I’m a city girl at heart.

Last week I found myself thinking about my friend, also named Jenny, who is an Army wife and preparing to move to Germany in the next month or so.  Jenny and I were fast friends when we met in grad school in Hawaii.  She is a spunky, firey redhead with an Alabama accent, and we share a mutual disdain for stupidity.  She is perfectly snarky and sarcastic, and upon meeting her I knew she was my spirit animal.  We spent most weekends (and many night classes) together for the entirety of our grad school program, and our husbands ended up being good buddies too.  When I think of my time in Hawaii, she is one of the best memories I take away.

Of course, as a military wife, you quickly learn that even the best friendships are forced to separate in just a few short years.  We moved to Washington, and she moved to the desert of California with her husband, and had a baby boy a couple years before I had Claire.  Anyway, we always stayed in touch and talked about meeting up somewhere in the country ever since we moved apart from one another.  This last Christmas, we did end up meeting her and her family in Orlando for a quick but wonderful Harry Potter experience at Universal Studios.  The park was great and our inner Harry Potter nerds were sufficiently pleased by the trip, but the best part was reuniting with our friends, babies in tow, and picking up right where we left off, as if we hadn’t not seen each other in almost four years.  Those are the kind of friendships you know will last.

Flash forward to last week, as I was thinking about Jenny moving, and a wild and crazy idea popped into my head.  As they are currently stationed in upstate New York for another month or so, I texted her late at night asking if she’d be free for a girls’ weekend in New York City – one last hurrah – before her big move.  I have a TON of airline miles burning a hole in our bank account.  The more I thought about how amazing a weekend like that would be – no kids, plenty of time for girl talk, leisurely meals at fabulous restaurants, no toddlers trying to run free around the place or nap times to worry about – the more excited I became.  I waited almost a whole day in agony before she texted me back and accepted my proposal!

So in two weeks’ time, I will get to fly (in a plane….by myself) to the Big Apple, see a Broadway show, eat at delicious restaurants, and walk and shop the city with one of my best friends.  I am absolutely ecstatic.  Sean volunteered to take a day off of work, and will stay home with Claire so I can have an escape, and I am so grateful.  I know he would love a few days in New York too, but he knows what a hard time I’ve been having lately, all the sadness I’ve been working through, and I just feel so lucky to have a compassionate and supportive husband… who is going to let me go party in the big city without him!

This will be my first time away from both my husband and my daughter since… well, since my daughter was born.  I know I am SO ready for some time away, but I also know I will miss them both.  I’m just not good at being away from Claire.  Do you know any moms who seem to be so good at being away from their kids?  Who don’t ever seem to have a single worry when they are apart from their little ones, and can let loose and be themselves?  I envy those moms.  I don’t have that gene (yet).

Don’t get me wrong, I love nap time – it’s my favorite time of day – and I have a lot of interests and hobbies I try to indulge in when I have time to myself, but as for being able to be away for days on end, or even daycare situations, I haven’t gotten good at relinquishing her to the care of others.  I worry.  And I feel guilty.  And I count the hours until I can pick her up.  And I convince myself it’s good for her, even if she cries and I feel terrible.  Which, for the record, I know it is good for her, but I still feel terrible about leaving her in someone else’s care when she cries for me as I walk away.  Does that ever get easier??

I ran into a mom friend last week who has a daughter a month younger than Claire.  We were talking about the Mother’s Morning Out program that I’ve written about before, and she asked me if I had enrolled Claire in the pre-(pre?) school program for next school year.  I just looked at her blankly and said no, I had no idea what she was talking about.  It’s basically a preschool for two year-olds a few days per week.  I walked away from that conversation feeling kind of stupid for not knowing that Claire should be in preschool already, and confused as to why she should be in preschool already because she is only 20 months old!  For crying out loud.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was definitely not ready to put Claire in anything remotely resembling a “school.”  While the alone time would be nice, I can still use the Mother’s Morning Out program without having to enroll her in a school at two years old.  If I am going to stay home with my daughter while she is so little, I want her to be home with me for most of that time at least.  There is so much time ahead of her where she will have to be in school, probably even starting the following year, that I can’t bring myself to be ready for that stage yet.  She’s still my baby.

Motherhood is a constant inner struggle of feeling guilty for literally everything, wanting freedom and your old life back, and also wanting to keep your babies close to and dependent on you, forever.  I’m always tired and confused and wanting “me time,” and then when I have it, I miss my baby.  The old me would not recognize the new me, I am sure of that.  But I’m also cool with that, because despite the exhaustion and constant struggle, motherhood is simply the greatest gift.

So, in two weeks when my inner Big City Girl is basking in the one true Big City, I will remind myself of the gift that this free time is, and force myself not to feel too guilty.  Life has been a bitch lately, and I deserve some rooftop cocktails and shopping in Soho.  Hell, I may not ever come back.  🙂

 

When you’re a mom, freedom never feels totally “free.”

So here I am… a fresh latte next to me… The sounds and smells of a bustling Starbucks infiltrating my senses.  Just me and my laptop.  I feel like I’m missing a limb.  Why?

