The Lament of the Working Parent

I won't always be there. But then again, neither will my son.
Alexis Madrigal

I missed my first baby thing yesterday, on my second day back to work. It wasn't a big thing: he reached out, unfurled his hand, and grabbed an owl toy with a tinkling bell hidden inside. But it was something, an assertion of agency beyond a smile for like and a cry for dislike. 

Then, when work was done, and I began my caretaking shift, he cried as my wife returned him to my arms. Had I lost it? Parenting is a confidence job perpetrated on the self. One cannot lose one's nerve. My connection to my son, earned over the endless hours of two months, dropped in a day.

But mercifully, his crying stopped as I bounced, and my anxiety waned.

I remain a little melancholy. This milestone is the first of many I won't see.  I've gotta work. And work is time away from the kid, even if I have the privilege of mostly laboring from home at a job I love.

I know that what really matters isn't seeing the first steps or hearing the first words but being there for the walking and talking a million times over through all the years.

And I know I can't be a completist about his life. His independent personhood is total. But for a while it was nice to pretend that I could experience life right by his side. For me, if not for him. 

As I walked him in his stroller in the still warm air of the early evening, western sun slanted though rooftops to light the tips of trees transforming for winter. Leaves fell around us. He was asleep, of course.

There's so much of life that no one remembers. We're the sum of so many ghostly parts.

Presented by

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Technology

Just In