Taking care of a baby all day is no trifling task. On the surface they are not complicated creatures - keep them fed, dry, rested, and entertained - but oh! The physical, but more importantly, the mental energy it takes to do this day-in day-out should not be underestimated. Your child is just discovering the world, and can spend 20 minutes smiling at a red coffee cup. You'd think this would be a great opportunity for us adults to cast aside our cynicism and world-weariness, rediscover our childlike sense of wonder, and delight along with our babies at all the mundane details of life.
Sometimes it happens that way. But let's be real - more often than not, I am not content to spend my afternoon holding up a spatula for my little one to marvel at. I'm guilty of sneaking Facebook time on my phone while "playing" on the floor with my daughter. I find myself occasionally hurrying through the bedtime ritual in order to get to the wine, novel, and couch waiting for me on the other side.
Do I feel bad about this? Sometimes. Not too often. I am doing my best, and I really do find myself pausing numerous times a day to be in the moment with my daughter. I see the world through her eyes, hold her close and smell her, and let my heart balloon with gratitude.
I am also happy to disengage now and then. The 40-hour work week is taxing, but sometimes I enjoy being able to throw myself into the work that crosses my desk. I love my family so much that when I am home, I am emotionally switched on, all the time. It's sweet and intense and very, very draining. It's a relief to pack my heart away for a little while every day, to engage in activities that come from a place of intellect or routine rather than love and dedication and selflessness.
Selflessness? Well. That might be somewhat of an exaggeration. There is so much pressure on a woman to be selfless - as a daughter, as a wife, as a mother. Men are born free and live free until the day they decide to take on the responsibility of a family, and even then, their roles are clearly defined. Men do what men are supposed to do, like ships that sail from port to port, one mission at a time. And women? We're the water, flowing in and around, filling in all the gaps and keeping everything afloat. I don't feel remotely bad for casting off this role now and then and living just for me.
It hasn't been easy to balance, for sure. I will certainly not be running any more half marathons soon - after working all week, I have no desire to leave my baby for 4 hours on a Sunday to get a long run in. The work day is draining, not only because of the work, but because my breaks are spent pumping breastmilk in a storage room, and my lunches, rushing home or to daycare to feed my daughter and trying to make it back in under 45 minutes. I refuse to let dad take over the bedtime ritual so that I can make it to a class at the gym (besides breastfeeding, it's the only quality time we have together some days, and I regard that time as sacred), so between doing what I need to do for class and prepping everything for the next day, I often don't have time to exercise in the evenings.
And yes, I have had several crises of confidence since returning to work. Especially when I have to leave Amaliya at daycare, instead of at home with her daddy or grandma. Truth - I still fight tears every time I leave the infant room at daycare, and I reward myself with a Stell coffee each time I make it out without leaking a tear. Why do I have to leave my daughter with strangers? Why do I have to be the one to work full time while my husband works part time? Why can't we be financially stable enough for me to stay home with her? Why why why....
|Traumatized daycare face. "Mama don't leave meeeee!"|
The whining and fist-shaking doesn't last long though. Because here's the straight-up truth, and what I believe many women feel but are not allowed to say: I am selfish, and glad that I'm selfish. I unapologetically put my happiness first, before that of my family. And I know in my core that we are all better off for it. I need to embrace, every day, that part of me that is not defined by the love of my family. It makes me a better person, a better mother, more patient and gentle and present with my daughter and husband. This is not to say there are not sacrifices - there have been sleepless nights comforting a sick baby, days where I'm so busy taking care of her that I forget to eat, and if it ever came down to a choice, my life for hers, I wouldn't hesitate. But I am still a human, still a woman with an identity of my own, and just because my daughter is worth the absolute best that life has to offer, doesn't mean that I am worth any less.
So, I work. I run. I cook, clean, occasionally find time to blog, read books that are not even remotely related to babies or children, and indulge in a glass (or two) of wine in the evening while simultaneously patting myself on the back and congratulating myself on keeping it all together. I don't do everything, and what I DO, I don't always do well. But I do my best, my family is loved, and I am happy.
|My teeny tiny 1-month old|
I'm ready for you, Monday...