Enjoy this special time: further reflections on the first year

So I have a new fave mum blogger, and want to write something in response to this piece. What I’m about to write basically spills out some things I might prefer to say in person over a large loaf of gingerbread and a bottomless pot of tea. 

When I’m at work, I have a tiny corner of my brain thinking about the little dude, and I glance up at his photo sometimes, but mostly I just focus on my work and enjoy being able to have that uninterrupted time to do stuff. When I pick him up from creche, I immediately flip across and don’t think about work – I just focus on him. If, like today, he didn’t have good sleeps at creche then this dictates the rest of my afternoon. Occasionally I wonder whether he’d be better off if I was still at home with him, he doesn’t like being left in the mornings and he’s been pretty clingy lately, I think he misses me when I’m not there and I’m worried he’s not getting enough mum time. These are very fleeting thoughts because being back at the desk job it’s obvious to me that there were times last year when I was barely holding on. 

I am sooooooooooo grateful for the little dude. This morning I woke to the sound of him lying peacefully in his cot, staring at the ceiling, and slowly and deliberately clapping his hands. What the awesome? Hilarious, wonderful, what a little gem. Sometimes I am seized with a full-body dread that something terrible might happen to him and I lift him up for a quick cuddle and tell him he’s gorgeous. Sometimes I let him drift to sleep while breastfeeding just so that I can hold a sleeping bundle for a few minutes and wrap my arms around him, and the feeling of how much I love him reverberates in my chest and I lean in and hover my lips over his brow, half kissing and half breathing him in.

Yet there have been times – especially last year – when frankly, I’ve been a complete mess, with no sense of perspective. Times when I tried to see the dark humour of the situation because the alternatives were crying or yelling. Going to the office is such a great counterpoint to all that. I feel much more like myself. So occasionally I wonder whether it would be better for my mental health to take a shorter stint of maternity leave next time. And I’m torn because on the one hand, it goes so fast that I want to appreciate things, but on the other hand I know that for much of last year I would wake up and just have no clue what to do all day. And sometimes I’d have a little moment when I had to really really really try hard to not completely lose it. Over stupid things. Like once I was reversing out of our driveway (poorly, my reversing skills are the first thing to go after a bad night’s sleep) and a bag of recycling on the curb had fallen in the way and I got out and moved it and the little dude was in his carseat crying because I have no idea why, and in the middle of the suburban silence I was all “FOR FUCK’S SAKE, WHY CAN’T PEOPLE PUT THE BAGS AGAINST THE CURB NOT ON THE SLOPE WHAT THE HELL RIDICULOUS FUCKWITS WHY IS IT ALWAYS MY PROBLEM?!”, y’know, just really calm and centered and emotionally stable and not overreacting at all.  

I was meant to be enjoying the special time with my baby, wasn’t that the whole point? Wasn’t my maternity leave meant to be a treat, something to cherish? Some of it definitely was. Some of it was great. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it. I just, I kinda feel ripped off. Because my expectation, before going on leave, was that it would be nice baby times with some hard work thrown in. And instead it was the other way around: all hard work with some nice baby times thrown in. I was exhausted, and so lonely, and the caregiving was so relentless, and it was such a steep learning curve. 

Not only is Boaganette right that it feels super shitty as the parent of a little one when someone admonishes you with a call to greater enjoyment, it also misses the whole damn point. Which is that we should ideally enjoy it and we should feel grateful but it’s bloody impossible to do that if all the hard stuff is on us all the time. Dear person who wants me to just really enjoy this time: don’t tell me how to feel, try and build a society that is more conducive to those feelings. Maybe we’d find it easier to appreciate our babies if the rest of the world showed more appreciation for the caregiving we bestow. 

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