Can you do me a Sara

Sophie tends to overextend any new vocabulary word that she learns, so that “ball” means anything circular, “moon” means anything white in the sky, “kitty” means any four-legged creature. Lately, “Sara” means anyone who is about to help her.

Sara is the name of Sophie’s daycare teacher. When Sophie wants to say, “Can you please help me with this?” what she actually says is “Sara?”

I answer, “My name is Mama.”

So Sophie re-phrases her question: “Sara, Mama?”

Ben keeps laughing at this. He has started saying, “Can you do me a Sara?” He even tries calling me “Sara-Mama,” trying to take the sting out of that phrase.

I am trying to tell myself that it’s a wonderful thing that Sophie thinks of her daycare teacher as nurturing and helpful. It IS a wonderful thing. But it also hurts my feelings. Fortunately, I assume Sophie will grow out of it soon enough.

I mentioned this to another friend, a stay-at-home-mom whom we were visiting. “Well, that’s the choice you made,” she said. As if choosing to put Sophie in daycare three days a week meant choosing to lose my name.

I actually had trouble responding. I haven’t really talked to that friend since. It was a Friday, she had had a long week home alone with her kids, and was snapping at them, too. I think I just changed the subject. I tend to take a while to express hurt feelings, and even to question whether I should even be hurt.

So on Saturday I asked T, another mother who happens to also use daycare. “Are you sure that mother you saw on Friday was really your friend?” she said.

I had hoped that the supposed “Mommy Wars” had ended, that there was no need for jealous competition between moms who work outside the home and moms who stay at home. I had assumed that we respect each other’s choices and recognize that each choice contains its drawbacks. But I was wrong. Partly because my feelings can be hurt so easily by someone blithely announcing that putting a child in daycare means being replaced in your child’s affections by the daycare teacher. Partly because anyone would ever presume to say that.

I know that for both Sophie and me, her thrice-weekly daycare is a terrific arrangement. She has learned so much, felt so nurtured, made such close friends, and given me the chance to rejuvenate myself with other adults, not to mention earn a paycheck and do a job I love. But there is guilt, there is defensiveness, and it’s a strange thing.

So I keep telling Sophie, “My name is Mama, not Sara.”

And I tend to gravitate towards other mothers who also use daycare, in a self-segregation that has nothing to do with schedules (I’m home with Sophie on Thursdays and Fridays, so I could easily have playdates with the stay-at-homes) and everything to do with avoiding trampling on overly-senstitive feelings.

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