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Soccer Mom Wannabe

Welcome to postmodern child rearing: I watch my son at daycare over the internet. He is growing up in Technicolor, right on my screen.

By Jessica Smartt Gullion

He has not moved from that spot for 40 minutes. He just sits and watches the other kids come in. I think he has a book— it is hard to tell for sure.

The screen updates every five seconds or so. It reminds me of dancing under a strobe light. Flash: He’s sitting on the floor. Flash: Here comes a little girl. Flash: She whacks him on the head. Flash: He’s crying. Flash: Here comes the teacher.

Now, where is he? Flash: He’s crawled over to the cubby holes. Flash: What’s in there?

Every morning the alarm screams at 6:00 am. We get up, get washed, get fed, get dressed, strap his flailing body into the car seat, and haul him out to the daycare where two 18 year old girls watch him and ten other kids so I can go to my job that pays the daycare bill. And I become the voyeur. Welcome to postmodern child rearing: I watch my son at daycare over the internet. He is growing up in Technicolor, right on my screen.

The picture is not very clear. I can make out my son, but I can’t read his face. He is a blue blur. Wait— is that him? Yes, he has cuffs on his jeans this morning (they are too big but I couldn’t find anything else that fit/was clean).

I shouldn’t complain: I am lucky in today’s harsh economy to have a job that pays so well. At least that’s the propaganda they feed me over the TV.

I am lucky…

My mother’s generation fought hard so that a woman like me could earn a higher degree and have a prestigious career and make more money that most of her male co-workers. Feminists fought so their daughters could integrate into a man’s world, and perhaps, take it over. I am woman, hear me roar.

Problem is, this world sucks. I miss my family. On a typical day I am with my son (awake) for about 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes at lunch, and about 2 hours in the evenings for a grand total of 3 hours per day. I spend more time with my co-workers than my husband or son.

Not that my mother’s generation had it any better. Certainly not. If I were forced to stay home all day doing under-appreciated, mind-numbing child care and house work, my thoughts and opinions and ideas all chalked up to a lot of nothing— silly girl!— you betcha I’d be complaining. But sometimes I think we got ourselves out of one bad situation and into another.

Flash: Kids are disappearing. Must be diaper changing time. Those girls have to change 11 toddlers. I bet they get paid minimum wage. Flash: Where’d he go?

When I was in graduate school there was this old hippie in the program named Juanita. She wasn’t really that old, it was just that she had long, gray hair down to her waist and wore no make-up, and dressed in sloppy drab clothes. She looked old. Juanita had read everything Karl Marx ever wrote and was always jonesing to go to Cuba. Viva la revolution! She used to walk around muttering: it’s gonna be ok, everything’s gonna be ok. Juanita wanted to overthrow the government and restructure society. She just had to pass her comprehensive exams first. I used to think the woman was crazy as a loon. But maybe she had a point.

Marx says that we are being exploited for our labor. It doesn’t matter how much money you make. The money part is irrelevant because no matter how much we make we are being exploited. We are disposable drones, punching in, punching out, selling our time., selling our souls. Agreeing that we would rather make money than be with our families. We would rather make money than care for our kids. We would rather sit at our desks watching our children over the internet.

Flash: Seriously, I can’t see him.

The first day of daycare sucked. I cried, he cried. How terrifying it must be, to be plopped down on the floor in a room full of strangers— alone. Where’s mommy? Where’s daddy? Will they come back? This is not my beautiful house. He was so happy before that— going out with mommy and daddy! Where are we going today? It must be Saturday because mommy is going out with us! Are we going to the mall? Oh good fun!

Now, he’s caught on. He cries when we get him dressed. He cries when we take him to the car. He screams when we try to strap him the in car seat. He cries at the day care. Please don’t leave me here mommy please don’t leave me I love you don’t go stay with me I will give you kisses mommy MOMMY PLEASE NO.

Flash: Oh, that blob in the teacher’s lap is my son.

I can’t reconcile this working/daycare thing. If I were a religious woman I would “let go and let God.” But I’m not, so I fight it every day.

I never thought I would pray to be a stay-at-home soccer mom.

mmo : april 2005

Since writing this essay, Jessica Smartt Gullion has had a daughter, who now is at the same daycare as her brother. “I watch both of them on my computer at work. I am still very conflicted with my decision to work outside the home.” You can read her blog at www.suburbanplayground.com/blog/
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