It’s not even noon and I’ve picked up a few groceries for tonight’s dinner, ran errands, hung several pictures and have removed dozens of smudge marks from our walls. Smudge marks that have been driving me crazy for ages.
I’ve also made myself an egg and cheese sandwich, tidied up, completed some paperwork, cleaned my computer screen, downloaded new music to my iTunes and had a chance to sit down and write.
Next I’ll take Maggie-the-dog for a walk and get back to the work of being a scribe.
This never happens.
Maybe it once did, but I honestly can’t recall.
There is a fire burning through me. Energy is zip zapping and radiating from my core.
There is a list — an enormous list that has developed the layers of a heavily skinned onion — that I am finally, after a year and a half of being with my darling son almost 24-7, picking away at.
It is invigorating, not because I don’t miss my sweet baby, I do, but because I’ve missed myself as well.
Where have I been?
Somewhere consumed in the around-the-clock demands of motherhood, with our energetic tot tugging constantly at my leg or taking me by the hand to play with blocks and trains and cars and Play-Doh.
We’ve been to countless play dates and parks, museums and galleries, to swimming lessons and music classes, and we’ve come up with art projects and games for those really cold, miserable days.
I’ve been making him meals, scrubbing food from his face and cleaning up crumbs. Reading our boy books and teaching him life skills. I’ve been changing diapers, giving him baths, brushing his teeth and clipping his nails. I’ve been kissing boo boos better, tending to tears and launching tickle fests. We’ve been shaking our sillies out and laughing so hard our cheeks hurt.
And since our son was born, I’ve been doing all of this while maintaining my passion for writing during his naps.
To put that in perspective, rarely have I had more than a continuous two-hour stretch to myself in a year-and-a-half, and those two hours have always been spent inside our home with me working quiet as a mouse as our child slept upstairs.
So here I am, some version of myself that I’ve yet to meet. A person who suddenly has time to think, write and listen to silence.
It’s a novelty today, as it is my son’s longest stint yet at his new daycare (not quite a full day, but getting there).
Maybe tomorrow I will cry, and again the day after that.
For now, in this moment, I feel a fabulous rush of freedom. I am reveling in it, jumpy with all of the things I suddenly have time to do.
For now, I must try to remember to breathe instead of charging full-speed ahead.
Maybe I’ll soon remember who I was pre-baby and maybe I’ll realize she no longer exists.
Maybe I’ll reclaim tiny pieces of her.
Maybe I’ll just sit here for a while, feel the delight of being alone in my own space.
Maybe I’ll just enjoy doing a few small things for myself, or do nothing at all.
Maybe I’ll just take my time.
Maybe, for now, I’ll just be me and relish the discovery of who that person turns out to be.
I don’t want to talk about it.
Or maybe I do. I don’t know what I want. What is clear is that I am meant to be writing about something else right now but all I can think about is the one thing I don’t want to talk about.
Recently we received a phone call. Our toddler was offered — against all odds — a spot in one of the most adored and talked about daycares in our neighbourhood.
The pigs have flown; the fat lady has sung, and the cow has jumped over the moon. Yes, daycare spaces in Toronto are that hard to find.
Especially in the breeding ground that is our community, a popular place among family types who flock here for the plethora of good restaurants and cafes, the renowned schools and fantastic resources and let’s not forget the spacious, well-groomed parks: those are a realtor’s dream.
Our area is flooded with children of all ages but there appears to be an extra abundance of babies and toddlers, most of them in need of some form of childcare.
Needless to say, when I received a call from a local daycare, I certainly wasn’t expecting it.
Daycare, of course, was in my peripheral. Our son has been on some waiting lists since he was the size of a mango hiding out safely in my womb, and others since he was a wrinkly newborn with extra folds of skin still to grow into.
Yes, I am that kind of organized person, not quite Type A, but definitely the type that thrives on getting things done.
Yet, even as I put our unborn (and then unnamed) child on multiple lists, it was an abstract idea. I realize now that I never thought we’d actually get a spot. Daycare availability was as likely to happen as, well, pigs flying and cows jumping over the moon.
I’d heard horror stories from families about the futility of securing adequate daycare.
One friend had her first son on a waiting list near her home but had to enroll him elsewhere while they hoped and waited for a space. Four years passed and a call never came.
Some friends have placed their children in unregulated home daycares after searches for available and affordable spots in facilities regulated by the province proved fruitless.
And then there are those who’ve had to accept longer than desirable commutes to get the kind of care they’re seeking.
For our purposes, I was advised by numerous people to continually keep in contact with daycares (something just short of harassment) in an attempt to keep our file at the top of the pile, or at least prevent it from getting buried under a growing mountain of new applicants.
I never did. I was patient and carried the philosophy that the right spot would come along at the right time — if it was meant to be.
That time has come.
At least I think it has.
At a year-and-a-half, our son’s world has started changing. In some ways, he has outgrown me. Until recently, my husband and I were his entire world. He’s craving more: More from his surroundings and more from me.
His activity and energy levels are higher than ever and his interests are expanding. His hunger for information is unstoppable, as is his pace of learning, which suddenly seems to be clipping along at racecar speed as he spouts out new words and strings together small sentences daily.
It is the right time — for both of us.
So, when an administrator rings you up to offer your child a spot at a high-scoring daycare, you jump.
Only, I didn’t jump.
