Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dear Meera

Dear Meera,
I cried hard when I left you to go to work this morning. You didn't know I was crying. Partly because you were crying so hard yourself (you weren't really noticing much except that I was walking out the door). And partly because I managed to get the door shut behind me before I broke down. I remember mornings like this when your brothers were your age-- mornings when I'd cry deep wet tears when I'd have to leave them. I try to hold it together. For everyone's sake. But your Papi sees me when it falls apart. Thankfully, he's pretty good about hugging me and telling me that it is all going to be alright. But there is nothing that can dampen it: it is so hard for a Mama to leave her baby. Somehow, even though I've been at this now for more than four years, I still can't seem to find a way to make it any easier on myself. Margie held you and your brothers distracted you and within a few seconds I could hear (from where I was standing in the garage, sobbing) that you weren't crying anymore. So, I proceeded to cry enough for the two of us combined. And that is how I started my day. Less than two hours later I was up in front of a classroom of eager college students on their second day of class, lecturing about sociology, and trying to just grin-and-bear-it that the mascara I had painstakingly taken the time to apply this morning was long gone (wasted on the fistfuls of teary-wet crumpled-up-Kleenex now sitting in the cup holder of my car). And so, the school year has begun. For me at least. And it is back to the grind. Last year I had it easy-- with maternity leave for the fall semester, and then my first semester back (with the excuse that it was my first semester back always there at the ready). But now, now there is no more buffer. And we're right back in the thick of it. Except now we have you too. And it is always harder to leave a baby than it is to leave a bigger kid. At least it is for me. And somehow, Meera, because you're so sweet and easy and full-of-grace, and maybe because I know too that you are my last baby, you are particularly hard for me to leave. And so I spend this day at work like I will so many -- feeling emotionally exhausted before the day even begins; questioning why on earth I'm doing all of this; and generally feeling total psychic upheaval. This is no easy road to travel. But we're on it together. And more than ever, for you my girl, and for your brothers, I feel that I must keep on putting one foot in front of the other. For as hard as this is to do, it is something that women like me must do. And though it isn't a life for everyone, it is done for everyone, and I need to keep on keepin' on. And I will. However, I'd be lying if I were to say that it is possible to push out of my mind all that I am missing during every hour of each of these days. And the tears spring quickly to my eyes if I let myself remember that I'm not the one feeding you your morning bottle, or lying you down for your nap, or watching you play and swim and learn and discover. And on days like this one-- where I need to teach a graduate seminar that will run until 7:00 tonight, I won't even be able to put you to bed. And that, my baby, is hard. I know, though, that we can't give up. Because if we do, then you -- my girl -- will not have the chances that so many before us fought so hard to earn you and I. And so it goes. And we keep clinging to that hope that it will all be worth it in the end. I believe it will. I love you my baby girl.


MorMor said...

A teary MorMor send her love.

Patricia said...

Hang in there, comrade!

Haitian-American Family of Three said...

You made me cry. Again.

Can you tell me who did the artwork on the top? Its very lovely.

Anonymous said...

This is a great letter.

Please remove sincerely and sign it Love, Mommy.

Mary McG in TN said...

... and it NEVER gets any better. I still cry when I leave my 35 year old daughter in her lovely home, with the best husband, and the cutest daughter. Even though I know with all of my heart that she is in the best of situations, it still hurts.

This was said hoping that you realize that your reactions are totally normal (I know you are a sociologist). Your mother feels the same way when you leave her. It is okay. We just don't cry in front of them!!!

Anonymous said...

do you really have to work? amazing home. amazing pool. a guy to mow your lawn, out-of-country vacations...things we only dream of. it seems like you make an incredible salary, between the 2 of you, atleast. would it be impossible to take 3-4 years off and go back when she enters full time k or 1st grade? how much would you have to give up? you dont get these years back. you seem so torn, i dont know. i just wish you could be home with them.

Heather said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Braydon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Braydon said...

I for one think my wife is totally awesome, love her more for what she does and support her a billion percent. It's hard everyday, but it so much richer, fuller and wonderful than if she was not working.

I also believe Heather's contribution to the world is tremendous both in terms of the effect she has on her students, and also the long term societal impact and implications of her scholarship.

She is blazing trails in creating a model that young women can look up to and emulate. One that is honest about her feelings yet, committed to the good works she does.

We all should give to the greater good where we can, and Heather goes above and beyond every day.

(sorry about the deleted comment, I messed up the previous one).

Jenn said...

I think the decision to work or not to work is a hard one and I can see both sides. Many women would die for the chance to stay home and raise their children but finances do not allow. While others choose to work even if they don't "have" to. The two sides have been battling it out for decades and I highly doubt a resolution is on the horizon.

I can understand Heather's desire to work outside the home and cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone feels it their job to stand in judgement.

Jen said...

beautiful letter. I suspect I will write something similar to my (future!) children someday. I admire your work & life!

Jess said...


I've been reading for a loooong time, but I haven't commented in quite sometime...but for some reason I feel compelled today.

As a mother, reading this post broke my heart. Your writing is amazing.. You capture the enormous love you have for your kids in a way, that I think many of us reading can feel it!

I love how honest you are.
about everything. the good. the bad the ugly.

