Anna Karenina’s Kid Went to Daycare
February 11, 2010 · Posted in Buddhism/Parenting, Caregivers, Parenting, Work/Family Balance · Permalink

kramskoi-neizvestnaiaby Bethany Saltman

Ok, so it wasn’t daycare—it was a governess. And yes, I know Anna threw herself beneath a train and died, so it’s probably not going to help my cause to be comparing myself to her. But wait: Tolstoy, the original family man, believed that Anna loved her son so much that she was afraid to divorce her dull, mean husband for the fabulous (-ish) Vronsky because the kid’s life would be ruined. In the end, she was so tortured by having to choose between her son and her lover that she couldn’t take it anymore.

But Anna is no super-mom. Far from it. This is how Anna feels coming home from some lovely evening out as her son runs to greet her:

“Her son, like his father, produced on Anna a feeling akin to disappointment. Her fancy had pictured him nicer than he was in reality. She had to come down to reality in order to enjoy him as he was. But even as he was, he was charming, with his fair curls, blue eyes, and plump, shapely legs in tight-fitting stockings.”

My point is that EVEN Anna—depressed, obsessed, tragic, not exactly playing on the floor in stretchy bottoms—is portrayed by someone I respect as a loving mother. And I—nursing, feeding, playing, sure, a bit melancholy, sometimes down, but mostly pretty present, but sending Baby to J’s for home daycare 20-odd hours a week so I can teach, work, write, be alone, run, do this—feel totally guilty and shamed by the world (notice I said “feel,” not “am”—I don’t actually believe that everyone is scorning me, well, maybe a little).

The last couple of weeks I have been on break from school, and had this idea that I should not send Baby to J’s since I wasn’t technically working. For the most part she went as scheduled, but boy, did I pay for it in anguish. Turns out I worked my ass off—beating myself up is a full-time job!

This morning I dropped Baby off in my running gear, all ready for when I returned home. On the drive there I was prepping myself, wondering if I would lie if J asked me casually if I was going for a run. Would I say that I already went, embarrassed that I would do such a thing while my child in is the care of another? What kind of woman must I be?

She never asked.

This article first appeared online in Chronogram Magazine, January 15, 2007.

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  1. Lola
    February 16th, 2010 | 9:58 pm

    I love the way you write Bethany!

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