Instead I leapt feet first into the daycare debate. I agonized over it. I researched and interviewed friends. I endured sleepless nights picking over the pros and cons of our choices, and I observed our son like crazy, analyzing how I was benefiting his development, and taking note of the areas in which I might be falling short.
Anyone living in Toronto will tell you that daycare isn’t just a numbers game, but also a game of luck.
Being in the right place at the right time and on the right list is paramount.
Getting a space is fiercely competitive and, oftentimes, impossible.
No doubt, we are lucky.
We are the rookie player who has been called up to the major leagues.
After lengthy contemplation, we’ve accepted the spot at a lovely daycare, and I’ve just returned from taking our boy there for his first official visit.
It was only for a couple of hours and I was there the entire time. Next he’ll stay a small while on his own, gradually increasing his time as he transitions.
We’ll gauge how he progresses and adjusts, and I will wonder incessantly if this is the right thing to do.
He is a gentle spirit, and leaving my baby in someone else’s care for long periods of time feels like a defiance of nature, as though we’re feeding our vulnerable young charge to a pack of wolves.
To heighten those anxieties, I’ve been warned of children that grab and hit, and of potential ‘biters’ (it can happen in the blink of an eye and I am told that almost every facility endures at least one of these tiny skin chompers). I am warned of germs. Especially germs.
Does he really need such cold harsh reality stuffed in his face at such a young, impressionable age?
He is not an aggressive creature. It’s just not the way he rolls. He is chill and loving, generous with hugs and kisses, and enjoys snuggling up on one of our laps and reading a big pile of books.
Will this experience damage those beautiful qualities?
It is the nature vs. nurture debate, of course.
We hope for growth and curiosity, rich adventures and learning, fulfillment and happiness, not for shoving and teeth marks, or the creation of thick, hardened skin.
Yet, right now I don’t want to talk about it.
Not to friends or family, not even our loving dog, with her soft non-judgmental eyes.
This is because I flip flop.
I live on both sides of the fence — pro daycare and anti-daycare — depending on the day, and my tears are unpredictable.
I want the best for him. Some days I think this is it. Some days I don’t.
I want him to love life so much he can’t help but let out big infectious laughs every chance he gets.
So, I have my doubts and then feel great about our decision.
Will he be better for it? Will I?
These questions and cruel unknowns create a classic case of ‘only time will tell,’ which is the scariest kind of scenario when it comes to one’s child.
Maybe everyone goes through this when childcare begins. Do they? Did you? Does it get better? Is the experience worth it?
You tell me because, as I said before, I am finding it rather hard to talk about it … through the tears and all.
We both snapped. Exchanged some mean words.
The baby is down the hall shrieking like a wild animal caught in a forest trap. He isn’t going to sleep in a foreign crib and that is final.
My husband and I leave him to see if he will settle, but his screaming escalates.
Naturally, I want to ring my husband’s neck, as though it is entirely his fault our child is not closing his eyes.
We are staying at a very pregnant friend’s home and the last thing she probably wants to hear is the horrific wailings of another person’s baby just days before she will have a crying newborn to care for. We are panicking to remedy the situation.
See, we were among the thousands of Ontarians left without heat and power just before the holidays. Like many others, we decided it best to pack up our stuff and haul our butts somewhere warm.
We had to cancel our holiday plans, we were exhausted, and our spirits were limp.
Naturally, we did what all happy and in-love couples do when things are going horribly wrong—we fought.
Pre-baby, we might've laughed about being powerless. Maybe we would’ve booked a hotel room and ordered late-night cocktails in the hotel bar, enjoyed a lazy breakfast in bed, thanks to room service.
Fortunately or unfortunately, our happiness as a couple is now largely dependent upon the happiness of our rosy-cheeked child.
When baby’s not content, neither are we.
To anyone who claims babies bring couples closer together, I’d say that yes, these small wonders offer many magical moments of bonding, but those are often cruelly bludgeoned by the endless—and tiring—demands of parenthood.
At times, raising a child can feel like going into war without any protection, and realizing that your mate is standing opposite you on enemy lines.
Research out of the Gottman Relationship Institute in Seattle found that approximately two-thirds of couples grow dissatisfied with their romantic unions within three years of having a child.
Whereas new mothers tend to feel dissatisfied in their marriages immediately after bringing baby home—likely due to childbirth demands, hormone changes, round-the-clock nursing, and the sudden shift from working outside the home to being at-home with baby—it takes a few months before dissatisfaction hits new fathers.
Truly, becoming parents is the ultimate test of survival for partners.
Just when things are going smoothly, your child throws you an unexpected curve ball, just to keep you on your toes.
It is a gross understatement to say that parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever do.
It can wear you down—and it will—but it will equally lift you up.
You are responsible for another person’s life. A life, people! And there is nothing bigger than that.
But, eventually you will make it through the latest patience-testing hurdle (for instance the four-day vomit-fest; severe teething pain; strange unexplainable crankiness; the sudden return of sleep deprivation or a gut-wrenching series of diaper bombs), and the storm will calm.
You breathe again. You hug it out. You leave your war posts and meet in the middle. You apologize for saying mean things, and feel the love again. Your child is happy and so are you.
You bask in the perfectness of the moment and marvel at the fact that you made this delicious little creature. You are giddy from the intoxicating love you feel . . . the love is almost too much.
You couldn’t feel closer. You are a family—perfectly imperfect.
In this spectacular life of love, chaos, and curveballs, can anything be better than that?
I really don’t think so.