Cut my heart in sums

A little over a week ago I wrote that "I am increasingly convinced that women should not devote themselves wholly to their children," and that having a kid in quality daycare is better for the kid than a stay-at-home mom. I may have to eat my words. I am starting to think Nugget is noticeably happier now than he was when he was in daycare.

Of course, Nugget was unusually emotional during the couple months just before I left my job, because Trent was living in Washington while Nugget and I were still in Chicago. So my baseline may be off. But I am starting to dread the morning I put him in daycare again and try to walk away.

For most of the year-plus Nugget was in daycare in Chicago, Trent had drop-off duty, so I escaped the emotional toll of weepy drop-offs. The couple months I did drop Nugget off every morning, when Trent was gone, it didn't really bother me. I knew Nugget would stop crying pretty much immediately after I left, I knew he actually liked his teachers and friends and enjoyed "school," and I knew he was well taken care of there. And I had a job to get to.

What worries me now is that I won't exactly have a "job" to go to after I drop him off. I'll be dropping him off so that I can work, but I'm not the breadwinner on whom the family depends anymore, and the work I'll be doing will not require that I clock into an office at any time. I think that will make it harder to walk away.

I've even considered whether I could in fact work with Nugget at home. In setting up my office I've designated an alcove for toys so Nugget can play nearby when I need to work and he's around. Could I get by with that?

Today I was pretty convinced that I could not. Not that I was trying to get much done -- just unpacking some boxes, making dinner, etc. -- but we had a bit of a trying day, including two timeouts (which I do only as a last resort, a subject I should come back to for another post sometime). It struck me that despite his increasing independence, his needs are still pretty constant, and there is no way I could put in sustained concentration on something intellectually and emotionally challenging, as I would like to do. It would not be fair to either of us. So daycare it is.

Our neighborhood is called, appropriately for me, "the End of the World." I'm living in the End of the World in Port Angeles, a town scarcely big enough to name its neighborhoods. In many ways, life is the same. We still have the internet, after all.

The most striking differences often have to do with socioeconomics. That was one of the things I noticed the last time I lived in a smaller town, in Mankato, Minnesota. When I'd visit my parents in their leafy, townhoused neighborhood on Chicago's north side after being in Mankato for a while, I found it hard to adjust to the stark extremes of wealth and poverty that are constantly in your face in an urban setting. I hadn't noticed it before. But in Mankato, as in Port Angeles, you don't see homeless people and you don't see a lot of flashy money. Even the homes on the water here are pretty modest. There is no status symbol culture, probably because there aren't enough people wealthy enough to sustain it. And those who have more money than most--which includes us, though we are now almost poor by the standards of most people I know back home--are too conscious of being in the minority to want to engage in conspicuous consumption. That's my current theory, anyway.

I have a lot more thoughts on this subject but it's a tough thing to talk about. Socioeconomics are the greatest American taboo. So taboo we can't even admit it's a taboo. So taboo we'd rather talk about race, for god's sake. Anything but acknowledge that the American dream--whatever you may believe about its functional reality--cannot change the fact that there will always be haves and have-nots.

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