Pretty much all my life, I had a vision of how I'd be as a grown up woman. As a wife, a mother, a professional. And I had some definite preferences, like how I wouldn't get married until I was at least 30 (so much for that), I wouldn't have children until I was 35 (that too) and that I'd never be a stay-at-home mom. Because I didn't get it, and I definitely knew it wasn't for me. What did women who stayed home do all day? The laundry? Maybe watch television? Didn't they get bored?
Needless to stay, staying at home with an infant has set me straight. What do women who stay at home do? MOTHER OF GOD, what DON'T they do? I've thought about trying to explain my days at home to J, so that he might appreciate the level of integrity required when taking care of a baby, all by yourself, for hours upon end, but there's no point. I'm tired at the end of the day. Besides mentioning a few high points ("Nora took a three hour nap today!" "Nora did a huge poop this morning!"), I'm more interested in what we're having for dinner, and hearing about his coworkers and all the fun things they did. Did they have cake for someone's birthday? Did they have coffee together? What did they talk about? Because that's the other thing about staying at home with a child; except for maybe a phone call or a lunch date every now and then, you don't really talk to any other grown ups, and that can be hard. I really, really like to talk to grown ups.
Taking care of Nora is an always-changing job. At first it was hard for me to stay at home with a baby who slept all the time. Then I loved staying at home with a baby who slept all the time! Then Nora got a little older, and started interacting with us and the world around her, and now being at home with her is an absolute joy, and also takes more energy as she's awake more often and wants to play. I started working again last week (3 days a week) and since Nora's daycare wasn't set up yet, I've been working at home with her. Let me tell you, she totally gets it when your concentration is directed towards something besides her, even if you're dangling a toy in front of her face and singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" really loudly. She's no dummy.
Taking care of a child, I think, isn't necessarily difficult because the child is difficult (unless of course the child is being difficult, in which case, it is) but because you are always, one hundred percent of the time, on. You are ON. You are taking a shower while listening for distant cries. You are eating lunch one-handed. You've had to pee for an hour or so but there hasn't been a really good opportunity to go, so hey, you can hold it. Your coffee is getting cold.
I want to clarify that I don't think having and taking care of a baby makes life as crazy as some people told me it would, which I've mentioned in other blog posts. It's really fun and even relaxing in a lot of ways. The point I'm trying to make is different. The point is, you know when you're at work, and you're having a stressful day and you take a few minutes for yourself? Like maybe you linger in the bathroom taking a few nice, deep breaths and fixing your hair. Or you take a walk around the block. Or you gab with coworkers in the kitchen for a while making a cup of tea. Forget that. Nonexistent.
That's why it's hard to explain at the end of the day. It's not one specific thing or another, it's just a state. It's the state of being a mother and it is all-encompassing in challenging and wonderful ways I never dreamed it would be. I find myself now completely enamored of other mothers, whether they stay home or work or something in between. It doesn't matter, because being a mother happens on the weekdays, the weekends, in the first hours of the morning and in the middle of the night.
I'm not saying that other jobs aren't incredibly difficult, and I'm definitely not trying to diminish the role of fathers, who deserve major recognition for the amazing things that they do. All I'm saying is that if you know someone who has had a baby, who is going to have a baby, someone who has lost a baby, someone who is longing for a baby, someone who has raised a baby, someone with babies who are all grown up with babies of their own, if you know someone who has adopted or fostered a child, someone who has been a mother in any sense of the word, just stop next time you're out - it won't take you long - and buy her some flowers.