Today I am feeling maudlin. I had a wonderful weekend full of friends and art and time for myself, but the one thing it wasn’t full of was Ali, and now she’s off to daycare, where she spends a good eight hours every weekday, so that Jordan and I can work… and here I am being naughty, sneaking in some writing time.
I miss her.
On Saturday morning, I was passing through the Union Square Farmers Market en route to an event — it was glorious, all sunshine and beautiful food and flowers, and my heart was full. Jordan was at home with Ali and I was feeling good. Then, I caught sight of a woman about my age holding a little girl who looked to be about Ali’s age.
Me: “How old is she?”
“A year and a week,” she said.
“She’s lovely,” I said, adding, “I have an 8-month-old at home.”
“And you’re out without her!,” she said, jealously, adding with a smile, “not that I’m jealous.”
“I’m going to an event today,” I said, “so she’s with her daddy.”
She laughed approvingly, as if to say, “lucky you.”
“But,” I added, “of course, seeing you with her, I’m jealous of you!”
We laughed, in recognition of the universal push/pull of motherhood — we want to be with them, and we want to get away.
“Aren’t we silly,” said her mother, who was standing with her.
“We are,” I said, and then to the girl: “I hope you have a lovely day!” And then, I was off.
Time is sacred.
Weekends are usually family time, when neither Jordan nor I makes other plans and we can just enjoy Ali together, and each other — maybe we see friends in the evening, and ideally one night is date night (with a babysitter and everything, fancy fancy), but during the day, our time with Ali is sacred.
I got spoiled over the holidays, because daycare was closed, and Jordan and I both took time off, and we BASKED in family time. We had one particularly wonderful day when we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge together and took Ali to the Lower East Side, and explored Essex Market (the old grocers fawned over her, and she rode her daddy’s shoulders, grinning), and even took her to our favorite bar, the Whiskey Ward, for a drink (milk for her, Guinness for us).
At the end of the break, Jordan turned to me and said, “I feel like I got to know her better, you know?” I knew.
From the beginning of this escapade — the “escapade” being me getting pregnant and having Alison! — I have been obsessed with finding balance. With not letting parenthood dominate my identity. With making sure I still have room in my life for making art. And what’s happening is that I’m realizing, who I am is not a choice. It really isn’t. My need to make art is so strong, I could never ignore it — or I could ignore it at my peril (translation: I get pissy and depressive). Similarly, when I don’t get quality time with Jordan, I get — well, pissy and depressive. One good date night with him and I light up like a million Christmas trees. And now my need to be with Ali is just as strong. I had nothing to do with that. I just fell in love.
But missing her today, I don’t feel pissy, or depressive… I feel maudlin. And anxious, my heart racing: when will I get a good chunk of time with her next? I just want to hold her in my arms. Kiss her. Be with her. Feel her.
My little girl is hardly a baby anymore. I mean, she is — she is only 8 months in this world. She has been with us for less than a year. And yet it feels like a lifetime has passed between us. She’s already gone through so many stages, and is changing before us every day. She’s no longer the wormy lump (beautiful wormy lump!) who couldn’t control her arm or leg movement, who needed us for every single moment — now she can sit up on her own, and she can play independently, happily, for stretches… she’s saying a lot of “daa daa” and “baa” and “gi!” and oh my god, soon it will be words, soon she will say sentences to me, and as much joy as it fills me with to continue to see her unfold before us, this morning I want to clamp down.
This morning I want to freeze frame, stop time, rewind, I want her to be back in my belly, I want to have the experience again of holding her for the first time, I want those pure raw first few months back, when I could just bathe in the profundity of her with the rest of my life on hold.
Yes, I have a flair for the dramatic, and this morning my inner drama queen wants to indulge in just being a mama for a whole day, a full 24 hours, where I don’t feel the tug of artistic expression or the need for yoga or meditation, when I don’t have to give myself a pep talk to focus on my responsibilities (working on a report for work, drafting a scope of work for another client, “I should do sit-ups,” blah blah blah). I want to subsume all my other needs and responsibilities and just immerse myself in mama-dom for the day.
…Which is what I get to do, pretty much, every weekend, and I’m just feeling so off kilter after missing it this one time. Because every moment with her IS so profound, still — and to miss them is to feel their absence, strongly.
This is what will happen.
Clamping down, I realize, and holding on, isn’t the key to being a good mother — at least, not the kind of mother I want to be. Neither is obsessing.
Soon I’ll go about my day and I won’t let myself dwell in these feelings and I will get over it, to some extent. I will write the report, draft the scope of work, do the sit-ups, order the groceries, buy the birthday present, walk the dog, fold the laundry, and all the other things that fill my day. I will kiss my husband, who works just across the room from me, lucky me, and hug him, and he will understand how I feel about her because he feels the same way. I will pet my dog, my loyal steed, who I have loved for so long, and I will get through my day, and at some point it will be 5:00, and time to get her. Yay!
I will pick her up from daycare, and all I’ll want to do is hold her, feel her, be with her — but I’ll bundle her into her stroller, and we’ll walk home together, me singing and chatting, walking as fast as I can so we can get home already and I can hold her, feel her… when I hug her my heart will feel like “ahhhhhh,” and all will be right with the world, and soon I will bathe her and she’ll splash and splash, so happily, and I’ll bundle her into her jammies and read her a story and nurse her and give her kisses and I will feel our connection restored, and then, exhausted, I’ll fall into bed, reading, already starting to nurture those other parts of myself — cultivating ideas for my upcoming show, planning next steps for the book I’m working on — these parts of me freed now that that connection, that essential connection, is restored.
Just a day in the life of motherhood – for me…