I have made two humans.
I still can't quite believe it. I have the power to propel into existence adorable people that I assume will someday be stellar adults. I am a kiln that bakes kin.
So many people told us that doubling our kid quota is exponentially more difficult. I'm not a big proponent of folks trying to "helpfully" warn me of horrors, so my husband and I kind of laughed off their forebodings. It struck me that having a second child is definitely harder on dads, who have to step up so moms can see to the newest addition. And with the fantastic dad that Quincy is, we didn't really believe that mo babies = mo problems.
And it wasn't. Actually, the second tot seems easier to me because I already knew the storm of responsibility wrought by a new life force. Once you've successfully herded a youngster though infanthood, you stop questioning your decisions and just dive in.
And so, throughout my three month maternity leave, we were a cute family of four, having adventures and learning a new and lovely family dynamic.
Then I went back to work. And my man started a new job an hour and a half away. And suddenly, all the incredible support offered by my partner was sucked into a serious commute and new employment, and I was often left alone with a terribly two (though irrefutably cute) toddler and his helpless sister.
It's hard. It's hard being the person to wake, dress and feed two little people, one of which is a complete lunatic as his newer brain expands by impressive bounds. And it's hard to run to the daycare multiple times a day to nurse the baby, who you worry isn't getting enough loving attention. And it's hard to worry that your work is suffering because it's not getting enough attention, either, as you sit in a dim office, pumping milk into a sanitized container. And damn. Dinner is hard. Picking up the kids, who are ravenous on top of being ridiculous, and prepping, serving and cleaning up after.
Tired. So tired.
If we're lucky, my husband will be home in time to give the toddler a shower.
And if we're lucky, the toddler will fall asleep with minimal tears.
And if we're lucky, the immensely patient baby will have had a snack and sleep peacefully while my husband and I melt into the couch and discuss our days like soldiers falling back from the front lines.
I know this is hard. I expect it and I handle it. But what surprised me is the well of resentment I found springing up inside of me. I am by nature a purely positive person but without my own awareness, I sunk into a funk of self-pity.
After about a week and a half of primary caregiving, my husband's grandmother passed away, and he called to confirm his travel plans.
"Are you going to be okay alone with the kids all weekend?" he asked.
"I guess I have no choice," I choked out through gritted teeth.
"Are you... Mad at me?" he countered.
And there I was. Angry at my partner for trying to fly to a funeral.
I looked at the adorable duo of children at my dinner table.
"Am I a bad mom for not wanting to spend all of my time with them?"
My husband answered, "It doesn't mean you're a bad mom. It just means you aren't crazy."
And in that moment, it dawned on me how heartily I'd internalized my own strife. There were hundreds of tiny, perfect experiences with these two incredible people I brought into existence. And while it was extremely hard to handle, it was also an opportunity to soak up moments that were fleeting.
Era "helping" with Minna
That weekend of single parenting, I tried to record in my mind each sweet moment so I could share it with my husband. My son learning to sing, "Frère Jacques." His silly impression of a crab... pinch pinch! His sweet determination to push his sister's stroller and clean up the cat barf all on his own. His use of the potty. His inspired idea to give his baby doll a bath in the sink, just like Mama does with his sister. And my daughter's languid giggles. Her determination to roll over. Her watercolor blue eyes as they look up at me while nursing.
Wash that baby!
It was revolutionary. The dread dissipated, replaced by an expanding appreciation of the fun before me. The feelings of being put-upon slowly ebbed, and I began to feel fortunate that I able to be present. And yes, I can feel both overwhelmed by challenge and overwhelmed by awe. But I do not want to be the person who wallows in irritation when I can choose to be who I've always been: that preternaturally positive person.
I've written before about the tedium and exhaustion involved in raising infants, but even when I wanted to cry in the corner, never before had I lost my sense of self. Drifting into bitterness not only made me a stranger to myself, it made everything else much harder.
Kids are expert at living in the moment, so I take my cues from them. Is this season of life still difficult? Heck yes. But I can choose to make it less tough by plowing through with my optimism intact.
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