I'm sure I've mentioned this in a previous post, but there was a period in my life several years ago - some of the first years of my time in London - where I stopped being a "crier." I have always thought of myself as someone who easily shows emotion, but perhaps it was part of my assimilation into British culture, and the need to adopt a stiff upper lip, that led me to subsconsciously "turn the tap off" in the tears department. Fortunately - I think - something changed and, while I don't think I spend too much time boo-hoo'ing for no good reason, I do have a good cry now and then.
Tonight is one of those "now and then" moments, although I've told myself that enough is probably enough. It started when I was giving Noah his bath, and as I looked at his gorgeous baby-perfect skin (well, apart from those patches of eczema on his arms and hands!), I thought to myself that this process, the letting-go of a child, is just so painful! For some mothers it has to happen sooner, and I don't envy that. For others it happens much later, when the child first goes to real school, and I probably don't envy that either (for some reason, I had a memory of reading about David Beckham shedding a tear when he left Brooklyn at school for the first time!). But at some point, it does happen, and although you know it's going to work out for the best, and that this is just the way that it has to happen in life, it still hurts like hell.
I then came down to do the dishes and with a few moments to think to myself, I started to have a little chat with the big guy upstairs. The conversation went something like, "Please let tomorrow be ok." I stopped myself there. What did I mean by that? Please, let me get the boys dropped off in enough time so that I don't have to arrive sweating and panting into the office. Please, God, don't let anyone notice that I didn't have time to get my eyebrows waxed this week. It was at this point that I decided that given that we have so many blessings in life, it was time to stop with my feeling sorry for myself and let God spend some time looking after people who really do need a bit of extra help from Him at the moment.
Still, I've been thinking about what it is that's making this time around feel so much different, and harder, than when I went back to work two years ago. Here's what I've come up with:
1) Although it was never a given, we'd hoped that we'd have two children, and that meant that in the back of my mind when I returned to work in 2009, I had hopes that it wouldn't be too long again before I was back in the land of the stay-at-home mother. To say we were blessed to have that second baby, as we were with the first, is an understatement. That will be it, though, so I feel as if I'm back at work for the rest...of....my....life. Ugh.
2) This time around, I'm not just "leaving" one baby in childcare, I'm leaving two. To this, some people might say, well, you sent Blake to nursery while you were off with Noah, so is there going to be much difference? And I guess it seems like, yes, there will be! Given our lazy schedule in the morning, or my inability to force an issue when I was sleep-deprived and sometimes already at my wits' end by 7:30 am, it was often the easier option just to get Blake into nursery whenever it suited me, which was sometimes 10:00 am. Although we had some big arguments in the morning, mostly about getting dressed, it was still fun and precious time with Blake which I won't have any more. The other morning he came into my room and I asked him if I could have a cuddle. He replied, "Of course you can, Mom," (ok, he probably said "Mum"!) and he said it so sweetly that it broke my heart to fast-forward to his teenage years when he probably won't even want to be seen with me.
3) (This one could be key) When I went back to work in 2009, you may remember we had dealt with Blake's sleep through our sleep training with Lin. Going back to a commute and a day in the office when your nights are likely to be broken is not a fun prospect. Maybe Noah is going to get with the program soon enough, but I don't have much hope that it's going to be tonight (which is why I'd better wrap this post up soon and get to bed!)
4) The experience of having done it once has enlightened me to the fact that it's hard to be a "working mother." I put that in quotes because as all mothers will tell you, just because you don't go into an office, or pull a paycheck, doesn't mean that being a full-time mother is not work. Of course it's work, and it's the hardest job there is. It is also deeply rewarding, and fun. And exhausting, and mundane. It constantly spans the spectrum of enjoyment, ranging from tedious to extraordinary. Back when I returned to work after Blake, however, I didn't know what it was going to be like to share my time between a paying job outside the home and being a mother. As I remember, it's not easy to strike the right balance, and I'll probably feel like I'm not doing justice to either. This time around, I know this, which doesn't give me the chance to be under any illusion that it will be easy. Of course I'll manage - I have to - but still. The knowledge that at some point, either Blake or Noah is going to be sick with something that's going to need to keep them out of nursery, and cause me to have to put my "work life" on hold, is not something I'm looking forward to.
5) Time is up on my being a full-time mother to Noah, and I can't help but second guess whether I gave him everything I could. I know I did, but it's in my nature to wonder if I should have just played with him a little bit more, or read him a few more stories, or tried to do a few more special things with him instead of worrying about some chore or task that I probably didn't do anyway. [I'm so happy that my best friend Gill T. Conscience moved all the way down to South London with us last year! What would I do without her...?!]
The other night we were in the living room and Blake was sitting at his little table drawing a picture. He is really into drawing at the moment, and likes to draw everything from "space missions" to cafes. We decided on this night that he was going to draw a river, and Matt asked him if he knew what the big river in London was called. "Yes, I do," came the confident reply. "What's it called?" asked Matt. "It's called....meditating." Matt and I burst out laughing; where does he get this stuff?!
So tonight, I think I've cried enough tears to fill the River Meditating and am going to turn in. I think I'll end with a salute to all the mothers out there: those who had to let go of their babies many years ago, those who are still getting up in the middle of the night with theirs, those who are probably trying to find something to wear to the office tomorrow, those who will leave their own children with others tomorrow morning to take care of mine, those who are rueing the end of a weekend, those who love their children more than is humanly possible. We do our best, ladies. Have a great week.
A reminder of what my little baby looked like on the day he was born....
And one from the other night...
Here he is at nursery about to eat his lunch...