Does the guilt ever go away? Or is it just one of those visitors that you wish would go home, but that keeps on making itself more comfortable on the couch, ignoring your glances at your watch and asking for yet another cup of tea?
Yesterday was our first day back to work after the Christmas break. JP had had lots of chill-out time in our house in the country, watching movies, playing with his toys, falling asleep on the couch… it was everything that Christmas for a three-year-old should be. In fact, it was probably everything that a regular week for a three-year-old should be.
And then suddenly we were back in Dublin, in a house that felt like an ice-box because the heating had died, and there I was, bundling him, still puffy-eyed and half-asleep, into a car on a dark, cold morning and expecting him to be enthusiastic about going back to the crèche. He stood at the car door and wept, the sadness of the occasion seeming too much for him to bear.
Guilt swept over me like cold, black wave. It just never, ever gets any easier, does it?
Mr. G is able to much more practical on these occasions than I am and focuses on how lucky JP is, rather than on how much he is missing out on. In some ways, he’s right. JP has a loving home, a warm bed (well, when the heating works), enough food to eat whenever he’s hungry and a safe place to play each day, even if it’s not where he’d ideally like to be. But I can’t help harking back to my childhood and the warmth and comfyness that came from being at home with my mother all day. True – she was harried and short-tempered a lot of the time (who wouldn’t be, with six children to raise on a shoe-string) and the wooden spoon was frequently used for much more than cooking, but at least I was with her.
On days like yesterday, JP seems so small and vulnerable as we walk into the crèche in the watery, grey light of a slow winter sunrise, his little face upturned to mine as he clutches Snoopy, his constant companion. I can’t help feeling that I’m somehow letting him down. Maybe time will prove me wrong and his early experiences outside of the home will make him a stronger more confident person, leading to great professional accolades and even presidency, but I’m not so sure…
Even if all of that happens, I’m sure I’ll just find something else to feel guilty about.