I did a very difficult thing today.  I dropped my sweet baby girl off at “Mother’s Morning Out.”  They have her until noon if I want- the possibilities of what to do with my time are endless, so naturally I will probably just sit here at Starbucks and think about all the things I could do with my time, without actually getting up out of my chair.  I’m literally paralyzed with freedom and choices.

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Is is normal to want to call the nursery every 5 minutes to see if she’s ok?  I’ve blogged a lot about how attached to me and shy Claire is.  That is part of the reason why I finally decided to give this program a try- not only does Claire need to learn to be taken care of by people other than myself, and not only does she need some independent socialization time, but also… mama needs a break.

I went back and forth all last night about whether I would go through with it.  She’s still my little baby, it’s okay if she’s attached to me!  Which for the record, it totally is ok.  I selfishly love that she wants and needs me above all else.  But lately it’s gotten intense and because my husband works such long damn hours, I don’t get a ton of help until dinner time, so I really need a little bit of time to myself.  I’ve been assured it’s a healthy thing to need for oneself.  Currently it just feels like mom guilt.

So, after getting a pep talk from my best friend (all the way from Japan, might I add), I decided to not think too much about it and got us out the door by 8:45 and drove to the church.  The facility is excellent and full of happy little kids, which put me more at ease.  The women running the baby room were extremely nice and not worried at all about dealing with separation anxiety (I warned them several times it might be rough).  They had an electronic check-in system where they print you a ticket and will not let anyone pick their child up unless they have the matching ticket (which also was very reassuring).  I had been explaining to Claire all morning that she was going to go “play with other babies” and that mommy was going to leave but then she’d “be right back,” to which she’d reply “be right back.”  She’s very smart for her age so I thought she would in some way understand what I was explaining.  So then I snuck out while she was being distracted by one of the caregivers.  I waited out of sight in the hall to hear if she would be okay, and when I didn’t hear any crying after a minute or so, I decided I should leave because if she did melt down, it would be even harder for me.

So I walked out, sat in my car… And called my mom for reassurance.  I’m such a cliché.

I’m also in no way the kind of mom I always told myself I would be – you know, the career mom who sacrifices nothing about herself to accommodate her children.  HA!  How stupid I was.  Now that I have a daughter, not only do I know that working moms sacrifice just as much as stay at home moms, but I also learned that I’m a total softie, an emotional blob when it comes to babies and children, and I would sacrifice everything if it were in the best interest of my child.

Which is why it was hard to drop Claire off this morning.  I knew it would be hard for her and she would probably cry (and I might too), but I also knew it would be good for both of us for different reasons.  And it would only be a couple of hours, one day a week or so, and if we both hated it I wouldn’t have to do it again… Although let’s be real, I hope she does great so that I feel like I have a resource at my disposal when I need a break, have appointments, etc.

So now that this if off my chest, I hope this caffeine fuels me enough to get me out of this Starbucks and do something with the next two hours.

If the coffee doesn’t get me out of here, the sound of the man next to me who keeps sniffing back a nose full of snot probably will.  So gross.

I’m a mess, and I’m ok with it.

Once upon a time, I prided myself on not being emotional.  Not even seeing “Titanic” or “The Notebook” in theatres could make me shed a tear.  I had an iron lock on blubbering: I was tough and confident, and nothing could bring me down.

That was because nothing hard had ever happened to me.

Until it did.

I don’t need to give you a laundry list of difficult crap that I’ve been through, because we all have our problems, but I chalk it up to my parents’ very difficult divorce, a brother fighting a war and coming back not so okay, long distance relationships where my fiancé was deployed to the middle east, and a bunch of other crap I don’t care to divulge.  It’s life.  Like I said, we all have hard stuff and mine is not exceptional.

However, these experiences tapped into my lock on my emotional self, and let’s just say the tears flowed more freely after my late adolescence.  I could have a good cry at a sappy movie with the rest of them.

But it was nothing – I mean NOTHING – compared to becoming a mommy.  Oh my goodness, one smile from my infant daughter had me blubbering like a fool.  I remember, when Claire was very teeny, watching commercials about puppy chow and bursting into tears (hello, breastfeeding and fluctuating hormones).  Ok so maybe that was due to postpartum craziness, but these days I have no excuse, as my hormones seem to be back in a normal rhythm and I am no longer breastfeeding.

So what’s my excuse now, when I take Claire to story time at the library, and watch her get up the courage to walk away from me and dance while waving her arms in the air, and I choke back sobs?  Or when I am playing music in the kitchen and she starts to wiggle her hips like I taught her and smile up at me while she dances? And why do I cry when I turn on “Daniel Tiger” for her and watch lessons about how to be a good friend, and how being with family means you are safe? Or when I open the car door to get her out of her seat and she just looks at me and says, “hi mommy” with a smile.

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I can’t help but hold back sobs (and sometimes I even fall short of that) at the pure innocence of it all.  They are the most beautiful, ordinary moments of my daily, boring life, and yet I know I will remember them forever.

Challenges and hardship can often make us into better and more rounded people.  I am glad I am not a “rock” of emotional strength anymore.  I want to cry happy, ugly tears at my daughter’s innocence.  It is the greatest blessing of my life.