When I was a kid, I remember going to my dad’s office all the time. I loved it there, and since he was a university professor, he had a ton of freedom and could pretty much bring us along whenever he wanted. He would walk down to the university daycare and pick me up after preschool, and the two of us would walk, hand in hand, back to his office building. We’d take the elevator up to the fourth floor, stopping at the vending machine on the way for treats, and head to his office and lab area. He had a small office, filled to the brim with books and papers and unorganized clutter. He also had a teaching lab, where graduate students would look at cell embryos and work on experiments that would be later shipped to Kennedy Space Center for launch into space. They may have been annoyed with the four-year-old running around, but they never acted like it. They’d give me candy and keep special treats in their desks. I’d draw them pictures and they’d post them proudly over their workspaces.
Eventually I’d settle in right underneath the extra desk my dad kept in his office. I’d create a path through the stacked books and papers, sometimes stacked as tall as me, and would go into my “cave,” the area underneath the desk. I decorated it with drawings and pictures, I’d read books with a flashlight and enjoy whatever special treat I’d picked from the vending machine. My dad would sit at his own desk, close by, working quietly, but always stopping if I needed help or wanted to show him something. Now my dad has risen in the ranks and no longer uses that old office. He has a fancy desk in a different building, one with a nameplate that says “Dean of Arts and Sciences” on it. But his old office is still there, shut up tight, untouched since he was promoted years ago. He claims he never had time to clean it out, and no one needed it, so there it sits. A time capsule, with my faded drawings still decorating the walls.
There are days when being a working parent is just too much for me. Days when all I want is to let Lulu sleep in, instead of forcing her awake before the sun is up. Days when I feel like I’m just missing so much. Preparing for this new baby, touring daycares and paying entrance fees, makes it worse. I start to worry and wonder, am I doing the right thing? Am I ruining them? Will they resent the fact that I worked, instead of staying home with them, making cookies and going to the zoo?
But then I have those days. Lu comes to work with me, awed by my job and my work clothes and my office. Running from desk to desk, office to office, saying hi to everyone and receiving treats. And soon enough she settles in with a special treat from the vending machine and a box of crayons, and before I know it, I look under my desk and see this:
When we leave, she begs to come back again. She can’t wait to spend another day at mommy’s work. And I know that these memories will always be with her, as strong as ones depicting a trip to the zoo.
I may not be doing it the way everyone else does, but I think I’m getting it right.