I am your mother. And I can barely keep a houseplant alive. And it’s a miracle this mutt I rescued ten years ago is still alive but I think, in fact, it was he that rescued me. There he is, snoring at the foot of the bed as we two gals cuddle in it, in the early morning hours after your father has left for work. The miracle mutt. The miracle baby. And me. So maybe I am the miracle. Yes. It’s a miracle that I am your mother.
This morning in the early AM light that filters through the curtains, I can make out the profile of your perfect face. It is like my soul silhouetted in soft folds of chubby cherub cheeks and pudgy fingers wrapped around my own.
But it is your breath. Baby’s breath. It takes my own breath away. I am so close to you as you sleep. Closerthanthis. Nose-to-nose and I drink in every perfect little puff you sigh my way as you slumber. Baby’s breath more precious than you know. Because I have lost one before. A baby whose heart stopped, who never took a breath outside my body. But you. You are my heart beating outside my body, as the saying goes. You have made me a mother and I am forever-changed.
There are many things in life, my daughter, I want to teach you and show you. But I don’t have the confidence of your father, who knew he was born to be a parent all along. I’m not a domestic goddess either and my instincts are more fight-or-flight, rather than maternal. I work too much and sleep too little. I am a career woman that is married to my job, that parents my colleagues, that spends more time with my co-workers than my own family. I may handle million-dollar budgets and a staff of dozens but when I am handed a few pounds of pure baby, it is humbling how clueless and incompetent I feel. The What-Ifs drown out the I Think I Cans and now I stare at your face every morning and I so don’t want to fail you.
But you make me feel like a Mom. Every day with you, you grant me that gift. I am grateful for that. And my self-doubt wanes with each toothless drooly grin you show me as if an affirmation or confirmation: “Listen here, lady. Whether you feel like a good mother or not, I have pooped and I have peed. And there will be more. And you will change this diaper. And the next one and the next one and the next one. You will clean up all my messes. You will even clean up your own.”
Before you, my sweet baby: My daily routine used to be shower, do my hair and makeup, stop at Starbucks, conference call after conference call with back-to-back-to-back production meetings, a thousand emails a day, an executive in the television industry, shooting and filming all day and night, every day and night for months on ends, traveling nonstop, living out of a suitcase, working 16-20 hour days or 70-100 hour weeks, etc.
After you: now I am lucky if I shower at all. Now our big daily field trip is being able to get out the door and see if we can even make it to Starbucks. My routine is picking your playthings and then picking up your playthings. And then play pickup repeat. Play-pickup-repeat. Every day, you choose book after book and I read to you. I hope today is the day I figure out how to shush you, soothe you, feed you, change you, love you as well as you love me.
I tiptoe through a gauntlet of colorful, musical toys and past piles of vomit-spit-up-poop-stained, pee-soaked laundry. I stack a mountain of dirty bottles and parts and nipples like a crazy Jenga game in the kitchen sink. These are the chores of a domestic goddess.
Every day is the same and “a mother’s work is never done.” How do stay-at-home moms do it?! Single moms? Moms with more than one child?! How did my own mother, an immigrant to this country with her closest family on the other side of the globe (!!), how did my mother raise three kids in a big house with no help?? She shopped for groceries, cooked, cleaned, did all our laundry, supervised our activities, got us showered/bathed/dressed off to school in the pre-dawn darkness, etc. I should call my mother. Have I ever thanked her? I’m in awe of her right now. She was alone with all of us at home while my father worked all day and night. And if she was struggling, I never knew it.
Dear daughter, the struggle to juggle is what you will witness because long before you got here, I raised another child in a sense — my career. I nurtured it and tended to it so that it would grow and thrive. Being so career-driven was so much of my identity that it felt odd to be motivated by motherhood. My professional life had trumped my personal one for so long. I fear the challenge of the balancing act everyday. The guilt that tugs both ways: am I bad at my job now yet I am a good mother? Or am I still as successful as I was and have instead proven to be a terrible mother?? Still, I want to lead by example and show you how independent you can be, that you can achieve any goal and pursue any ambition you can imagine. I want to teach you values like sacrifice, determination, leadership, self-esteem, hard work, perseverance and how to embody teamwork and compromise by sharing parental duties with your father.
I want you to know that as I take my turn to be the stay-at-home mom and focus on YOU, it does not mean I am giving up ME. I don’t want you to think that as you grow older, that you need to give up anything (a career, a hobby, a passion, a dream) that is so important to you and has become so much a part of you.
There is room for everything. It adds to the blessings in your life. It enriches you from the inside out. This is especially true for the person I can already tell you are – someone with an open heart, a vast, deeply intelligent mind and a kind, compassionate, old soul. Eleven months young with a mischievous glimmer in the eyes of an old soul who’s seen this all before.
So today, like every day these days, we will wake-eat-play-nap-eat-play-nap-eat-play-bathe-sleep-dishes-laundry-clean-chores-walk the neglected dogs-errands. We will explore and enjoy and question and wonder and bond and connect and learn. I am learning more than you, it seems.
I was never a morning person and yet here I am, my new favorite time of day, to watch you before you wake and come to terms with how much my life has changed, how I have changed, how very full I am of so much.
Shhhh your eyes are opening … you’ve opened mine too.