Monday, November 30, 2009

A Balancing Act

So, after two weeks away from safe, lovely, middle earth I'm firmly back in the suit-wearing, heel-clipping "other world". A world without Elmo, Chica, Star and Sophie...I am left with several burning questions...

How does your heart heal when you return home and find that your daughter has been crying all day since you left? That she stopped when you scooped her up and nuzzled into your shoulder offered little consolation. How am I meant to get up tomorrow and do it all over again?

As a stay at home mom for the past 8 months I thought I had it figured out. Balance. I was a mum during the day, a wife at night and somewhere in between my daughter's naps I found time to see myself.

Now, I play a different sort of working mother during the day. One that works for and not with her girl. Someone detached from whoever I was to whatever I have become. I did not return to my career but accepted a job to help finance this new family. I am not alone. The current economic climate is no doubt sending more and more parents back to work. This generation might be well schooled but they are now paying the piper.

And, guess what? Paying the piper is not easy. I stifle every maternal, emotional instinct and summon every ounce of mother lion courage to leave the house each day. And yes, I'm terrified. Absolutely terrified. That I'll miss something, that she'll hurt and I won't be the one to heal her, that something will happen and I'll never forgive myself for either missing or preventing it. I thought I was scared of her forgetting me during the day but now I want her to play with joy, without looking for me. I leave every day and as I press the call button for the elevator I know that I'll never get these days back.

I know, I know. I sound all a bit over the top and dramatic. The answer as far as I can tell is that you just do it. Simple. You just do it. How did I get up and go to work each day 18 months ago between throw ups and all day morning sickness? You think you can't but you do it. When your eyes were so tired they would sting in those first few weeks, you would still rather hold your baby for 3 hours and just stare instead of napping. You push through the exhaustion. You just do it. And, those nights when after rocking and singing and running the faucet, the baby would still be crying so hard that you yourself begin to weep - how will we get through? Will this ever end? It did. We just got through. Day by day.

And so, I'm striving for balance. I run home and get just under 2 hours of mummy time. Followed by another 2 hours of being a wife before passing out. It's all me. It's just that when I lie in bed at night and run through a checklist of my day and see how I did, I wonder where *I* went?

Ahh, balance! Or perhaps...Ha! Balance! In a quest for balance I find guilt. Yesterday when Olivia was asleep, I went and worked out for 30 minutes. Grunting my way up the stepper I felt bad that I wasn't spending that time with Tom. This week I have a work holiday party - if we attend I will miss my precious post-work time with Olive and not see her before bed. Does that make me a terrible mother? Yet, the thought of a glass of wine and the opportunity to get dressed up with my husband is appealing.

I don't know how to do it. How to find that balance. How to feel balanced enough to lie in bed at night and feel that in ticking the "(working) mother" box and the "wife" box, that the *me* box is still legible and not addled with guilt.

Motherhood seems to be like plate spinning. Is it possible to find balance? Or in paying the piper are we in danger of paying a higher price?

This song has been on a running loop in my head the past
two weeks - good luck getting it out of your head now...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thank you!

Dear Tom,
Thank you, Tom, for giving me the gift of Olive this year. Thank you for the stretch marks, the hemorrhoids and the mild incontinence (during all those trampolining parties I attend) that came along with her. I wouldn't be who I am today without breasts that rest on my tummy.
Mostly, thank you for allowing me to fall in love with you every time I see you with our girl.
Thank you for Olive, the other love of my life.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A letter to my Olive

Today was mummy's first day back at work. You won't remember today but it will forever be etched in my heart. I left you without saying goodbye. We snuggled and then I traded off to daddy so I could slip out the door without you seeing me go. I cried in the car. I knew you would look for me the way you always do when I'm away too long. This time I wouldn't be there. You were in safe hands with grandma - I just wanted you in mine.

Of course, there were highs. I had forgotten that in the real world you actually take the time to dry your hands after washing them. I went to Starbucks alone which used to be one of my favorite things to do. Coffee. Newspaper. Peace. Except it is hard to sip that venti when your throat is thick with tears.

I'm not alone. I'm one of many. You can spot us a mile off. It seems that we mothers arrive at work tired and go home energized. I was so excited to get home that I skipped the elevator, ran the stairs, sprinted a la stiletto to the car and pulled a Penelope Pitstop just to get you in my arms and savor every second of our 93 minutes together before you fell asleep on my lap.

Tomorrow I'll do it again. I believe it will get easier but for now, please know how much I love you and how thankful I am for you, my beautiful little girl.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I'm starting with the (wo)man in the mirror

I had a moment this week where I just wanted to be free. It's Friday night, nay evening, at 8pm and I am removing my makeup (just face grime). I was looking in the mirror and was appalled that my face looked like an Ordnance Survey map - where the heck did all these lines come from? I have a deep dent in my forehead which I attribute to my "listening face". I will frown to prove how hard I am listening. Now, only Botox or Stri-Vectin cream can save me. It's not endearing, you CAN see let's move on. So, in my adult way of throwing my toys out of my crib...I decide I just wanted to be free. I didn't want to get into bed just after 10, read for 30 minutes, ask my husband if he was ready to finish reading so I could turn the light out, before checking I had a hairband and tissue under my pillow. It's Friday night, i should be tripping the light fantastic. Not stubbing my toe and sucking air like a dying beast for fear that I will scream bloody murder and wake the baby.
Breaking protocol, I turn off the bathroom light and flomp into bed without a glass of water by my side. Resisting panic, i decide to live on the wild side and risk thirst in the night.

