On my wedding day a little less than two years ago, my sister and matron of honor, Carrie, presented me with a new hard cover copy of Little Women and inscribed it with the wish that I would read it to my daughter (should I ever have one) as our mom had done for us. You see there are four girls in my family just as there are four March sisters in Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel. We sisters always laughed as we compared ourselves to our counterpart in the book.
A few weeks ago, I took the book off the shelf in my infant daughter’s room, re-read the inscription from my sister, and thought it a good a time as any to start reading to my daughter the words of this cherished work of literature. My daughter seems to fuss a bit less when I rock her and read to her–no matter what the nature of the text–so I began reading the novel aloud, a chapter at a time. She is usually fast asleep one or two pages in, but I keep going (for my sake as much as hers)!
As I’ve read through the first ten chapters, I’ve been struck by the character of Marmee (the mother to the four little women at the center of the book). Marmee is the mother we should all aspire to be. Her kindness and wisdom know no bounds. Rather than tell her daughters how to tackle a problem, she helps show them. For example, when the girls persist in their complaints about their school work and household chores, she gives them the week off to do as they please and lounge at their leisure. After a mere few days of this new found freedom, the girls grow bored and cranky. Soon after, they eagerly pick up the chores they had so hastily cast off just days before. Marmee smiles as she sees her plan working–the girls learned the lesson she had hoped they would–that working has value and provides an outlet for our creative energies.
Perhaps, I should heed this lesson as today I find myself at the two-week mark before returning to work full time. I certainly have enjoyed these last ten weeks of maternity leave, bonding with my baby daughter, spending ample time outdoors and enjoying being out and about during the hours I would typically be at work. I’d be lying if I said I’m looking forward to returning to work. I’m sad to leave my baby girl. I’m nervous about balancing work and motherhood. And if I’m being honest, I’m going to miss being in control of my own day.
But perhaps cosmic forces led me to the bookshelf to begin reading Little Women when I did so that I could stumble upon Marmee’s wisdom at this critical juncture when I need reassurance about my decision to return to work. Marmee’s right–there is value in work, and I have a lot of creative energy to unleash for which work provides an outlet. I hope one day my daughter sees me as a role model for balancing a career and parenthood. And as Marmee would say, I’ll probably be a better person for it, and I dare say, so will my baby girl.