The sight of a soundly sleeping baby should be welcome, but when you didn’t get to read him a story, feed him and kiss him goodnight, it instead can be a painful image. You missed it. You missed your chance for the snuggle you crave throughout your eight- or 10- or 12-hour workday. You missed the opportunity to tell that nugget how much you love him, even though he’s not old enough yet to understand a single word you say; he’d grin and coo at you anyway. You missed your shot to be the last person he sees before he drifts off. For what? Because someone on your team showed up at 11 a.m. and delayed everything? Because your department is understaffed and overworked and it was your turn to pick up the slack? Because it’s busy season and tight-deadline season and no amount of planning and efficiency could help you avoid a late night?
You count yourself lucky that late nights aren’t every night, as they are for some folks. You’re grateful that your partner can take on parenting duty solo so you’re spared the impossible task of finding someone willing to care for a little one on a weeknight with no predetermined end time. You’re tickled each time your spouse texts a smiling photo of your cutie with heartwarming messages, such as “Good luck tonight, Mommy!”
And yet, you can’t match your colleagues’ excitement when they decide to pick up dinner from that great place near the office. Each second after your usual quitting time feels like 20 minutes. And you question whether this forced separation is worth it for the job you have, or worth working at all.
It sucks, Mama.
But you will get that snuggle. You will get to tell your tot how much you adore him, and get a gummy grin in return. You will once again get to tuck him in, or, more accurately, zip the sleep sack around his tiny body. The more days that pass before you can return to that beloved nighttime routine, the sweeter it’ll be to do it again. And you’ll remind yourself not to take for granted those precious sleepy rituals, and you’ll appreciate them more the next time you do them.
As for that child of yours, he won’t remember these nights. But he will remember the warmth of your cuddles, his delight over the stories you told him and his absolute security as you said goodnight.
May your late work nights be short and few, and your shared bedtimes be happy and plentiful.