My one goal, upon my daughter’s return from a summer vacation with her dad, was to secure a full-time job.
Moments away from applying at the Spearmint Rhino, I looked down, quickly reminded that I would have to buy bigger boobs first. Then I received a call from a network offering me a job!
Never mind it’s a three-month freelance gig, and I have the added bonus of working my ass off to prove to the network that I am not expendable after 90 days—I am employed.
The night before my ex-husband and daughter flew home from Quebec, I called excitedly to relieve my ex of any anxiety he might feel due to my impending move; although temporary, it would have been into his house. Though, before he could form the words, “Bonjour, Daniella,” I shouted, “I’m working, I’m working! No, no not as a call girl, not yet!”
My impulsive nature got the best of me. I should have told my daughter face to face about my new job. I knew she would be conflicted and need my support.
As I pulled up to the LAX international arrivals area it was all I could do not to jump out of my car and into my little girl's arms. Due to my overzealous lead foot, I tapped a police car's bumper instead. The officer in the car smiled, sort of. Hmm, maybe he wants to take me on a date? Who am I kidding? No one dates anymore.
I picked up my daughter and we drove off. I pulled my visor down and looked in the mirror to see her wide eyes and delicious smile behind me. I expected a relentless barrage of vacation stories; instead, she recalled a book she read and recited the following narrative:
“Mommy, we read this story in my classroom, about a man who was really poor but he loved to sing because it made him happy. He sang all day and all night, but he annoyed people. So, one day a really rich man gave the poor man a bunch of money to stop singing. The poor man needed the money for a place to live and to eat. He took the money and never sang again. The poor man finally had a house and more things than he ever imagined but he was super-sad because he didn’t sing anymore. So then he gave all the money back to the rich man. The rich man was shocked, but the poor man walked away and said, “I rather sing and be happy than never sing and have money and be sad.”
Her tears were full and endless. Her emotions were raw and it wasn’t because she missed me. The depth she usually displays never ceases to amaze me—but this analogy blew me away!
Spending my daughter’s third-grade year as a "stay at home mom" was something I'd aspired to since she started elementary school. Conversely, I didn’t expect to achieve it in the way that I did. Even so, for the first time in four years, I was 100 percent available, 100 percent of the time. But the year was not met without its obvious challenges, and some not so obvious: such as other "stay at home moms." If there is a cookie-cutter image of such a parent, I am clearly not the typical example.
I did, however, volunteer for every class event, chaperoned a few field trips, lent a hand at every class party. I didn’t miss one Friday assembly or any school function. I was even available to volunteer as a hairstylist for the casts of all of her musical-theater performances. Last but not least, I picked my daughter up every day when school ended. Indeed, a special year, for us both.
Sitting on the 405 parking lot heading north back to our humble abode in Sherman Oaks, I had ample time to explain to my daughter about the importance of having a job.
I was struggling to get my words out because I knew the only words she heard were “Mommy won’t be at my school in fourth grade.”
“I don’t want to stay after school!" "I don’t want to go home with friends every day because you can't ever pick me up at the end of my school day!"
I pushed my visor up, I couldn’t bear to glance at her tear-filled cheeks any longer. This is one of many things I cannot fix but this is a big one!
Our car is filled with song every day of the week. There isn’t a moment when one of us isn’t singing. However, on this hot day in July the atmosphere was especially thick and somber.
The parking lot started to open up.
Whispering through her tears, I heard her say clearly and concisely, “Mommy, I don’t want you to stop singing.”
That night, as she fell asleep in my arms, I sang lullabies.