In exactly six days, I have to return to work. And amid trying to savor all the moments and carpe the diems, I have been feeling all sorts of doom and gloom.
There is nothing that is going to change the outcome of this week, and as a result, I feel like I’m walking the plank. Except, I’m being asked to drop my baby off at the end. It’s morose and disturbing (and a grossly inaccurate metaphor for daycare). My feelings of dread have distorted my view of her future care providers. Clearly, they are going to pinch her and make her cry. Obviously, I am the only person who knows how to make her smile. No one there is going to love her the way I do. Who is going to kiss her cheeks till she giggles?
I’m also feeling some pretty intense fear. First, I’m scared that I’ll lose my bond with my daughter. Will she be angry with me? Will she feel abandoned? What if I come to pick her up and she reaches for the teacher instead? Though it’s hard to admit, I’ve got a serious case of jealousy towards those who get to spend all day with her. In case you haven’t heard, she is the smartest, cutest, loveliest, and most adorable child on this planet. And I have to miss exactly 53.6% of her waking hours due to work. Frankly, I’m pissed about it.
In addition to losing her, I’m afraid that I’ll also lose the mother I’ve become. I’ve already given up my sanity, due to sleep deprivation. Every night as I lie in bed and try to fall asleep, I listen on high alert for her to breath or whimper or fidget, anticipating her waking up, which could be any second. I only let myself sink into relaxation about 20%, so that the climb out of restfulness isn’t too steep. Why even bother to sleep?
And with this literal torture method, I find myself resenting motherhood in the evenings. Anxiousness sets into my belly the second I lay her down for the night because I know the “anticipation game” is about to commence. When I return to work, and begin giving my pitiful stores of energy away for eight hours a day, what will be left of me to give to her when I get home? Will she come to know me as a discombobulated, anxious, and resentful mom?
On the flip side of this, I also worry that this pervasive deep-care for my daughter may have shooed out any sense of care for others. Before she came, I poured myself into my career and took up the flag that is education and changing lives. But lately I find myself saying “who cares” when I think about returning to work. Am I really trading time with my flesh and blood for budget proposals and new curriculum adoptions?
I guess I should clarify. I do care about kids still. In fact, I care about the little creatures in a different way now. I had an inkling of maternal love before that girl came into my life. I thought my mama bear came out as I fought to protect the kids that I’d built relationships with across the years. But I realize now it was more like an aunt bear or a cousin bear.
Now I see those kids with my fresh, mama bear eyes. And I get mad. I wonder why that little five year old has to sit through something so dreadfully boring that they bury their head in their hands and choose the negative attention instead. Why do we have to take what we know about kids and learning and fit it into thirty-minute boxes of “services” and “subjects”? And then I think, why the heck am I the cheerleader of this?
Gee, I’m going to be really fun to work with this year.
Then the shame comes. Shame on me for not appreciating the good job I have and the health benefits that come from it and the beautiful, hard-working people that I work with. Shame on me for not being grateful for the 139 days I did get to spend with her without worrying about my job. Shame on me for thinking I’m the only person who could take care of my daughter. “It takes a village”, you know. And shame on me for not viewing this transition in a positive light and modeling “a good attitude” for her.
The other day I asked my friend, who grew up in Brazil, if they have the saying, “shame on you” in Portuguese. She said that wasn’t really a thing there. I’m thinking we should consider moving soon.
After shame, I start to feel self-conscious. You see, all I want lately is to just be a mom. To do mom things and think mom thoughts. It took me a long time to quell the inertia of working life and to slow to the speed of baby time. I don’t want to go back. But I have enough non-breeder friends that, when I see myself getting lost in this thing called motherhood, I can feel/hear their judgment from miles away. Actually, it’s probably just my former non-breeder self that is doing all the judging.
I went from a passionate, career-driven woman who wanted to get her doctorate to a woman who is annoyingly obsessed with her kid. I talk about poop and breastfeeding and snuggles way too much. And everything has become a song. Going in the car, putting on our pants, cooking spaghetti. I’m three colorful-turtlenecks short of becoming The Wiggles. Good god, it’s embarrassing.
And then comes the joy. I’ve felt more joy these past four months, in heart exploding quantities, than in many years combined. Not just happiness. But JOY. Like dancing in the streets kind of JOY and dogs playing fetch kind of JOY. It washes over me with so much intensity that I laugh and cry at the same time. I’ve never done that before. Yeah, maybe it’s hormones. But it’s also fulfillment and God all wrapped up in my new sense of self.
As you can see, I’ve mixed myself quite the cocktail of emotional instability. Rational thoughts need not apply this week.
My sister (and many other mothers) have told me that parenthood is the best and hardest thing to experience. I’m understanding that all the way into my bones right now. With every minute that feels like an hour and hour that feels like a minute of these next six days, I guess I’ll just resolve to feel it all. Even when I think I might be cracking up.
Now excuse me as I go take a good, long hit off the smell of my baby’s head while I still can. I’ve become quite the addict these days.
© 2016 D. Willson