Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Wonder Years

It's hard this parenting lark. And I'm not sure I am any good at it.

My husband just came home from work. I was feeding our daughter and as she threw her spoon full of food over me, I exclaimed her name, Olivia. It's always serious when it's her full name. Perhaps a little too loudly, perhaps a little too brash. I don't remember. I do remember my husband's shocked face and his concern as he came and lifted her from my lap.

Am I a monster?


How do you explain that this was the umpteenth time she had done this today and i was at the end of my tether? That i had a second degree burn from a pan that i lifted off the stove earlier today and all day long it had rained so i couldn't take her outside even if i wanted to.
How do you explain that I just wanted my mum today so I could just cry over my stupid burnt finger? That I didn't have it in me to entertain my daughter.

You don't explain. You just stand up and walk away and feel like a monster.

Actually, more of a monster.

Since returning to New York, i have been a "play all day in the park mom" with Olive. I've been on both sides of this in the past 18 months and a return to work will be inevitable in the very near future. Being a "you must nap between 12-2 mom" is the most taxing job in the world. Yet, I have to work. Financially we have no choice.

But isn't that actually a wonderful cop out when really, I've discovered these past two weeks, (deep breath) that I actually don't enjoy it. At least, I don't think I do.

There, i said it.

It feels like a club that I have no idea how to get into and i don't really want to anyway. I can't explain it. You are left utterly drained, exhausted, flat out crazed and yet, there's an entire part of me that is left brimming with stuff that needs to get out. My mind whirrs. It is constantly singing a song that is designed to educate toddlers. I couldn't sleep for the sound of Hey Diddle Diddle pounding my brain the other night. And, guess what? I have a favorite cartoon. Not since the age of 8 have I actually contemplated which animated character is my favorite. Yes, I have formed opinions on these things. Even worse, my favorite is not Olive's favorite. In fact, one of her favorites is an irritating animal bouncing around discussing nature. I turn this one off if she hasn't already seen it start.

You see, I'm a monster.

I think i am more fulfilled/balanced/ less unhinged (!) when i go to work. I think.

Ok, so how can I reconcile loving my daughter more than anything in the world and not wanting to spend all day, every day with her? Yes, I have no choice because of finances and the need for insurance for her but if i did have a choice?

IF i had a choice, what would i choose? I honestly don't know, but my head tells me that it would be going into work. My heart wilts. How can this be a legitimate question from a mother?

I'm a monster.

Is there something wrong with me? Is there a gene missing? I didn't enjoy pregnancy. I suffered with post partum depression and now this? Am i a man trapped in a woman's body? Am i one of those people that shouldn't have had children?

But I love her. I know her better than anyone. I fantasise about throwing myself in front of cars, bullets, knives - I'm back in Brooklyn now ;). I would let someone burn every finger I have slowly just to save one head on her hair from being touched. I nearly kicked a kid in the face yesterday when he tried to push Olive and he hit another little girl. You see, I'm a child abuser - i wanted to kick another child in the head. And really hard, too.

Yet, would i willingly pay someone else or a daycare facility to look after her during the day so i can go to work? You know, work, that thing that you moan about everyday and then dread on Sunday night. Makes it worse, doesn't it. I see the nannies at the playground and immediately pass judgment. I imagine wealthy parents that have little time for their children. Ouch.

I pushed Olive in a swing yesterday next to another lady pushing her daughter. She also had a 2 month old strapped to the front of her. We did the usual chat and I was so desperate to find an ally or someone to talk to that when she told me that she was returning to work the following week, I asked her if she was excited? The pause was painful enough for me to realize that she likely thought she was being attacked. I quickly explained that i was likely returning to work and was looking forward to that adult interaction. She agreed. And then it was like we were in a secret club. We weren't giddy about our lack of enthusiasm for being at home with our little ones, nor were we melancholy that we felt this way. We were just honest. It's hard being apart from our children but what we get from going to a 'formal' job (I'm careful about wording because there is nothing stay at home about a stay at home mum) is food for our soul.

We wouldn't question the fathers on this. So, do i have a gene missing? Do other women feel this way? How can we claim to love our children more than anything and yet not want more than anything to be there all the time. Olive bumped her head today and as i snuggled her I took back every thought of wanting to leave her in the arms of someone else. And when she woke up and asked for a hug, my heart melted. I can't describe the pain of this conflict. Yet, it's a moot point. I HAVE to work. But, what if i didn't, a little voice asks?

I know this is a divisive issue. I offer myself up as sacrifice. I know people who will read this and take comfort in pulling me down to their spouses. Why bother having children if you don't want to look after them? If that helps them sleep better and not question their choices, then what do i care? I also suspect that there maybe more of us that feel this way. By that I mean conflicted. Torn. Confused. There's nothing easy about thinking these thoughts. I'm just choosing to share them.

Does this make me less maternal? Should women like me not be allowed to have more children? Well, i'm ridiculously maternal. My breasts just about leak everytime I see a newborn. And as for more? God willing, yes, please.

Do I secretly wonder if my husband is disappointed that I don't seem content and fulfilled when he comes in from work? Actually, I don't. I flat out asked him and he flat out told me that he knew who he married and he loves me more now that ever before. I mean, it's not as if i don't get giddy when i show him videos of her playing at the park at the end of the day. You see, i enjoy it...but...but...that's it. There is a but.

I'm lucky. My husband knows me. But his face this evening? Was it concern for me or for my daughter? I'll know soon enough - the end of day chats in bed will tell me and either way i know that he will love and support me. Yet when we roll back over to our sides of the bed, I will lie awake and wonder.

Am I a monster?