Since becoming a mother, one thing I am sure of is my newly developed respect for stay-at-home-moms (from here on out referred to as SAHM). It’s not that I didn’t respect mothers who remained in the home before, it’s just that since I couldn’t empathize I didn’t understand how incredibly difficult a job it is to spend 16-18 hours a day working. I say working because taking care of a baby is grimy, gritty work. Don’t get me wrong, there are sweet and heart-warming times, but the majority of it is difficult.
When you have a 9-5 job, you can leave your work at your place of employment the minute the clock strikes five and go home to escape it all. All the mistakes you made during the day, the people you may have pissed off, the stress. All of it can stay at your desk. Your home is a sanctuary where you can unwind. When your a SAHM there is no such thing as a sanctuary. The stress is with you constantly, embedded in the fiber of what is supposed to be your safe-space.
You relinquish your privacy and free time to devote every second to your child. If your a new mom, even when you have free seconds, they are spent worrying about your child or checking on them (don’t lie, its true). Your old life of savoring a delicious meal and carelessly having a glass of wine on the couch with your spouse at 7:30 after dinner is gone. Now its who will take the baby while the other scarfs down food. Now it’s no alcohol because you’re breastfeeding and too lazy to figure out the rules of drinking while breastfeeding.
You’re probably reading this and saying, “What the hell did you think you signed up for?” I love Ellie. And I am constantly in awe of her. I post a million pictures of her on social media because I just adore her. I have written before that I underestimated being a mom, so that definitely plays a part in my attitude. At the same time, I just generally silently mourn my life before her. Just tonight my husband says to me, “What did we do before Squish?” I replied, “A lot,” half laughing. Because we….and I did do a lot. I could go for runs. And get my nails done or drive to Starbucks and get a coffee at the drop of a hat. We had dinner with friends. We went and got drinks at a local bar. We rented movies. We went camping and hiking. We climbed mountains, literally and figuratively. Now, we have to choose how active we are in the evenings based on whether Ellie let us sleep the night before. We analyze the stress and effort required to bring Ellie places and asses whether it’s worth the hassle. It’s 10:00am. I have to change Ellie’s diaper, feed her, change her diaper again, and get her into her carseat. Is this hour-long process worth the drive for coffee? Do you really need it?
These thoughts are so fleeting though because my life has become more enriched than I could ever imagine. A ridiculously priced coffee is worthless when I’m changing Elliot’s diaper and she shoots me a smirk because she’s clearly more comfortable. Having dinner with friends will never compare to when she falls asleep on my chest with her little hand resting against my breast. Drinks mean nothing to me when I am getting up at 3:30 in the morning to feed her and she finally opens her eyes and smiles because, it’s me, Mom. I have always considered myself a positive person and the beginning weeks of motherhood were a dark and pessimistic time. It’s easy to see the bad times and failures in the day when you are a new mom at home with your baby 24/7. Just today, Ellie was squirming all day long. She was eating a little bit here and there. I assumed she had to poop but after a pretty messy diaper, she was still wriggling around, even whimpering in pain a little bit. I thought a short walk outside to the mailbox would do us both some good. Ellie had her head rested on my shoulder and she vomited all down my back and in my hair. She must have lifted her head and landed in it because it was in her hair and ear. She was crying. I felt terrible and I instantly got frustrated with myself. She always squirms when her stomach hurts and she’s going to get sick. Why didn’t I put the pieces together? What could I have done to prevent it? I stripped us both down and drew a bath. We had a tub together. I cupped my hands together and held her head above the water while she floated between my legs. She just stared at me, wide-eyed, with a smile unlike one I’ve ever seen. One of wonder, maybe slight confusion, but definitely love. A smile that made me forget the reason we were even in the tub together in the first place. And then I held her naked to my chest, something we haven’t done since I gave birth. It was the best part of my day. I have to work daily to see the positives in this new, crazy life, but they will always out-weigh the negatives or remnants of my life before Elliot.