The learning curve when you have a baby is so steep. All this waiting and puking and months-long migraines and watching That 70s Show. And then suddenly you’re never alone. Never. The missing puzzle piece is here. You hold a baby, wear a baby, eat with the baby on your lap, sleep with the baby on your chest, nurse the baby while buying groceries. And then, somehow, there’s another baby and you learn to do all the above with the new, tiny one, while holding the hand or the truck or the monkey of the first child’s at the same time. And now you are certainly, aggressively, never alone. You go to the bathroom holding the littlest, while the toddler and the cats watch and take turns dropping things in the tub or sink or garbage.
And after a bit of this, it becomes normal. Neither of them take a bottle. Absolutely will not. And you know what, who cares? You don’t need to go anywhere, be anywhere but here. You are all they need. Neither of them sleep, not alone anyway. And who can blame them. Would you want to sleep in a little cage in a big, quiet room, who knows how far away from anyone? I wouldn’t.
When the eldest went to half-day kindergarten, he was ready, and I was not. My heart and my skin had never felt quite so lonely. And so the littler one and I filled our time with nonsense until he came home. I don’t remember how I managed it, but I once went on a field trip with the four-year-old, leaving the two-year-old in someone else’s care, and we both were heart-sick by the time it was over, him asking “When can we go home, mommy? I miss my Bon-Bon.” But his missing us diminished as he grew, and mine didn’t. Mine grew each day, each year. Last year, we made the leap to him in school all day PLUS her in school four half-days. And this year, they’re both in school full days. Thirty-six long hours.
And I hate it. The saving grace is that my son is finally happy at school. Being a third-grader gives them some choice about who they eat lunch with, where they sit on the bus, what they can check out of the library. He has a classroom of kids he’s used to, with fewer distractions and noise than previous years. My daughter loves her teacher, but doesn’t understand why people continue to talk to her or don’t follow the rules all the time. If they were miserable as they have been in the past, I don’t know what I’d do.
Now, all I have to do is figure out my own plan.
I had a plan. I was going to tear through the house when they went to school and get rid of all the stuff we don’t use and the too-small clothes, clean all the things I haven’t since I was nesting, in labor with my son eight years ago, fix all the little broken handles and dents and edges. Empty out the garage. Take care of the yard and gardens. Get oil changes and haircuts and make dental appointments. Train for a half marathon, take swim lessons, go on long bike rides, go back to boot camp regularly. Meal plan and grocery shop, actually make dinner, and make lunches that didn’t look I raided a gas station on the way to school.
Instead, I have tabs open and emails started on volunteer opportunities at school and a local community food bank. I can’t seem to pull the trigger to tell people I can help, commit to being anywhere but on this sofa, watching these episodes, lurking on Facebook. I have time. I have so much time. And I have guilt about being a stay-at-home-parent so much so that I volunteer false information to strangers, “Yes. I’m home with my kids. BUT I’m going back to work soon.” Lies.
I let myself be pushed out of the microbiology lab with a sour taste in my mouth from HR and the misogynistic senior scientists. I was happy to leave. I got that license to teach science and I liked it when I was there, but then I had kids and the idea of spending my best hours and energy on kids who didn’t care while sending mine somewhere else was ridiculous.
I WANT to be here. I am lucky enough to be where I want to be.
I’ve been making mistakes, though. I spend my energy in stupid ways and so the goal, and my ability to be here and engaged with my kiddos when they get off the bus is still sub par. I’ll get it right. Eventually.
Do you know what this is like? I have to open my own doors, people. There are no small children running, arguing, crying even about who gets to push the button to open the door. I don’t have to buckle any seat belts. Or wait for anyone to “do it mineself,” or listen to how unfair it is that someone has a booster seat and it isn’t them. Do you know how fast I can run an errand now? Are you not amazed that I can go to the grocery store AND the pet store AND even get gas and no one needs to be bribed or nagged or towed along?
Alright, so this is a ramble and I don’t know how to clean it up. EXCEPT, that I went to see a friend yesterday. She’s becoming a Life Coach and wondered if any of her friends would be practice clients. Yes. She warns me it’s not therapy, that she won’t give advice. Still sounds good. And within minutes of talking to her and answering her pointed questions, I’ve figured it out. I’m nearly choked on tears and words I can not say out loud.
I miss them so much it hurts. I am scared of not being here for them. I am afraid of anything that might keep me from them, be it an outside commitment, a lack of energy or… an MS relapse.
I want to find my way back to me, to find something fulfilling *outside* raising my kids….and the reason I won’t commit to anything is fear. I’m so afraid I wouldn’t have the energy left afterwards for the things that matter. And, I’m terrified of relapsing and suddenly being unable to complete what I’ve committed to, of even having telling anyone about my MS and admitting even temporary inability.
I don’t know how to move through that yet.
But I’ve got 30-some hours a week to learn how.