Everything I Know About Being a Mom

Happiness is a quick goodbye.

The only thing worse than being away from Conrad was saying bye-bye to him every morning before I left for work. He'd see me reach for my purse and toddle over, clutch my leg, and wail, "Mommy, stay!" My guilt would mount and a process that should take five minutes would drag on for a minimum of 40. I was raised on a dramatic Italian goodbye, but when it comes to kids, lengthy farewells create unnecessary anxiety. The longer I stayed, the more he cried when it was finally time to go. I was killing him softly, and the best thing I could do was reduce our morning routine to two words: distract and disappear. My sitter, Mildred, would plop him in front of Elmo, and I'd sneak out. It was a solution, but it just made him suspicious and clingy.

When my maternity leave with Dash was ending, I knew I needed to come up with a better exit strat-egy. An enlightened friend suggested that I be honest, say goodbye, and let the kids see me leave. Be honest? I laughed in her face because that scenario scared me to death. But sneaking out wasn't working either, so I tried it. A week before work started, Mildred and I did practice runs. I looked my kids in the eye and said, "Mommy is leaving to go to the doctor." Conrad cried, so Dash cried. I got snot on my shoulder during a blubbering hand-off, but by the time I got to the doctor's office and called home to check on them they were playing happily. Now, I tell it to them straight and make my exits as fast as pulling off a Band-Aid.

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