The conversation about how we would handle child care started a long time ago, actually, way back when we were house hunting. It seemed crazy to be talking about day care vs staying at home when a baby was just a “someday in the future” hope, but it also seemed a bit crazy NOT to think about it, when we were about to sign up for years and years of mortgage payments. Our house hunt ended up having two main search areas: one that was closer to where I worked, and another area that was farther away, where we would think about a lower purchase price that we could afford on just one income, figuring that my commute would be pretty awful.
We ended up finding our house in the latter area, and my commute was, in fact, quite horrible. It still felt crazy, and we knew we would have to think about things long and hard once a baby was a reality. And suddenly it was a very real reality, only a week after we moved into our house. We talked about it and then talked some more, and crunched and re-crunched the numbers. The (honestly shocking) fact was that my salary would barely cover daycare, without much remaining. Even when my maternity leave began in May, we weren’t ready to pull the trigger and say it for sure. But in early July, I told my boss that I wouldn’t be coming back to work. So it’s really real and officially official: I am now a stay at home mom.
It’s a strange feeling, because I haven’t been in my office since May 2, so it’s not like other jobs I have left, where I had a last day, and I just didn’t go back after that. I’ve been home, both pregnant and waiting for Benjamin to arrive, and then with him, for four full months now, so my First Day as a Stay At Home Mom, The Day The New Era Began is hard to pin down, precisely. Truly, I’ve been doing it since Dan went back to work when Ben was two weeks old. It doesn’t feel entirely real, despite the fact that I’ve never had a break from working this long. Not being back for back to school made it more real, and writing this out makes it more real, but it’s so easy to get distracted and caught up in daily life with a little baby and not feel entirely connected to whatever “Real Life” even means anymore.
I always hoped we’d be able to choose how we wanted to answer this question… but truthfully, I also always figured that I’d WANT to keep working. When I was younger, I imagined my life would play out neatly: first, I’d (finally!) figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and then I’d work hard to achieve career success. Somewhere in there, I’d find someone awesome, and we’d get married, and then we’d have a handful of kids with plenty of time before I got all 30 and old. Are you rolling your eyes as hard as I am? So obviously my life didn’t exactly pan out in that way. I wonder, sometimes, how a different career situation would change things… if I was on a path to advancement, or if I was still working as a librarian… but this decision was a lot less complicated than I always expected it would be, emotionally. Maybe that’s because I already abandoned librarianship, which was supposed to be The Thing.
I worry that it’ll be difficult or impossible to start working again with a three? five? who knows? year gap on my resume. I worry about putting too much of a financial burden on Dan. I worry that I’m way too bad with money to be able to live as frugally as we now need to, that I’ll miss stupid shit like tossing a nail polish (or two) in the basket at Target for no reason other that I’m in the building, that big expenses like replacing my car or decorating/redoing rooms in our house or ever being able to go on vacation will be difficult or impossible. I worry that I won’t know how to make sure Ben is getting the enrichment and socialization and academic development he’d be getting in school. I worry that I’ll be bored and isolated, without any friends in our tiny new town. I worry that in a way, I’m taking the easy way out of my lifelong attempt to figure out what I should be when I grow up, by staying home instead of keeping at the quest.
But also? Becoming a mom has clicked something vital into place somewhere in my head and heart. Even on the hard days, when he’s yelling in my ear and my brain is melting, it feels like I finally make sense, somehow. I’m so excited about all of the adventures we’ll go on together. I can’t wait until he’s big enough to go to the library for storytime and swing on swings at the park. I can’t wait for crafts and toys. Mostly I am just so, so grateful to be able to spend these days with Benjamin when he’s little. I know this time is truly a gift and the fact that being his mom is my primary job right now makes me feel so fulfilled in a way I haven’t ever felt before.
One of my favorite posts last year was when I took photos documenting my path through a pretty normal summer Friday. And it may be the last Friday of official summer, but I really wanted to document what a Friday looks like for me now. Today was a good example of one of my more adventurous days (in that I left the house! Although I do try to get out a few times a week).
The day started with a very happy, chatty baby. He woke up on the later end of his normal range (around 6:30am) and I took over after Ben ate so Dan could get ready for work. We played a bit and worked on tummy time, and stared at the ceiling fan for a while. I managed to get him to fall asleep for a nap (30 minutes, as is the norm now) without too much trouble so I could take a shower. He ate again, and then we met up with my mother in law at the outlets. One of the stores there was having a pretty crazy Labor Day sale, and she offered to buy him his Thanksgiving outfit, so why not? We walked around a bit, and got some fresh air, which always feels good. (There are more days than there should be on which I just don’t leave the house and it is such a bad idea. It becomes so apparent when I go outside for the first time in too long, and the fresh air, no matter how hot or humid, feels like heaven.)
