When I was younger and dreaming of what my life would look like when I grew up and had a family, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think there would be another woman. I thought my little nuclear family would be just that: A mommy, a daddy, and a couple of kids. I always imagined that I would be home with the kids, taking them to the library, play groups, and dance classes while my husband worked hard to support our family. That's not how my life worked out. Another woman came in and changed how I viewed pretty much every aspect of my life.
That woman's name is Melissa, and she is our son's daycare teacher.
After having our son and going back to work a mere 10 weeks after giving birth, I was a mess. There is no other word to describe how I felt. I was broken. My heart was torn apart. I cried at least three times every day because I just gave birth to another human, this sweet, squishy baby boy, and I had to hand him over and let someone else raise him. Thinking back to this time still brings tears to my eyes. It was the most heartbroken I have ever been and, I hope, will ever be.
Over the first year and a half of Will's life, we had two babysitters for him. Both of them were great at the time we had them. They were exactly what Will needed at those stages of his life but I felt like something was missing. I had always heard that once you found the right babysitter, you just "knew." Just like a romantic partner, this parenting partner and you are supposed to share this undeniable bond, this chemistry that makes dropping your child off easier. I was told that once you find this person, your family is complete. Going to work becomes easier and you don't feel so heartbroken all the time. While I was hopeful that would someday be the case, I didn't believe it. I didn't think anything would ever make me feel less broken about letting another person raise my son for eight hours a day.
And then I met Melissa.
We found her by chance. A coworker mentioned she saw a bunch of kids get dropped off at this house every morning a few doors down from her. I took a chance, with a little help of Google creeping, and gave this stranger who lives a few doors down from my colleague a call. I met with her a few days later and I felt it, just a hint of it, but there was something there. Like when you go on a first date and you feel like this could be the beginning of something special? This is how I felt when I met Melissa for the first time.
Will's first day with her was a week later and I was beyond anxious with the idea of dropping him off with who was, essentially, a stranger. She sent me pictures throughout the day and it was crystal clear that he was happy and thriving. For the first time, I didn't feel like I was handing over my son to be raised by someone else because I couldn't provide for him in the way I wanted. I felt like I was doing something to enrich his life. She betters his life with language, curriculum, and socialization that I would never be able to give him. She is an asset to our lives and so much more than just a babysitter. Over the past year and half, this woman has become Will's third parent. Rarely do I make a decision about his life without first discussing it with her and sometimes, I wonder what I did before she came into our lives.
For the first time in three years, I felt ok going back to work this August. I didn't get depressed, I didn't cry, I simply dropped him off for a great day of learning and love with someone who has become a member of our family. There is nothing that I will ever be able to do to show this woman how much she means to me and my family. Not only is she giving my son a wonderful life, she has given me one of the greatest gifts of all: peace of mind.
When I was younger and I imagined what my family would look like, I imagined a daddy who works hard for our family, a stay at home mommy, and a couple of kids. Today, as I write this essay, I can't help but feel #blessed because while life didn't turn out how I had expected, we now have a family member without whom our family would not be complete. We have another woman. We have a Melissa, and we couldn't love her more.