Feeling very pregnant and tired, I entered the obstetrician's office for my first appointment. A nurse came in to take down my information. She popped open her laptop with the bored look of having done it a million times that day. She began to ask all the standard questions. Secretly I wondered what she must be thinking as she recorded that I am expecting our fourth baby when my third is not yet 2 years old. That's pushing the 2.3 children per American family model, from what I've been told.
"Do you work outside the home?"
"No." (I've learned that gardening doesn't count as a "yes" answer to this question.)
For the first time since beginning her interrogation, she looked up, "You're a stay-at-home mom?"
"Yes," I answered, wondering if she expected me to sound ashamed. I'm a recovering approval junkie, remember, and I have occasional lapses. Especially during pregnancy. Especially during a fourth pregnancy when I've already received enough shocked looks, head shakes and unsolicited comments to wonder how the really big families make it through life with their self-esteem intact.
Instead of adding to my collection of rude comments, the nurse just looked back at her computer and said, "I envy you."
At first I didn't think I had heard her right. "Excuse me?"
She looked back up at me and explained, "I have two kids at home, and I hate having to leave them every day."
Then, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of sympathy for her. I don't know anything about her life. I don't know why she has to work when she'd rather be home with her kids. I can only imagine how heart-rending it would be to sit across from one pregnant lady after another, asking questions about their babies, all the time wondering if your baby decided to roll over that day. Or if your two-year-old was throwing a fit for the baby sitter. Or if your kindergartner had made it to the school bus o.k. and if he had his lunch money.
I'm glad she was there to do her job that day. I benefited from her clocking in to work. I just wonder if her children feel the same. And I wonder how long it's going to take for me to consistently take to heart the words of a quote I heard recently from an older mom, "This time (meaning the baby/toddler/preschooler stage) is made of long days and short years."