I am starting to see how motherhood can be a series of small goodbyes. Saying farewell to different stages, only to welcome new ones as our babies gradually move towards independence.
A few weeks ago J started daycare two days a week. I am not due back at work for another two months so the plan has been to gradually ease him into a full day over the next few weeks.
The first day felt like a leap into the great unknown. Even though I’d visited the centre a few times and had met his caregivers, I was still nervous and didn’t know what to expect. Would he sleep there? Would he take his bottle? Would he be happy to interact with his caregivers? but with all the questions in my mind focused on ‘will he be okay’, I really didn’t stop to ask myself if I’d be okay.
The first day was fine, I spent time playing with J at the centre and then left him for an hour while I met a friend up the road for coffee. I filled the car with petrol.
“You won’t know yourself”, people said. And what shocked me, as I drove out of the carpark on the second day and towards my first few hours of unscheduled ‘B time’ was that I didn’t.
“Should I go into the city for a shop? Perhaps go see a movie?” I asked myself as I drove around, no destination in mind. It was overcast and drizzly. I couldn’t decide.
I headed towards a favourite coffee shop, hatching a plan in my head. Magazines, coffee, muffin. Three of my favourite things. It felt like a bit of a cop out at the time; shouldn’t I be putting my time to better use? But on reflection, it was the best thing I could have done. I needed some time to sit, reflect and reconnect with me.
Sure, I still looked at my mobile phone a little too many times and clock watched, thought of my boy and wondered how he was doing. But in between those moments I relaxed and thought about all the other things I could do on similar mornings to come.
I thought of boring things that had to be done – trips to dentist, a visit to the accountant, grocery shopping – I was on a sort of mothering auto-pilot, putting the needs of the household before my own.
But then I stopped. I thought of ways I could nourish myself – a walk along the river, a visit to the art gallery, a movie and lunch, a morning yoga class – and I decided I had to put these needs up there on a par with the domestics. Maybe put them first for a while. Add self-nurture to my newly found appreciation for the art of nurturing.
I headed back to the daycare centre with a new resolve, my heart full of joy at the thought of holding my boy again. I walked in the door and there he is, sitting happily playing on the floor his caregiver by his side. He’d had a sleep, a bottle and some lunch. He looked up and smiled. I gathered him up and hugged him.
It was then I realised the gradual easing in period was as much for me as for him. A gradual letting go of the period of my life when my boy needed only me, a gradual rediscovery of the person I was before I had him and a time to get to know the person I’ve become since. Reconnecting with B.