All day I have had this strange feeling. A heavy weight on my chest that makes it hard to breathe. And no, I didn’t go out and get breast implants. Yet. It’s that nagging, anxious feeling that I am forgetting something. Something really important. I make sure the windows are closed. I consult my calendar to confirm I am not missing a meeting. I double-check that the curling iron is off (even though the last time I curled my hair was circa… um… pre-baby.) Nothing seems amiss. So what it is it? What am I forgetting???
Then I realize. My daughter.
No, I didn’t leave her at the supermarket, the mall, the adult book store, or anything. I didn’t accidentally leave her somewhere. I purposely did. Today I took her to daycare for the first time.
I don’t have this anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach because I don’t trust the daycare. They are great. God knows I did my research. It’s hard to explain, but somehow I feel naked without her… no, that’s not quite it. I have been naked in public once (college dare) and this doesn’t feel quite like that. It’s more like I am a missing a limb. Many people who have lost a limb report the phantom feeling that it is still there. When they try to move their “fingers”, they swear that they can FEEL them move, even though they know that they no longer are there. That is exactly how I feel today. I keep the music low so as not to wake her up. I decline the invitation to meet a friend for coffee because I can’t possibly leave the house without her. I walk around the empty house, and it feels like it’s haunted. Lyla is not here but she is EVERYWHERE. Her smell fills her room. Her toys lay jumbled on my bedroom floor, waiting for her to return and somehow make more of a mess out of them. Her bottles stand at attention by the sink.
Now, I know that this is getting awfully “Sunday Movie of the Week”-style melodramatic. Please forgive me for my self-indulgent sobfest for something that is not actually sad. I know that my daughter has not died. She’s just at daycare. But in a way, it still feels like the death of something. I guess I am just not sure what.
I feel the need to explain myself… to explain WHY she is in daycare. It’s that motherhood guilt again. I feel that I have to justify why a good mother would willingly let her most precious possession out of her sight, even for just a moment. Especially because I don’t really have to. I am lucky enough to have a husband who can support me without my having to work, but who is supportive enough to know that I need to work. I am also lucky enough to have a flexible job that gives me the freedom to work part-time and mostly from home. I know that in these respects, I am luckier than most. Many women simply don’t have the choice. But I do have a choice, and my choice is try to find the delicate, and maybe impossible, balance somewhere in the middle.
At first it was fine. She napped a lot and wasn’t very mobile, so she could happily play by herself while I tapped away at my keyboard next to her. Then she started crawling. And standing. And opening doors, and cabinets, and toilet seats, and the gate to hell if I wasn’t there to stop her. So working while she was awake was no longer an option; instead I worked while she slept. But now, she sleeps a lot less. So I’ve spent the past few months rushing to my computer the second I lay her down, forgetting to take the time to do basic things like eat, sleep and pee, and regretting that the time I should be enjoying my daughter was marred by my stress – wondering when the hell I was going to get my work done. So, after a few months of trying to do it all and feeling like I was failing at EVERYTHING, I decided that enough was enough. My husband and I agreed to send Lyla to daycare two days a week. And now I am spending those days wishing that she was home with me, but knowing that soon I will come to appreciate the time I have to myself.
I have so much more to say on this subject, mostly about the guilt I feel. What’s a mother without her guilt, right? But I am going to save it for another day, another blog. Mostly because I have spent so much of the day wandering around the house and sniffing her dirty clothes like a creep, that I am now late to pick her up. I have spent the whole day missing her, and now I will finally go pick her up and, after an hour or two, most likely be wishing that I had a bit more alone time to get some work done.
Ah motherhood… I spend half the time feeling like I can’t win, and the other half feeling like I already have.