I stopped for a giant iced coffee (getting Dunkin Donuts is my treat these days) and then Ben and I went to the grocery store so I could buy ingredients for a side dish I want to try out for one of our BBQs this weekend. I even managed to keep the stroller moving at a steady pace while I was there so Ben stayed asleep. (I was hoping that I’d trick him into an extra catnap with the car trips there and back, and it totally worked. And then I realize how much of my time is spent strategizing naps these days and that… is just still so strange.)
When we got home, Ben and I both ate lunch, and then he kicked in his bouncy seat happily while I put ingredients in the crock pot for a new recipe I’m trying. I am feeling more accomplished than I maybe should for getting dinner going (an actual real meal! Not frozen pizza or take out or chicken on the grill! It’s been a loooooong time since we cooked for real.). And Ben can barely keep his eyes open playing with the monkey toys that hang over his bouncy seat, and falls asleep mid-swipe. He’s napping while I type this post (although 32 minutes in, he’s wide awake. It’s like he has a timer or something).
It’s funny; in some ways my Friday is exactly the same as last summer’s (I interacted with only a few people, I went on a walk, I got iced coffee…) and there’s some comfort in that. I kinda dig this new normal, though. Especially the part that’s snoring across the room as I type.
And just for fun, I leave you with this summer’s jam:
I am not sure that I know how to write here anymore, now that life is so different. But maybe I can figure it out if I just jump in. I’m typing this on my phone from the rocking chair in Benjamin’s room on a sunny summer Wednesday morning while he’s snoring softly in my arms. I know I need to start getting him to learn how to fall asleep on his own but once the overtired thrashing/nap fighting stops it’s nice to let myself just snuggle. I’ll probably regret these moments when he wakes up in a half hour, but… how can you regret sleepy baby snuggles?
Time is fast and so, so slow. How are we almost done with August? But how, too, are weekdays so very long? (Of course, on the days I have big goals, weekdays can feel pretty damn short. Life now is just one giant contradiction, basically.)
I drink a lot of iced coffee these days. Don’t ask about the totally klassy way I make it at home. All I want to do is work on my scrapbooks, but now that Ben is fighting naps so hard, it’s harder to find time. I am still limping through project 365, even though I hardly ever take out my dSLR. (Which is so bad. I miss it so much, and really need to break out of this photographic rut.) I’m trying to figure out how to start exercising.
Benjamin at fourteen weeks old is just pure sunshine (except when he’s tired). He gets absurdly excited whenever we put him on his changing table (could the mobile I made be that much of a hit??) and spends a lot of time trying to get his whole hand into his mouth. He’s starting to notice toys, and is so chatty. I feel like he’s so close to laughing for real, although I admit I’m not sure how old babies are when they learn that. I’m sure I’m the millionth mom to say this, but I’m so excited for the next things – to hear his giggle and listen to what he has to say, to see if we’re right that he will be mobile before we’re ready – but I also want to completely stop time. He’s so stinkin’ cute now, and I don’t want time to go any faster than it already is.
Life these days is slow and focused on a very little dude and truthfully? I’m just loving it. (It would be awfully nice if we could figure out this nap business, though.)
It hit me about a few months ago that I had completely forgotten about my 33 before 33 list. I suppose impending parenthood can sort of take over your life in that way. That list wasn’t a total bust, but because I forgot about it so thoroughly, I don’t think it’s really fair to consider it done. Some years, I plan my lists for weeks ahead of time, but today is my 33rd birthday, and I still want to do all those things I thought up last year. So I decided to start a new list for my new year. The first 19 items are from 33 before 33, and the rest are new or just slightly revised for this year. When I turned 32, I was a newlywed who had a lot of high hopes, and adding them to a list helped me feel a bit like they weren’t as crazy as they felt. Now I’m 33, and we bought that house and I had that adorable baby, and I need a list like this more than ever, as I’m learning how to be BOTH the new me who’s a mom and the old me who really needs to create. So here we are. And even if I forget about this list by January, I think it’ll be a pretty good year.
- go on dates with Dan
- host a party of some sort (dinner party, housewarming, football party) for more than 4 people
- shoot at least one roll of film each with the AE-1, instax, polaroid
- make a wedding album
- make wedding albums to give to our parents
- visit the ocean (at least 5 times)
- walk across a bridge in NYC
- visit a new local brewery
- make pom poms
- eat at Pete and Elda’s
- make quote wall art
- crochet a giant scarf
- get another tattoo
- hang a photo gallery wall in our new place
- go to a Patriots game with Dan to celebrate six years since our first spark
- make a new dessert
- get a sewing machine
- and sew something simple
- make a wreath for each season (summer, fall, Christmas, winter, spring) for our front door
- decorate the living room and the dining room
- write in a paper journal three times a month
- blog more
- learn how to be a mom
- try NOT to overthink things so much
- go on a photo excursion (by myself or with friends)
- thoroughly purge my closet (again)
- start building a new wardrobe
- collect more bracelets for an arm party
- grow out my hair
- plan an awesome first birthday for Benjamin
- eat healthy food and exercise (and okay, also lose weight) to really stave off diabetes
- keep up with Project Life and Ben’s baby album
- choose a positive outlook even when things are hard
- laugh more. feel the wind. go for walks. read books to Ben. savor the snuggles. tell Dan how awesome he is. love big. breathe deep.
