My summer, the summer in which I get to be a stay-at-home mom, the summer I’ve been dreaming about for years, is 2/3 over. I have to go back to work in one month. I have two words to say about that: THANK GOD. Yes, I will miss my son so much it will tear my heart out every day, but I will be taking a shower, putting on grown-up clothes, and using my brain. And these things I need to do, as much as I need to eat and sleep.
I don’t remember who I was before I had a baby, but somewhere buried deep in my dying brain I remember that I was a writer, a teacher, a photographer, and a lover of books. I was interested in politics and history and yoga. Now I spend my time debating whether I should feed my son rice cereal or bananas and reading parenting forums to find out more about the texture and color of his poop. I have a doctorate for god’s sake. I am an intellectual.
Who I used to be before I was Oscar’s mom is gone now, but I still feel her, like a phantom limb. Most of all, I remember that time passed a little more slowly. I used to while away a Saturday afternoon reading magazine and watching movies. When I got together with people, we used to engage in long, leisurely conversations about a wide variety of topics. Now, when I’m not talking over Oscar’s squirming body or impatient crying, I’m talking about Oscar. Most people don’t talk to me at all. They just see Oscar and immediately launch into squeals of glee and mindless jabber. I understand, I do the same thing when I see him. I have become Oscar’s personal assistant and entourage, doing everything for him and then getting out of the way of his adoring fans.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to go out, without Oscar, and I jumped at the chance. And for one brief moment, I felt like my old self, and it felt good. But it almost didn’t happen, and I realized how much I used to take for granted the simplest outings. It was Sunday night and all I wanted to do was spend a few hours at Barnes and Noble, drinking coffee, eating sweets, looking at books, and talking about anything except babies.
The first thing that went wrong was that Oscar wouldn’t go to sleep. Don’t tell me that babies aren’t psychic, because my child knows when I need him to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE go to sleep NOW. No amount of promising him a car when he turns sixteen will do the trick. I just have to wait patiently while he launches into his stand-up-comedy routine, then cries loudly at the injustice of it all, then finally drifts off into a sleep so light that if I even think about putting him down his eyes will pop back open. I was finally free at 9:00, only to find out that Barnes and Noble closes at 9:00 on Sundays (I would like to personally speak to whoever is responsible for that little travesty—please contact me). I settled on an alternate but much less desirable location. On the way over I was angry. Angry at the delay, angry at the change in plans, and angry that I couldn’t find a good song on the radio (why can’t I ever find a damn song to match my mood?) and, most of all, angry that I was on the clock. That’s what I call it, “on the clock.” Because as soon as Oscar eats or falls asleep, I punch an invisible time clock. Not only was I already exhausted, but I knew I would be awake sometime between 3-5 in the morning with my sweet little parasite sucking away all of my vital nourishment. Then I smiled, because I realized that for a short period of time I was free. FREEEEEE!!!
If I sound like a heartless, horrible mom and/or a spoiled brat, obviously you don’t have children.
To most moms of young children, those free hours away from our kids (whether they are napping or with a babysitter) feel like New Year’s Eve. Everything has to be perfect and you want to wear a little paper hat and get drunk and feel festive, but usually you just wind up getting into a fight and passing out.
I was desperate to have a good time. And since I am currently not drinking, that means books and some form of sugar. Because Barnes and Noble was closed my friend Angie and I went to used a bookstore nearby. Not as good, but it would do. However, they didn’t serve beverages or treats (I hope there a special place in Heaven for whoever decided to put coffee shops in bookstores), so we found some books to buy and headed over to Angie’s house where we drank (caffeine-free) coffee and ate a huge piece of the Batman cake her son had made. Red velvet cake with green icing. It looked truly vile, but it contained sugar, so I was happy.
Then came the best part. After browsing through my books (nothing about parenting or poop) I stretched out along the foot of Angie’s bed, like I used to do when we were teenagers, and we talked about everything except our kids. She even locked the bedroom door so her kids or her husband couldn’t bug us. It was like a slumber party and I felt twenty years younger.
Then my time was up, as it always is, and I went back home to Oscar.
I am now a mom. In some ways, all of us moms are invisible. We provide for our child’s needs, nurture them and guide them, and then watch from backstage while they shine.
The nice thing about having a five-month-old is that to Oscar I am not invisible. When he looks at me, speaks softly in his little baby language, and reaches out to touch my face, I know I am the most important person in his life. This will last for a short while, and then one day Oscar will grab the car keys, say, “See ya,” and I will be invisible once again.