Confession: I spent no more than three hours at a time away from Walden in the first six months of his life. Then I spent about 3 hours TOTAL away during our first deployment in England.
Back then I didn’t realize how absurd I was being. I felt I would be a nuisance to ask my friends to look after him. I didn’t trust a stranger to look after him. Mary Poppins didn’t show up on my doorstep. So I let myself be sad, lonely and overwhelmed. It seemed easier than going through the work of finding a sitter and being the one to shoulder the blame if she was a disaster.
I felt guilty about choosing to be a stay-at-home mom. It wasn’t something I planned to do, and I was still unwinding from my pre-motherhood job. I didn’t like it all that much. Shouldn’t all mothers be googly-eyed in love with spending all day with their children? What was I doing wrong that made it so hard for me? In my own twisted, hyper-competitive, masochistic way, I felt that hiring help was cheating. So I kept at it. Wasn’t it MY JOB to take care of our baby? Couldn’t I excel at anything I put my mind to? If other women can do it without help, I should be able to, too!
[Foolish, I know.]
Eventually I left my son at a gym’s creche for an hour here and there to exercise. My mood began to improve. I took a writing class. It improved even more. When he was 22 months old (and my husband was deployed again), I enrolled him at a nursery two mornings a week. We added a morning when I started to feel overwhelmed with the baby. I’ve called friends for help. I’ve found a drop-off sitter for appointments to take care of myself. And now I’ve found someone to come to my home to give me a regular break from both boys. These non-stop 6:00am to 9:00pm days plus two night feeds leave me feeling drained. Without the help, we would all be miserable.
Some of my motivation to reach out comes from confidence gained by dipping my toes in the water and seeing that it’s possible to trust other people to care for my children. Most of it comes from knowing that our very best days happen when I’m my Best Self. When I’m relaxed and confident – when I don’t feel overstretched – I have the energy to connect with my children and give them my full attention. I don’t feel buried under the things I want to get done, I don’t resent that I’m not able to wander off by myself. The rest comes with accepting the fact that I operate that way.
I don’t like the idea of being known only as “Walden’s Mom” for the rest of my life. So why have I wanted so badly to be the kind of mom that doesn’t suit me? Now I know it’s OK to focus on myself so that I’m able to be the best mom I am. That’s how moms grow up.