Sometimes I think that motherhood is the epitome of irony. Firstly, you give birth – hands down the most tiring thing you ever have to physically do – and when you most need the rest, you never ever get any rest ever again. After that, there are lots of little ironies like wanting them to sleep when they won’t and wanting them to wake when they won’t. And poos when you’re running late. Always.
And now, just when I’m honestly starting to really truly enjoy being a mum and want to spend every day with Sam, I have to go back to work.
Nine months in and I’m absolutely loving motherhood. I didn’t think this was possible, not during the endless nights, not when he was
crying wailing for no good reason at all and certainly not when I was sleeping on his floor. There were hidden moments in there when I wanted to shove him back up where he came from, but granted that just probably wouldn’t work, I wanted to get away. To a beach, to a bed, heck even to work.
Don’t get me wrong, Sam hasn’t miraculously become a perfect baby. He whinges, he cries, he can be downright annoying. Basically, he’s a nine month old baby. I still don’t wash my hair nearly enough, I still don’t have any me time and every day I smash my breakfast and lunch in an average of 1.54 minutes in case he needs my attention or if he’s sleeping, in case he wakes up.
But over the last couple of months, things have changed. Several times throughout the day I find myself holding him tight and telling him I love him. I LOVE him. And I mean it in a way that is so profoundly different to any other ‘I love you’s I’ve ever uttered my entire life.
I love him. I really love him.
And it’s not like I didn’t love Sam before. I’ve always been there for him, especially when he’s unhappy, that’s part of the job. Sometimes I do it begrudgingly and try to make him feel better because let’s face it, some peace and quiet would make me feel better. But I used to get frustrated easily, and want to diffuse the situation quickly so I could go back to feeling fine. I don’t really know when it happened but the impatience has slowly dissipated, and in its place is a feeling I’m not all that familiar with. I genuinely want to make him all better. It really truly doesn’t matter how I feel, as long as he’s ok.
(Although sometimes when he’s being a shit for the sake of being a shit, I still get frustrated. Very frustrated. And I consider that Red Cross donation bin. KIDDING.)
We had a tough few days last month. Sam contracted the roseola virus which started with three days of fever, followed by three days of rash and a total week of unhappiness. He cried more that week than he had in all of the eight months he’d been alive and at times it wasn’t just crying, it was howling, screeching, blood curdling screaming. And I had the scratches to prove it. But when once I would’ve felt frustrated and impatient, this time I didn’t. It sucked, don’t get me wrong. And there were tears on my part too. But somehow it’s become easier to find the strength within me to be strong for him. To want to put myself aside and not be resentful for it, but actually more than happy to do so.
‘Putting myself aside’ has slowly but surely become reality. First it’s the down time, long showers, forget about that weekly mani. But gradually I start to see the cracks, literally see the cracks. For example, my hands are falling apart. My knuckles are cracking – bleeding even, it’s not pretty – thanks to a combination of this dry weather and the fact that I’m constantly washing and sanitising my hands. Moisturise? Sure, that’s a nice luxury to have. It’s just not realistic when every 15 minutes or so, I’m washing my hands, washing a bottle, changing a nappy, doing something in the kitchen. You can almost see why people think mums let themselves go. It’s not by choice, there’s just no other way. But, having said all this, I’m not complaining because I’m actually happy to put me aside for the sake of this little person.
I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing. Well, the goodness of putting my baby first is obvious. But egged on by too many articles on motherhood (thanks Facebook), a tiny voice in my head tells me that I should always put myself first. Is this ‘putting myself aside’ the first step into the cavernous depths that is ‘losing myself forever’? Will I wake one day, twenty years down the track and regret not doing anything for myself?
Gosh this is getting deep. Let’s bring it back a step.
Sam’s a thriving little being.
Philosophy aside, Sam’s doing very well. Nine months in and he’s growing fast. Weaned onto formula at seven months (so quickly that I got mastitis – joy oh joy), he takes three to four bottles a day and is enjoying his solid food more and more. He eats three solid meals a day, with snacks in between (rice crackers and cheese). I cook him ‘real’ food like shepherd’s pie, chicken casserole, and pork with leek and apple, which he happily munches on with his four teeth. Four! Wooh, thank goodness he’s weaned.
He rolls when he feels like it (not often) and bum shuffles to get things but he doesn’t crawl yet. He sleeps about 11 hours straight through the night most nights. He has little tricks and learns something new every week or so. It’s crazy seeing him pick things up so quickly. My heart bursts at the utter joy of seeing him learn and breaks at the reality that my baby is becoming a toddler.
And now, work.
I’m starting back at work full time at the end of this month. I’m conflicted about work. And yes I know my boss will probably read this. And my boss’ boss. And probably most of my team. But I’m an open book.
I’d always thought I’d be happy to – and even want to – go back to work after having a kid. I thought I was one of those women who prized her career and would be more than happy to put my child at childcare. But something has definitely shifted within me and I feel a sense of duty to be a mother, or at least more a mother than a corporate worker bee.
I can’t explain it. It’s not because I have so much fun being a mum every day. And it’s definitely not because being a mum is easier than working. Quite the opposite. But I have this sense of duty? obligation? pure maternal instinct? that is driving me to want to rear my own child. To be the one who teaches him things and the one who’s there to celebrate his achievements. I want these jobs. I don’t want to outsource to a centre staffed by 4:1 carers. I just don’t.
But this isn’t a decision I need to make right now. Panu has paternity leave for three months and realistically, oh hai mortgage. So for now I’m heading back to work, full time no less, and will grapple with the reality of juggling motherhood and a career until such time comes that I really can’t handle it any more.
(With my current role, I can’t do part time so full time it is, and it sucks to think we have to leave Sam somewhere five days a week – two or three days absolutely, I get the benefits of socialisation, but five? Urgh.)
So that’s where I’m at.
Nine months. I’ve had a mini shadow for nine whole months. Day in, day out, not one day of sleeping in – yet. But don’t worry, I haven’t lost myself just yet. This weekend I’m stealing away to have a staycation with a friend and I can’t wait! All I want to do is watch a movie. And eat. Slowly. And sleep in. Gah it’s going to be awesome 🙂
Oh and on the plus side, motherhood teaches you to multitask on steroids. It’s unbelievable the amount of stuff you can get done. Most days I’ve: showered, dressed, put make up on (because I’m trying to make an effort here), put the laundry on, eaten breakfast, unloaded the dishwasher, cleared the kitchen, hung out the laundry, gotten Sam up, made his breakfast, fed him, changed him, played with him and put him down for a nap – all before 9am. Pre-baby, I’d be lucky to be propped up in bed before 9am.
Thank you for taking this journey with me. I’ll check in again in a couple of months.
ps. I know sometimes my posts read like I’m a single mum. I’m not. Panu’s a great dad but his work commitments means that it’s just me and Sam all day, all week. But weekends are an absolute joy for all of us and I get Mondayitis now worse than I ever did when I worked.
pps. this post only took me a week to write!