embarrassed by my answer. But when it comes, the truth of it rings deep in my soul.

“Yeah. I do. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

They nod, no judgement on their faces.

“But, you know, it’d be great if I could work part time,” I quickly add—knowing even as I say it that that’s not entirely true. Still, the Mom Guilt in me insists I say it.


It’s dark. Tori’s sprawled in my arms, her legs knocking into my hips as I rock her back and forth.

“Mommy, who’s your special friend?”

“Well, your Aunt Christina. And daddy, of course. Daddy’s my special-est friend.”

There’s a pause while she yawns sleepily.

“Who’s your special friend?” I ask her.

“Tina and Vicky,” she says, naming her daycare teachers.

“What about mommy? Is  mommy your special friend?”

“No. Tina and Vicky are.”

“But you love mommy, right?” I ask, hating the tremor in my voice.

“No. I don’t need to. I love Tina and Vicky.”

Pain punches me in the stomach, roaring across my brain in a primal wave of need.

“Well, mommy loves you,” I whisper past the scream in my throat. “You’ll always be my special girl.”

Sleepily, she pats my face.

“You’re my special mommy,” she says. “I love you too.”

Pushing the pain back down where it belongs, I finish our bedtime routine and head downstairs. But as I fire up my computer to write a blog post, the hurt pricks at my brain.

I love what I do, it’s true. And soon, the two sides of me will once again settle into an uneasy peace. But until then? It fucking hurts.

20 Comments on Pinpricks.

  1. Meagan
    December 12, 2011 at 10:57 pm (4 years ago)

    For the record, it occurred to me the other day that I have been at home for over 5 years. And another 2 1/2 until Sam is in school full time. And my brain feels like it is rotting sometimes. And there are days when I am a terrible mommy and just want to get away from my kids (and sometimes give myself a time out just to do that, or turn on the tv so they will go away for a while, or cry). And sometimes I can’t wait to do something intellectually stimulating again. Which is when I write. I like staying home, but there are days…

    One of my best friends from high school is a lawyer. She started doing part-time work when her kids were born – writing briefs and such that she could do at home, the type of thing lawyers hate to do so they would pay her to do it. At the time, she said something that I think it important to realize:

    She is a better mother because she has this other part of herself. And moms who work because they want to are better mothers because of it – because if you hate every moment of every day you are at home, your kids feel it.

    Sometimes kids say things that aren’t meant to hurt but are how their brains work. It might not occur to her that you are a special friend because you are her mommy and that is something no one else can say.

    • Amber
      December 13, 2011 at 10:03 pm (4 years ago)

      Too true, my friend. Too true. There’s always something we trade off, no matter what we decide to do. But as long as we muck around, trying to do our best, it’ll all turn out alright. Or so I hope.

    • Amber
      December 13, 2011 at 10:02 pm (4 years ago)

      Sometimes, that’s all you can say. But someday, she’s going to read all this. And the guilt? Will be worth a million dollars.

  2. debi9kids
    December 12, 2011 at 11:46 pm (4 years ago)

    I’ve tried going to work a few times and have never been able to do it… I give you (and other working mommies credit). I couldn’t do it, but I’m glad you can.
    There are certainly some days I wish I could, that’s for sure 😉

    • Amber
      December 13, 2011 at 10:01 pm (4 years ago)

      Well, I kinda have to. Not kinda, I do have to. But thankfully, I enjoy my job, so it’s not a chore. Most of the time.

  3. christine
    December 12, 2011 at 11:53 pm (4 years ago)

    Wow. This is so powerful. Thank you for sharing.

    • Amber
      December 13, 2011 at 10:01 pm (4 years ago)

      Thank you for reading. The sharing is healing, sometimes.

  4. jubilee
    December 13, 2011 at 3:06 am (4 years ago)

    It seems that no matter what we choose (to stay at home, work at home, work away from home) we suffer from some kind of mommy guilt. Where does that come from? How do we get rid of it? Where is the contentment we are supposed to feel?


    • Amber
      December 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm (4 years ago)

      I find the contentment. In short little snatches. It’s just super hard to hold on to. Boo.

  5. Jen
    December 13, 2011 at 9:42 am (4 years ago)

    I wish that I had words of wisdom. The only thing I can say is that I can relate.

    • Amber
      December 13, 2011 at 9:59 pm (4 years ago)

      I know that you can. It goes with the territory. And it’s not so bad really. Better to have too many to love than too few. Or something like that.

  6. Rebeccah
    December 13, 2011 at 10:51 am (4 years ago)

    Oh wow. That made me tear up just reading – I cannot imagine how it felt. Keep your chin up…

    • Amber
      December 13, 2011 at 9:58 pm (4 years ago)

      Chin up, trembling lip buttoned, good fortune remembered. But sometimes, it all comes undone. Just for a moment.

  7. Rebecca
    December 13, 2011 at 11:09 am (4 years ago)

    This reminds me of the boy who wrote about being thankful for some rock band and his mom was sad that he didn’t write about family like the rest of his classmates. He just looked up at her and said, “That’s a given. I have always loved you the most and I always will. I wanted to write about something that everybody doesn’t already know.”

    • Amber
      December 13, 2011 at 9:57 pm (4 years ago)

      Ah Rebecca. You always give me the perspective I need. Thank you.

  8. CJ
    December 13, 2011 at 11:14 am (4 years ago)

    I am so sorry. You are the center of her world. Just cling to that. Big mom hugs.

    • Amber
      December 13, 2011 at 9:57 pm (4 years ago)

      Thank you. I know that I am. And it’s good that she has others she loves so. But it’s hard to remember sometimes.

  9. Galit Breen
    December 13, 2011 at 3:27 pm (4 years ago)

    Oh my heart, yes, does it ever hurt.

    {This post? This raw and true and transparent post? Kicks some serious ass!}

    • Amber
      December 13, 2011 at 9:56 pm (4 years ago)

      Thanks. I find the best posts come out of me just writing what I need to write. Which is why I do this prompt…but I could do without the pain that prompted it.


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