Benjamin turned six weeks old a few days ago, which means I’ve also been a mother for a month and a half. I’m not quite sure how that happened, to be honest. (Well, duh, I know HOW it happened… you know what I mean. I have to figure out how to put sentences together after all this time somehow.) I have wanted to be a mom for basically my whole life, so I had a lot of ideas about what it would feel like and how I would handle it. But obviously, it’s simultaneously everything and nothing like I imagined all those years.
Benjamin is amazing and adorable and perfect. More often than I should probably admit, I just stare at him. (Or if he’s sleeping and I’ve already stared at him? Then I go through the photos and videos I’ve taken of him on my phone.) I can’t believe Dan and I made him, or that we created someone so absurdly beautiful. Am I biased? Of course. But he’s also ridiculously cute. He’s littler than I expected, and after all those weeks of being afraid gestational diabetes would mean I had a giant baby, he fit into newborn sized clothes for over a month. He’s starting to lose his baby hair, which makes me sad. But bald babies are pretty adorable, too. His eyes continue to be a mystery. For a while they were gray with brown centers, but now I’m not sure if they’re tinging green or maybe brown? (I CANNOT HANDLE the suspense. We waited nine months to find out he was a him, and now I’m still waiting to find out his eye color? I just want to KNOW.) In the last week, his face has filled out and he’s gotten bigger again and he suddenly looks like a totally different baby to me. I know it happened gradually, but it felt like all of a sudden he’s bald and almost chubby. He’s still a tiny little guy, but he’s also so much bigger already.
I was worried about depression and being alone with him and being able to handle all of the huge emotions. I didn’t really think to worry about recovering from major surgery, and luckily, that part has gone remarkably well. I am feeling more like myself, physically, and so grateful for that. I blame the diabetes for the weight I have lost already, but let’s face it: I started pregnancy at a much, much higher weight than I was okay with. And I have some work ahead of me to get more healthy so I can avoid type two diabetes in the (near) future (not to mention gestational diabetes in any potential future pregnancies), since I learned this week I’m at a pretty high risk for it. (My doctor wondered if maybe instead of blaming diabetes for my postpartum weight loss so far I should perhaps CREDIT it. … Oh. Right.) I am having trouble with that part, honestly, because most people do magically go back to non-diabetic as soon as their babies are born. Emotionally? As far as I can tell, I’m doing okay, most of the time. Other than the exhaustion-induced crying that happens many days around 9pm. And if I could find a way to take everyone’s advice and nap during the baby’s daytime naps (…instead of writing blog posts, I GUESS. Priorities.) that would probably get easier.
Breastfeeding did not work out how I wanted, and that has been really difficult. I thought I had prepared myself for either eventuality, that some people have wonderful, lengthy nursing relationships, and others have a really hard go of it, but it turns out I hadn’t really prepared myself at all. It broke my heart that I couldn’t nurse him the way I was supposedly designed to do. It made me angry at my body for failing me, after I felt like it had already failed me with diabetes and labor. It made me jealous of all the people I know who produced enough milk to keep nursing or pumping for their babies for months. I had read all the books and was so prepared, intellectually. Except that, like having a baby, you don’t know how it’ll go for you until you try. So I cried about it. And then we bought some formula, and oh, duh. The baby doesn’t cry so much when he’s not STARVING. And then it got a lot easier.
Do I feel like someone’s mother? Most of the time, I’m not sure I do. I’m not sure I feel like my old, pre-pregnancy self, either, though. I’m sort of in this middle ground, learning how to be this new version of myself, while also trying to figure out how the old me fits in. It’s a blur, for sure, and I rarely know what day it is. I knew I’d be beyond exhausted, but I also figured I’d be unable to function at all. In reality, it’s more like I feel mostly okay most of the time, until I hit a brick wall and everything makes me cry. Is that what it’s like for other new moms? I don’t really know. Some days, when Dan gets home from work, I’m so far past the end of my rope that I want him to take over everything and go sit somewhere else. But other days, Ben’s alert and cooing and adorable, and then he naps in the wrap snuggled below my chin and our breathing syncs up and everything feels exactly like I always imagined. But we’re learning day by day, and it’s the greatest thing ever, even though sometimes it’s simultaneously really, really hard.