I am a terrible
stay at homemother.
I just want to admit it publicly, because too many people think I have it all together and apparently it looks like I know what I’m doing. Sure, I take my wee boy to play groups, feed him nutritious vegetarian meals, encourage him to express himself at the frustrating age of one. We go for daily walks, read for the prescribed 25 minutes each day, identify colors, practice sign language, sing songs. But I get bored spending 12 hours with a toddler every day. I’ve minded him in his room while playing words with friends on my iphone hidden in my lap. I do not always test the temperature of his bath water before dipping his toes in. I’ve found dog hair in his mouth, in his snot, in his diaper. His favorite hang out is the dog’s crate, and I’ve caught him putting his face in the water bowl. I’ll turn his stroller forward facing so I can have time to myself on walks. I use babysitters for no reason other than to catch a yoga class, or go downtown to get drunk with my friends. I’ve eaten the last piece of burrata I know he’d love. My bathroom needs come first when we walk inside after a long day. He cried it out. He has not tasted bacon. I
secretly can’t wait until he wants to watch Sesame Street and doesn’t need my undivided attention.
Of course he is my joy, my beautiful son, and it is so rewarding spending my days with him, blah, blah, blah, but really, honestly……rare is the day I put him to bed and feel deeply fulfilled. I’m often overwhelmed and exhausted, even today, when I had 15 hours off in between shifts. It is this time, pecking away at my laptop, or the 30 minutes before this when I was on my yoga mat, that give me servings of self-hood. I genuinely enjoy being a mother, but most days are frenetic and full of haphazard attempts to entertain my capricious offspring. I was a great new mother, monitoring and observing every change to his tiny body. But he’s now five times his weight from his birth day, and we’re necessarily becoming more independent and less reliant on each other. He’ll always be a part of me, but not in the same sense he was when developing from a fetus to an infant, or an infant nourished by my breast milk. Most changes are gradual, but they’re visible to us mothers all at once since we see our children every day. I didn’t notice that his top 4 teeth were rupturing his gums until they were visible baby fangs. I used to rue being a “working mother” during his infancy because I was so afraid I’d miss a first. But the truth is, the first time something happens doesn’t have to be our official recognition of the event. The first time daddy saw him walk is a precious memory to my husband even though he’d been doing it all day. I feel like personal development is as important as time with my son now because we’ll get bored otherwise. He needs to see other faces than mine all day, lest I have a 29 year old living at home with me in as many years!
So when I write, or practice yoga, I regain my mother courage, to step away from my son and let him grow and learn about the world without me hovering above. Writing and yoga are chances for me to step back and look around, or look at myself inside. Everyone has their own definition of what makes them happy and there are many opinions on what constitutes a nurturing childhood. I think I am doing my very best to give my son what he needs. Sure he entertained himself on my ipad for 15 minutes after his bath tonight, but earlier today he looked at squid and jelly fish, touched a sea urchin, watched an underwater pumpkin carving contest. I’m not trying to justify my parenting deficiencies, just making sense of who I am and what I am capable of as a mother. I’m happy to bake some peanut butter banana muffins for our weekly play group (with coconut oil and South Carolina peanuts, of course), but I am not so sure I will be a rapt observer each soccer practice, and karate kick that I once assumed I had to be. There are all sorts of trendy labels people give their parenting style. Maybe my ever growing album of “baby-in-a” pictures (baby-in-a fountain, baby-in-a kitchen aid, baby-in-a purse, baby-in-a miniature Ferrari) could give rise to some witty name. Container parenting. Shifting boundary parenting. Senseless parenting?
Last night I had a break through. Of sorts.
I tackled conversation.
“But…you were alone last night, no one was here but you.”
“In writing, I mean. I got over my fear of punctuating conversations. Commas and periods and semicolons are confusing as a reader, so how can I put into writing the kind of mood I’m trying to portray when I want people to speak? I’ve figured out my preference between the stream-of-consciousness post-modernists and the proper punctuation usage Romantics.”
“What are you then? What did you decide?”
“I’m a live writer. At least that’s my word for it. For now. With blogging you can always go back and change something, delete or edit. Each entry is cataloged, search by category or tag. So me…I’m a live writer.
Don’t you just love the way crisp writing looks on a page? The visual aspect of writing is inappropriately important to me. A real writer has a gift that lies in words not images. A real writer should be more concerned with the langue than the parole, right?
I found the WordPress app for my iPad this afternoon. Now I can blog easier than ever.
Baby is sleeping propped up against my chest. I should probably wake him up, since bedtime is a short 48 minutes away, but I treasure this closeness, and there are five busy days ahead. These moments will sustain me. And besides, I’ve been trying to get him to slumber on me like he did so often his first weeks of life. The full on heavy desperate sleep of days. I’m not sure when he stopped falling asleep that way, but there were many days that had us both closing our eyes and falling into dream world together. That I do not remember his last sleep curled up on my chest makes me a little sad, nostalgic I guess. Because he is growing so fast. Because maybe if I had known it was the last time he’d be sleeping that way, I would have captured it on camera. On my hipstamatic so I could have possibly framed some pseudo-arty photo of us some day. Or maybe I would have just breathed a little deeper, held him tighter, whispered my love for him once more.
But then again, maybe I should be glad I can’t recall the exact last time. Life is better that way, no? If I had known 10/22/2011 would be the last morning I’d wake up only concerned with my own needs, I would have panicked. Each time a last time happens, it will fade into the fabric of my love for my baby son. He’s at this amazing stage, that with each time I realize a last time occurred, we have three first times to anticipate. This weekend we had the unbelievably timely First Time Sleeping Until 8am. And tomorrow he has his first March 26th. Later this week he’ll have his first trip to the greenhouse, and next week (we think) his first taste of butternut squash.
Whether you’re 5 months old, or 28 years old, I think it’s worth recognizing that each day is a new one, imparting a chance to reflect that life is literally less about the things we did than the things we’re doing.
The first days of holding a new human, you will probably be confronted by the desire to maintain his purity. I have never washed my hands as thoroughly or as frequently as I did in the first weeks of bringing Baby Rex home. I washed all of his bottles before he arrived, and then at least once more before he sucked on those artificial nipples. Although I still guard him with a fierce protectiveness, I no longer feel compelled to filter his air before he breathes it, I allow the dog to give him wet kisses, and I don’t insist that every fiber that touches his skin be freshly washed. However, now I that I am concerned so much less with physically guarding him from unsanitary conditions of the world, I feel this overwhelming need to protect his little heart and mind. I know there have been times when I’ve looked at a small child and wished it would just be quiet, or go away, or leave me in peace, or do what I want. It pains me to think that there will be people in this world who will not treat him with the utter affection and care I know he deserves.
Now that we’re getting to know each other better, I’ve clearly moved from obsessing over superficial, surface protection, to worrying over his feelings and how other people interact with him. Like, the fact that the nanny most likely does not think its cute when he starts his pre-cry pant and rush to console him. Or how people in the elevator might not appreciate his “words” as much as I do. I am his mother, and I accept that this is a normal part of my role in his life. Everything he does is so amazing to me, because he is an entity that we created.
Maybe its just because this is night #1 of sleep training. He is doing amazingly great so far. We’re 2 hours and 39 minutes deep, and he’s woken up twice to cry, just to bravely put himself back to sleep. What an incredibly courageous thing it is to learn to be a person. He’s no longer my little newborn that needed to be cajoled into waking to eat.
They were right. He’s already growing up too fast!