Yesterday morning, my social media channels were full of people lamenting the end of a four-day weekend. Not me. I spent those four days taking care of my one-year-old in some very, very hot weather. It was not delightful.
Don’t get me wrong – I love her very much, and I usually enjoy my time with her tremendously. But right now, I need a vacation, and taking care of a baby – even a wonderful baby whom you love very much – is not, in any shape or form, like taking a vacation. (For example: on a vacation, one typically relaxes. When taking care of a baby, one typically attends constantly to the baby’s needs. See the difference?)
I am used to being in full-on Mommy mode on Saturdays and Sundays, and in the mornings and evenings before and after daycare during the week. When this routine is in effect, my life is in balance. I enjoy my time with my daughter thoroughly. I can be the present, engaged mom that I want to be.
But four days, apparently, is too much. I was physically exhausted on Monday. My back hurt. I felt stunned with fatigue. Mentally, I felt like a caged animal. It doesn’t help that my daughter is in a phase where she asks for “mama” more than ever before; Jordan is an amazing partner (and that’s an understatement), but there’s only so much he can do when she wants me.
And yet, Monday morning, getting her ready to go to daycare, I felt a pang. She’s my baby girl – she should be close to me. Don’t go.
Apparently, motherhood turns you into a crazy person.
Here’s part of the crazy: I feel guilty for needing daycare as much as I do. Intellectually, I realize that childcare is draining, and that many cultures realize the importance of daycare or other forms of support for mother and child to the extent that these resources are provided by the government or by the community, free of charge. And yet, emotionally, I still chastise myself: I chose to bring her into this world. She is the most important thing in my life, aside from Jordan. How can I have such a strong need to be away from her, and with her, all at the same time?
And how can some people spend all day, every day, taking care of their children? I have some friends who do it and who make it look so easy, fitting in emails and running their own businesses and running errands alongside age-appropriate and delightful activities, healthy snacks and plenty of cuddling. I guess that’s my secret wish — that I could be like that; that I could have the strength and grace and energy to be that woman, to be gentle and generous with my daughter, always, at the same time I was being gentle and generous with myself. Instead, for now, I find that I am either in one mode, or the other – I am taking care of my daughter, present with her and attending to her needs; or I am taking care of myself, and attending to needs of my own.
What I really need isn’t just a vacation, then, but a way of reconciling these two states of being: Being mommy, and being myself.
Jordan doesn’t have these issues, by the way. Sure, he sometimes catches himself checking out after a long stretch of time with her; sometimes, when she’s at daycare, he feels a guilty twinge when he realizes how much he’s enjoying his freedom. But generally, he just feels what he feels, without constantly judging himself for it. The judging is what’s crazymaking, I think, and I wish I could let it go; but motherhood is for recovering perfectionists like myself what a glass of whiskey is for a recovering alcoholic. I’m trying to stay on the wagon, for my sake, and for hers – the last thing I want is for her to feel the need to be perfect.
Wish me luck.