So I have a bit of a confession to make.
Before the Gadlet was born I got a bit obsessed with a joint-authored parenting blog and I spent quite a bit of time reading all of the posts about lead paint hazards and celebrity births and fun games for toddlers and single parenting and tips for travel. I think I was really trying to figure out beforehand what parenting would be like. (As if one really could?) I was particularly interested in the posts by one author whose baby had been born a few months earlier. I think I figured that her experiences would parallel mine and that I could see what I'd be going through in advance. But this is not my confession. My confession is this: A series of her posts were about how devastating it was to her to go back to work. She wrote about sobbing hysterically because she had to leave her child at daycare and return to her office. When I read this I got all snarky and superior. I mean, come on! Hysterics? The kid was going to be three blocks away from her office. How ridiculous to be so emotional and so obsessed. It's not like she was leaving her kid forever, she was just going back to work. At a career she chose and liked. Sheesh. And I confess I think I even sent a link to Spousal Unit mocking this woman's pain.
Yep. Karma's a bitch.
I spent most of the day on Sunday in hysterical weeping because I have to go back to work next week and leave the Gadlet in Daycare for three days a week. I was snorting, sobbing, and moaning and Spousal Unit was supremely unsympathetic. Didn't he understand that MILLIONS OF YEARS OF EVOLUTION were telling my in the strongest possible hormonal language NOT TO LEAVE THIS CHILD! Apparently not. Nor did he understand that telling me that I Absolutely Had to Finish My Dissertation RIGHT NOW did not help AT ALL. Although to give him a little credit, reminding me that I actually had something pretty important to do while the Gadlet was in daycare may have seemed like a somewhat reasonable response to my Extreme Reluctance to part with my child. It was not. I would not be appeased. It was a pretty miserable day.
While I know intellectually that the Gadlet will be fine and I know that she'll really enjoy her new situation (it is at the house of a woman -- Darby -- with lots of nanny experience and only 1 other kid, her 6-week old little boy) and I know she'll love Thursdays with Daddy, it still feels really hard to think about this special time we had together coming to an end.
To help myself make this transition and to make next Monday "easier," I went over to Darby's yesterday equipped with a box of stuff for the Gadlet to have there, like extra clothes and diapers and stuff. At the suggestion of a friend, I also toted along an extensive typed list of things that Darby may possibly need to know about the Gadlet. This list contained vital, critical things that only her Mama knows and that I was sure Darby could not figure out on her own -- things like "she likes to be held upright rather than flat" or "she only poops every 4 days so don't freak out if she hasn't pooped." I carefully detailed her favorite toys and how she likes to roll over and how we're handling the cloth diapering and when she sleeps each day. Darby very sweetly listened to me yak about this for an hour or so, nodding with great interest. We talked a lot about her baby and mine and what it was like and what she wants to do with the two of them. And then, as I was making a move to leave, she gently asked me to write down who the Gadlet's pediatrician was and what my emergency contact numbers were.
Yes. I had carefully explained how often the Gadlet needs to excrete but had not written down my cell phone number.
Clearly I do not want to leave this baby.
Last week it also hit me that there were going to be lots of things that I was going to miss. I was thinking that I wouldn't be around for some really important milestones like rolling over and sitting up on her own and crawling and walking and talking... the list goes on. But as I was sitting there worrying about it as I sent some emails, the the Gadlet, on her play mat beside me, started a strange grunting. So I looked over at her only to find that she was on her belly. Yes, she had rolled over for the first time while I wasn't looking only moments after I had been worrying about missing her rolling over. I leapt up and grabbed the camera and took this:
I'm sure she rolled over because she was dressed in what I like to call her "My Daddy is a Physicist" shirt. But, anyway, in that moment she taught me a really valuable lesson, that wily little kidlet. I was sitting right there next to her and I missed a major milestone. So maybe going away won't be all that different. Plus, her milestones are hers, not mine. They're important to me, sure, but even if I miss the first one, I'll catch the second:
Or the third or the fourth. She'll do it again. And I'll be there for those moments.
In addition to the hormonally induced hysteria (H.I.H) and Fear of Missing Something Big (F.M.S.B.) I think I am also really reluctant to end my leave because of what it means for me. Maternity leave has been just great and I think the first six weeks of her life were the happiest of mine. I was the least stressed, the most fulfilled, and the most calm that I've ever been. I mean, I didn't have to worry about anything at that time. I set it all aside to just be with her. I can't adequately describe what it felt like to put down all of my self-imposed pressure, all of the academic pressure, all of the crap I've been carrying around for a decade or so and just Be. Just Live. It was indescribably special. So I guess I'm not only mourning the loss of my uninterrupted time with the Gadlet, I think I'm also mourning the loss of that happy self who didn't have anything else to worry about except feeding her baby.
