A couple weeks ago I was asked to attend a meeting about the state of women and education in Utah. It was in the middle of the day--the worst time possible for a SAHM to get a babysitter. But I'm pretty lucky my parents live up the street, so I called on my dad.
My dad is my most reliable babysitter. He always says yes and he never gets ruffled if my kids are grumpy or if the baby cries. He makes house visits or has the kids over to his house whatever is best for me. This is a huge privilege I know, one I don't take for granted.
Even so, there is a part of me that always feels a little guilty for dropping my kids in his lap during his spell of relaxed retirement. Because his father died when he was sixteen and the oldest of eight children, my dad has had a lifetime of parenting. He deserves to sit outside on his manicured lawn and survey his grounds in solitude. (Even though he get the most pleasure in hard work and not sitting around much--a characteristic he passed on to me.)
But on this particular October day I was feeling extra rushed and immensely guilty for causing ripples in my Dad's life. When I had children I thought I was choosing a life of constant home-boundedness but I've found so much joy in other pursuits as well. I want to go to the meetings about women and education, I want to speak at the book release party, I want to do fundraising for community programs, I want to do lots of things and be at home with my kids.
And I do, but that doesn't mean I don't feel guilty about it sometimes. I think because I somehow heard a convoluted message growing up that mothering meant no more me. I believed that when I devoted myself to the cause of my family, I would no longer exist as a separate identity. I am not sure how I came to this perverted idea, as my own mother was a neighborhood activist, college student, church leader and friend to many. While she was home most of the time, we also knew she had her own hopes and dreams separate of raising us.
After I positioned the girls in my parent's front room and reminded them about not making too much of a mess out of the toy closet, I said good bye and started out to my car. This time my dad followed me, my baby locked between his chest and elbow, and opened the car door for me.
"Let me help you any time you need it. I am so proud of you and everything you are doing Court," he said to me as I slid into the driver's seat, stopping for a second to pull a baby doll out from under me.
"Thanks Dad," I replied feeling in that moment more accepted by him than I've ever felt in my whole life.
And as I drove away, I watched in the rear view mirror as my dad took my baby, still in his arms, back into the warm house where my girls were waiting for him to play, and I started to cry.
And I still can't think of that moment without crying.