This blog started out as an experiment in truth-telling. Lately, I’ve struggled to do just that. Sometimes sharing seems too scary, too irreversible. Other times I can’t bring myself to acknowledge my own feelings for fear they will overwhelm me.
Today is one of the latter. Tomorrow I plan to leave Jack with a dear friend who I trust completely while I care for myself a little bit. Its something I’ve longed to do for quite some time, an opportunity I welcomed when it presented itself, but that I now am kind of dreading.
See, Jack has only ever been “babysat” by my my mom and my sister in law. Never for more than a few hours and probably about 3 times total. I know, I know – how is that possible after nearly a year and a half? The only explanation I can give is this: Jack had a breathing issue while nursing at a few days old which scared and scarred me. Leaving him with someone else (even his Dad) was inconceivable to me for a very, very long time. But lately, the fear that made time apart seem impossible has dissipated significantly and independence in small doses seems really necessary for both of us. That doesn’t always make transitions easy.
The Day Before
I’m swimming in so many conflicting emotions and today I am drowning in the rip tide. I love my son, truly, madly, deeply, overwhelmingly, so much so sometimes that I feel paralyzed. I’m aching for some time away, to reacquaint myself with myself, to indulge in adult conversation, to use neglected parts of my brain, to be the Kate I recognize. At the same time, a lump fills my throat each time I imagine Jack watching me walk away, wondering where the heck I am going, why I am leaving him, and whether I am ever coming back.
My head tells me that this is illogical – he knows I will come back because I always have. My inner feminist screams to me that I need and deserve this time and that both of us will be the better for it. My primal brain tells me that mothers have always had to leave their children at one time or another for important reasons and that communities of care are essential to wellbeing. But my heart and the lump in my throat just throb at the thought of being separated from what feels like a new appendage.
The Day After
What a difference a day (a year, a few months, a few hours) make. After lots of priming and explaining what was to take place yesterday, Jack and I drove over to our friends’ house. I put on some T. Swift (Shake It Off is my son’s jam these days!) and distracted myself with glimpses of his dance moves in the rear view mirror. I half expected that he would cling to me when we arrived, knowing what was just around the corner. Um, no. He went straight for his friend’s toys and nearly never looked back. He was ready.
And so was I. I thought I would leave him and sob. Nope. I won’t pretend I didn’t obsess about what he did after he stopped playing, got ready for a nap in a new room, and looked around for me realizing I wasn’t there – I certainly did (no song could distract me from that thought); but, I didn’t have an overwhelming desire to drive back and scoop him up. I felt free and focused. It helped that my sweet friend sent adorable updates like this one:
Ladies, this I know for sure: if we are willing to quiet all of the loud voices (internal and external) that scream to us about what is “right” for ourselves and our children, we can hear the quiet voice that whispers to us what we need and when the time is right to do it. Its so easy to get caught up in trying to do this job called motherhood perfectly by everyone else’s standards. I am not immune to the raised eyebrows I get when I tell people Jack has been babysat less times than you could count on one hand, or the sideways glances I get when I sheepishly confess I am still breastfeeding, or the judgment people seem to heap on the cosleeping we did before sleep training. I perceive doubt in other people about the way I am going about motherhood and I doubt myself and my judgment sometimes, thinking perhaps they know better. But how can someone else know what I need and when I need it better than I do? How can I be inadequate if I am just me and true to myself and my intuition?
It strikes me that these truths don’t just apply to motherhood. I think these are lessons the universe has been trying to teach me for a long time. Turns out my son may just be my most important teacher.