I was reminded of my sister several years back. We had all gathered for a family holiday. Her husband had been unable to attend due to work, so she had brought my young nephew on her own. We were out for dinner in a Mexican restaurant and as the check arrived we saw a band setting up for the evening. My sister wanted to stay. We did not. Her son was tired and asleep on grandma. We thought we should all go home. I remember her asking me to stay out with her. I could have stayed. I should have stayed. But this was pre-baby for me. I lived in New York. A holiday for me meant sleep. I saw something in her face that night. A moment, a fleeting moment of frustration and acceptance.

This week I saw that face looking back at me in the mirror. I remembered my sister. My reaction that night had been the same as when I would read facebook status updates from friends of mine who were mothers. Updates such as "getting ready for a girl's night" or "off on a romantic weekend with my husband", or (Heaven forbid...) "recovering from too much fun the night before". What? I would think? Mothers do that? And, then before you know it, you pass judgment - what sort of a mother does that? Ahh, the pre-baby thinkings of a young woman. All those promises we make about what we will NOT do. We happily sit as judge, jury and executioner only to receive a rude awakening.

Acceptance is of course a mother's middle name. We accept that our dinner is usually cold, our coffee will have been zapped 6 times before it is drained. We accept our hemerrhoids, we name them. When we come in from grocery shopping and all we want to do is pee, we have a choice, we either take our baby on our lap to the toilet or cross our legs and go and change baby's diaper first. Bear in mind, a 30 second pee is sometimes the most glorious alone time so we may not want to rush it.

We accept these frustrations.

It's not about being free to go out, it's about being free of responsibility. And, of course as a mother we are never free of responsibility - we can be miles away, with a dinner fit for a king, a martini so dirty it moves, and you'll bet the cell phone is perched on the table and the conversation skates around the most important person/people in your life. Nevertheless, that change of scenery can do wonders for your sanity and that is freeing in itself. Just knowing that the world won't end without you there feels good (but funnily enough, not as good as you thought).

It doesn't matter how happy you are, that you wouldn't change what you have for all the world... sometimes, just sometimes, you need to take care of yourself so that the baby's face isn't the only one smiling back at you in the mirror.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thought of the day

I'm bending over drying my hair and my tummy pouch hangs like a old lady's bingo wing. I therefore conclude that Spanx should be covered by insurance.
Plus 1 bottle of wine a week for medicinal purposes.
That's for starters...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Look Who's Talking

I feel like I am dating other new mothers. Or at least picking them up. The supermarket, the streetcar, the park...they are everywhere and for some reason when we come within 10 feet of each other there is some sort of secret, internal, masonic handshake. We are drawn to the pungent smell of Purell that has long since replaced Chanel as my spritz of choice. Before long we feel the need to start talking to each other. I used to dread this. I still do...but I have clearly been new mum "glamored" or something. Now, I am an instigator. This scares me because I always vowed never to do a Christmas newsletter and I'm terrified that holiday sweaters and a portrait session at Sears is just around the corner.

So, the other day I was in the supermarket for shopping baby food. Pondering switching from Gerber to a cheaper brand, but I don't particularly know any other brand names because I am a new mum and I either skipped that chapter or haven't got there yet.
So, I was bobbing and craning to check all the brands (can you buy baby food on sale?) and along came a lady toting a baby. Smile. She began loading up with a different (non Gerber) brand and wasted no time at all piling her trolley high. She reminded me of myself in the wine aisle. So, I did it. Like one of those weirdos you dread, I opened my mouth. Thank goodness I was wearing my watch. That somehow made me feel responsible. I also found myself gesticulating wildly with my left hand (because everyone knows if you are married and punctual you are not crazy). Anyway, I've no idea what my pick up line was but before long we were chatting away about our babies, our husbands, our leaking bladders (just kidding - but I did spot Tena Lady in her stack). Within 5 minutes I was converted to a 10 for $6 Safeway organic brand. We had swapped emails. I was a new woman with a new friend. It was like speed dating. I even had that feeling of hoping we didn't bump into each other before we checked out because we had ended our little conversation so tidily. I went home on a high.

Of course I never emailed. I never do. I never call. I'll even avoid the same store at the same time in case we bump into each other. I'm like the 'one afternoon stand' of stay at home moms. It's not just me though. I've been mom dumped and there is an element of relief when after day three no email arrives.

Why though? I've been wondering. Do you think it is because we are scared that outside of our babies we will have absolutely nothing in common? That we cannot believe that we engaged in talk about pureed carrots for five minutes and actually enjoyed it? Because we have become who we vowed not to be and if this is a spontaneous happening it was in the name of baby, but if we plan it we are somehow accepting this new self? I have no idea. Clearly.

I'm hoping that other mums do this and i'm not a horribly rude individual with issues.