But if I'm really honest with myself, I haven't been that person for a while. (In fact, since November 11. Blogs are great, huh?) And lately, I've found myself resenting the Gadlet sometimes when I'm trying to get something done and she wants my attention. And then I resent myself for resenting her. And then I get stressed that I'm not getting anything done
AND I'm not fully being present with the Gadlet and I resent the universe that structured it this way. So maybe it will be a really good thing for me to have some uninterrupted time for my own work and then when I'm with the Gadlet, I'll really be with her and can enjoy that time because I won't also be trying to do a million other things.
At least that's what I'm telling myself today. We'll see what I tell myself on Monday morning as I walk away from Darby's house without my baby.
Dreaded Dissertation Update
I've spent the last couple of days getting things together that I needed to do to go back to work, so the DD has taken a back seat. But, I'm feeling hopeful that next week's daycare will buy me more time. The rest of this week will also be consumed with prepping for the semester. (I haven't even started on my syllabi!!)
The only good news is that I tried on my work clothes yesterday and my pants still fit. Shirts are a different story, but those are easier and cheaper to replace than the Ann Taylor suits. :)
- At 9:07 AM Supadiscomama said...
For what it's worth, having designated work time while Supadiscotoddler is in daycare allows me to enjoy and appreciate the time that I have with him even more. Once work time is over, all I worry about is hanging out with my kid (oh, yeah, and my hubby). It's nice to be able to separate the two a little bit. But it's really painful to leave the little one on the first day of daycare. I promise that it will get easier!
P.S. Congrats on fitting into your work pants :)
- At 10:37 AM Mimi said...
Ah! How self-aware! You know, I was one of those people who was DYING to get back to work (at six months ...) and you're absolutely right that you won't have that weird resentment thing--you can work at work, then be that focused, deliberate mommy you want to be when you're at home. Really, it helps.
- At 10:26 PM AcadeMama said...
Just a tip: you can leave a disposable camera at Darby's house and ask her to help catch candid photos of all the funny, cute things the Gadlet does while you're at work!
My mom did the equivalent when she quit her job so that she could watch my oldest daughter. I didn't even know what she was doing until H's second Christmas, when my mom gave me a 2-volume collection of home video tapes she'd made of H while I was at work :) She didn't catch any major firsts, but it was (and still is) so great to be able to sit down and watch my baby hanging out with her Nana and saying "hi" to me in the camera!
- At 12:29 AM woolywoman said...
Ohh, today I was rushing like a crazy woman to pick up my son (5) from after school care, fretting because he had not only had to go to Kindergarten, but then to after school care- I rush in, swoop on him and have him look at me, slightly surprised and say "you have to be patient a moment, mommy. I'm doing something here that I need to finish before I leave." Oh. Right. He has a life, too, and has actually not spent his whole day wondering what I was doing, unlike me....you ad Gadlet will get through this, we all do.
- At 4:17 AM Kiki BE said...
I have to leave my daughter at day care for the first time next week too. I'm just now realizing how painful that will be.
Your post really helped but some things in perspective for me. Especially the part about missing certain milestones.
- At 2:42 PM Suz said...
Wishing you a proud moment Monday when G. goes on her first big-girl day adventure; a good workday; a relaxing commute; a very good homecoming and a quiet evening with your feet up. Good luck!
- At 11:55 PM John said...
It is not a easiest thing to leave your baby just after three months of her born, I've witnessed how my wife felt in that situation. Its not all about fixing the camera and catch the happy moments. It is the care we should give to our child in her/his childhood...
- At 2:52 PM trillwing said...
I'm lucky in that we managed to keep our kid out of daycare until he was 15 months old--I was still in grad school then, so I had a flexible schedule, and my husband works from home--but even then I was a mess when we sent him off. I worried we were merely warehousing him during the day. But his development has taken off, and he's never complained when we drop him off. He LOVES it, and he's learning a lot.
You may feel like crap about it now, but it pays off--both for her and for you--in the long run.
- At 10:22 PM spark said...
How did the week go? Thinking about all three of you.