This week has been hectic. There was car trouble, an extra shift at work--which meant an extra rushed day—and there was a sick baby. This last one trumps all other happenings, obviously. She clung to me like a koala or monkey. Some nights her cries and thrashing went on for hours. The only sustenance she’d allow was nursing. Constant, when I was home. A sick child is pitiful, churning every last drop of empathy and nurturing out of a mother. Yes, I was nurtured out and just wanted a break. Typing that is completely cathartic and makes me feel extremely guilty.
I’ve prided myself on never cracking in my maternal role. When she was a newborn and ridden with reflux, she could scream in my ear for hours and I kept composure and serenity that even her father commented on.
“How can you stand it?”
“I don’t know,” I sang, “I’m the mom—this is what I have to do.”
Inside, I beamed. When other moms said they had felt annoyed by their own tiny people or snapped from a lack of sleep, I remained the ethereal mother who loved her baby too much to let little obstacles tear her down. I had mastered motherhood by never feeling frustration with my baby, or ever letting her absorb my stress. The only stress I’d felt was when she refused bottles, and that was easily amended by increasing our time together. I told myself I was killing it, and—I admit it—I gloated internally because I never crumbled under pressure.
This week was different. I wasn't clambering for more time with this baby-turned-feverish wolverine. At night, I begged the universe and every deity known to mankind to just let me sleep. I felt like I couldn't soothe her, because my own nerves were rattled and fried. When I went to work, I took big gulps of baby-free air. And then I wanted to cry. How horrible and selfish of me! She couldn't help that crying was her only means of communication, even if it sometime was a grating wail. I failed at perfection.
Well, turns out...duh. I’m human, and flawed.
Remember when I wrote that post about taking your baby on a date? It had all that talk about them deserving the freedom and the space to be a child. That same theory goes for moms, too. They need the space to be that self they were before children. We are entitled to quiet, to peace, to do the things that we love that have nothing to do with being a mother. This self-love, self-date, self-getaway is well deserved. It doesn't mitigate our mother-ness at all.
I allowed myself to be a human outside of the context of motherhood. Drank an avocado margarita. Joined my fellow writers at a writing group. Holed myself up in my writing space to work on my novel.
And after? There were those dimpled arms and slobbery kisses. They waited and I returned to them recharged and ready to tackle anything motherhood threw at me.