I walked the girls to the sitter’s this morning. After dressing them for what the weatherman predicted would be another muggy day, I strapped the Baby Bjorn to my chest and gathered the three pairs of shoes we would need. Avery came to me in her teetering Franken-walk, arms high above her head, mouth wide open and her eyes glinting with “Look at what I can do!” She grabbed the straps of the carrier while rotating her body and launched herself into my chest, an emphatic, “Carry me now, mama!”

I paused, this moment with her body against mine rocked me to the core. Walking has curbed her once frequent showers of hugs and kisses for me. I did not want to take her to the sitter, didn’t want to sit at the computer and work. Tendrils of her hair kissed my face, the scent reminiscent of fresh cut lumber. Cedar. I longed to stay breathing her in, devouring the nearness of my baby. Too quickly, the burden of the work that awaited me chased thoughts of building forts and painting pictures to another place. Slightly deflated, I slipped shoes on their feet and called out:

“Let’s go, girls.”

We walked along the sidewalk, Briar speed shuffling, her curls wild and brilliant in the sun. Placing my hand under Avery’s arms I ran a few steps, she kicked and giggled with delight as the wind hit her face. Passing cars on their way to work slowed, watching us as we skipped and stopped to touch peeling fire hydrants. I’m sure we were a sight, so few people seem to ever just play. This morning I did so with abandon, or maybe more correctly, I did it deliberately. Knowing that I had to work and that this afternoon the girls would have just half my attention, I made the most of the walk. I called hello to birds, exclaimed over squirrels, and spoke of sleeping tractors and magical fairies. Briar chattered right back and Avery popped out the odd sound as she imitated our conversation.

The walk is only about 6 blocks and as we rounded the last corner my heart sank. I had enjoyed pretending I was a stay at home mom, that this walk was just a break from the toys and activities at home. But it wasn’t and the blue and gray craftsman facing me stung with its heavy front door that would soon open and close, my girls on one side and I on the other. Briar scampered up the steps and Avery ordered me to, “Go, go,” so excited at the prospect of seeing the kids. I made the drop off swift and headed back to my Monday.

The streets didn’t seem magic, I didn’t skip. The princess castle was just a church being rehabbed by a nut, the sleeping tractor coughed hot acrid clouds that burned my nose and the squirrels made a hateful scratching sound as if to say, “Just go away.” I fought back tears as I sped home. I’d work hard, I would finish it all before I got the girls so that I could give them my everything. I’d make it up to them. I’d be a good mom.

Good mom rang in my ears. Taunting me. I spent the last two blocks of my walk calming down, reminding myself of all the reasons I am a good mom. It was a not unusual Monday morning conversation with myself. Long sweet weekends sustain me with time spent being mama, but by Monday, my appetite has exploded, made more potent by the complete immersion in life with our girls. I need to work, I know this, both for money and for satisfaction. I puff with pride when Briar talks about, “Mama working hard on the computer” and I have done incredible work with a baby at my breast. It has worked, as I have worked and parented.

But one thing never does change and that is that on Monday there is always a small part of me that feels as if I am dying.