I'm so sorry that on a day like today, when you feel the way you do, someone would take a jab at you. and a cowardly jab at that.

Mark and Sarah said...

Keep on keeping on is right. You are an amazing mother, wife and professor. I know many women look up to you, including me.

Gregory and Tegan said...

I just want to say a huge thank YOU for posting with such honesty. I have been following your blog for many (ok, many many) months now. I am touched, inspired and in awe. For all of us out there, you touch on SO MANY TOPICS we all face and struggle with. I am a working career woman. When we bring our child home, I will wrestle with the exact feelings you just posted about. Please, people, don't think this lovely family doesn't take EVERYTHING into consideration before making an EDUCATED decision about how to handle their life. We all strive to make decisions that are best for our own families. Heather, Braydon - I am grateful beyond measure for your honest blog. Thank you for sharing your experiences of life with us. I promise not to be a lurker anymore. :)
BTW, I am a Waldorf grad (8th grade through 12th grade). I had to smile when I heard where the boys were going to school. :)
I adore your family and am inspired by your energy and will to provide your family with so much (I refer to all things not material).
Cheers to you and your beautiful family.

Heather said...

Note to Anonymous:
I don't work solely for the money. People who think that women like me are working just for the money are ignorant to much. I don't have the energy to educate you, so suffice it to say-- I am committed to the work I do for many reasons that are unrelated to money. And yes, in my career field, it *is* impossible to take 3-4 years off -- I would *not* be able to go back to where I left off. "How much would you have to give up?"... I'd have to give up a LOT: 22 years of full-time education, a PhD, the mentoring of professors who invested themselves in me and my career, tenure at a top-50 ranked university, and the knowledge that I'm transforming the lives of my students --and potentially many others-- through the work that I do... and that is just the tip of the iceburg.

Lastly, if you are going to comment on this blog, at least have the guts to tell us who you are.

P.S. If you have a daughter (or, if you don't, then hypothetically, if you did have a daughter...) when she goes to college would you want her to only have male professors? If not, if you would want her to have some female inspiration on the campus (i.e., something other than circa 1920s academe), then I, and others like me, cannot quit. Unless, of course, you'd only want female childless professors for your daughter... which presents a whole host of other issues that I don't want to delve into right now. Bottom line: think about the implications of what you are suggesting.

Megan said...

As a stay-at-home mom I am incredibly grateful that there are working women out there, busting down walls so that my precious daughter has the option to choose to do whatever it is that will make her happy. It takes both stay-at-home AND working moms to show our little girls all of their options. So thanks for doing what you are doing!

M and M said...

Heather, thank you for your brave and courageous work, at home and at your University. Yesterday I waved my #2 girl off to her freshman year of college and I left my baby boy for the first time in a year (I had the great fortune of a year's leave compliments of the public school system) - it was one of those rough days for me too. And like you, I could NOT imagine missing the eager questions of my freshman students during their first (and for many, only) introduction to cultural anthropology. I always think of myself as a window for my students - being present as a woman, a mom, a as good for them as it is for me. So my son and I will make our adjustments and, well, crying is part of how we tell each other "you're important to me." Thank you.

TGR101 said...

What a great role model you are for your children, Heather. This letter lets them know that parenthood is a complicated, emotional journey with often difficult choices that must be made as we all try to find the balance between who we are as individuals and family members.
I applaud your honesty in this blog!

Carolyn Tarpey said...

Hi Heather,

I do not comment very often but read your blog all the time and LOVE it!

Thank you so much for sharing yourself so honestly to all of us outsides who cherish watching your family grow and learn together.

I think you are a remarkable mom, wife and career women. Your WHOLE family is so lucky to have you. Keep it coming....

Thanks again,

Chapter Two Manmi said...

I feel your sentiments deeply and couldn't stop my tears when reading. Your contributions to the world as a professional and as mommy are profound and appreciated by this manmi.

Tricia V. said...

As a soon-to-graduate-sociologist, I consider it invaluable to see women ahead of me, who are balancing these different areas of self, identity, and social contribution.

So big huge thanks to you, and wishing you much "kouraj" for the days when it's not so smooth.

Elyssium Earth said...

I was gonna say something partially articulate about how the world needs you, but your husband said it all. Instead I'll look at my tutors and profs just that bit differently for what they may be forsaking to teach ME. What an honour. xx *tissue?

This Mama said...

A beautiful post Heather.

I am sorry there are such negative folks out there :( You right when you said it is ignorant to assume that women work just for the $, the work you do is far more valuable than that and you should never be made to feel ashamed for your choices.

Candis said...

I don't believe the post was begging a solution. There are just some forks in the road of life that demand a choice--neither being less or more satisfying. HBJ is just lamenting that we none of us can have it all. Follow a lifetime dream or give it up to support another's. Pursue art or medicine. Become a nun as a ministry or marry and minister to a family. These are ALL huge and WORTHY choices. Lighten up, Holier-Than-Thou.
I'm with you Heather. Lament all you want. Just because it's painful doesn't mean it's bad.

Roxann said...

beautifully written. tugging at my heart strings. you are an amazing woman and i am sooooo incredibly proud of you for all that you do. i know, for one, you have had a significant impact on our lives and we love you to infinity, and beyond.

sending you a huge HUG.

love ya.