While I wade through a (wonderfully lucky) year of maternity leave with my two small children, I’ve found myself occasionally deluged with the continual motion of the world around me. Nothing has stopped since my son was born in January – friends and family members and groups f which I am a part are having parties and weekends away and all manner of events that, while they sound amazingly fun, just do not work for me. I have a 3.5-year-old. I have an 8-month-old. My days are spent driving to preschool, doing laundry, prepping dinner, soothing boo-boos, mitigating tantrums, singling lullabies. My evenings are spent nursing and rocking and collapsing into bed. So I’ve found myself saying this a lot lately: “Maybe next year.”
Parenting, obviously, involves many choices. Lots of those choices inevitably mean sacrifice or compromise on the part of the parent. Now, on the one hand, I firmly believe that part of being an effective and loving parent is meeting my own needs in addition to those of my children – whether that be a monthly pedicure, book club, La Leche League meeting, whatever. But the plain fact is: if those things that I want interfere with my #1 job, that of parent, I need to consider back-burnering them for a bit.
I didn’t come to this place glibly or quickly. With my first child, that sometimes suffocating intensity of single-child mothering pushed me into occasional frustration over my lack of freedom. But now with my second child, for some reason, I find much more peace in simply doing what my baby needs of me. For my son, at least right now, that means me being with him for frequent nursing and cuddling from his bedtime at about 7 pm until 10 or 11, during which time he is restless and wakeful and just needs me nearby to settle in for some deep sleep later at night. Yes, it pretty much limits my evening activities to reading Kindle books on my iPhone in the dark. But this time around it’s a lot easier for me to know that it’s just for now. It will change. So all those things I might like to do? They just don’t make sense for my family right now. To put it in perspective…
Things I am Missing This Year:
- Maya Angelou speaking at a local university.
- Concerts by some of my favorite bands that hardly ever come to my area.
- Margarita-soaked evenings with girlfriends.
- Dinner-and-a-movie dates with my husband. Well, any evening date with my husband, really.
Things I am NOT Missing:
- Reading Goodnight Moon to my little boy while he tries to eat the pages.
- Singing him to sleep in my arms with Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” as we walk around in the dark.
- Snuggling with my daughter and husband after the baby is asleep, listening to her “read” Dr. Seuss’ “What Was I Scared Of” in her expressive, lispy little girl voice.
- A rare few quiet moments after both kids are asleep and my husband and I can actually have a conversation, where, instead of talking about politics or the latest new release, we inevitably talk about how amazing it is to us that our daughter can recite entire books, or how cute our son is when he tucks his lower lip in and hums like he’s talking to us.
Concerts and speakers and date nights and girls’ evenings out will still be there next year or the year after that. But my children will only be this little once, and as each month slips all too quickly between my fingers, I am sure that I am exactly where I need to be. Next year my kids will need me a teeny bit less. And the year after that, even less. And less and less until they will have whole lives, whole personal dramas playing out beyond my knowledge, whole days and weeks and years where I am not the center of their existence. I am so needed right now – more than I will ever be again – and that knowledge makes it easier to turn down those invitations. With any luck I will have years to do those things, but this little boy asleep with his soft fuzzy head on my chest will be grown before I know it, and I’m sure it is this I will want to remember.