It’s really hard being a parent. It doesn’t matter if you’re enamored of your child 24/7, it doesn’t matter if you get frustrated and find that parenthood isn’t at all like what you had expected. Honestly, I’d say that for most parents, parenthood isn’t at all what you expected.
Nothing quite made me realize how hard it can be until I started leaving Piper in the care of another person during the work week for three days a week. The first time I left her with my mom I was a teary mess. “There are diapers there, here’s some cash for lunch if you want to go get it, here is her sippy, she can’t have juices, give her this for breakfast and this for lunch, and PLEASE don’t let her run Woofie ragged.” Then, I plodded to the bus stop, and tried not to cry- I left her for the very first time! I was proud of myself, but also heartbroken. Once at work, I’d glance at her toys and stuff around the office and tear up. I was so attached to her, and I really (really, seriously.) didn’t know it. All that time I’d griped because I couldn’t leave her because of the breastfeeding, then it because we didn’t have the time, Piper was in a “Stranger Danger” phase, and Paul’s personal favorite: JUST BECAUSE. Then, after leaving her with Mom three days in a row, each day got easier. Sure, as people would ask where the baby was, I’d begin to feel a little bit of sadness prick at my eyes, but then I’d remember how easily I could blog from work without her there.
And that is what began the era of leaving Piper. Paul and I actually got to see a movie. We’ve seen TWO movies! Early in their run in theaters, too! I HAD NO IDEAS MOVIES WERE SO COOL!! DAKSJHAKSJDHWSKJDH!! (that’s how excited I was to leave Piper with Mom)
Then, all of a sudden, our work situation began to change. Instead of them asking where the baby is, they’ve now accepted her as being gone. We moved into a way smaller office that gives Piper access to everyone while they’re doing their work, while simultaneously also managing to make it so small that she gets super bored fast (at least, I’d imagine, for full disclosure she won’t be in the office until Friday) and pitches “I’m BORED, entertain MEEEEEE” fits. Nightly I have panic attacks about the baby in the office. Where will she sleep? What will she do all day? What if the smaller office causes Piper to get on my co-workers nerves?
Piper will be coming to work with me on Mondays and Fridays. The rest of the week she’ll be cared for elsewhere. And it’s those three days that really make me run the full gamut of emotions.
First, there is the guilt. While I like the freedom of getting a coffee on my own in the morning, I also feel badly leaving her- even though I know she has so much more fun at home with quick access to parks, to food, to all her familiar toys and the dog. Then I feel guilty about being happy to get a coffee on my own! It’s insane, I tell you. As I battle those feelings, I try to immerse myself in a book or Facebook on my phone on the way to work. Then I get that coffee, and get down to work, at a more leisurely pace than Piper days, I get everything done with time to spare (not that there is a time limit to what I have to do in the a.m., it’s mostly just when my boss comes in, I like to have everything done).
Then comes the waves of sadness. Especially on moving day, and the days following, when Piper’s stuff was all cleared out to move, and it just hasn’t come back yet. So I look around this new office, completely erased of all of Piper’s existence (except for the box of diapers that arrived on Friday when I was out sick), and it hurts me. It hurts like the ache you get when you forget you lose your voice and try to yell for something. Never lost your voice? Okay, it hurts like the pain you feel when you forget how badly you sprained your ankle and try to take a step on it. Never sprained your ankle? Damn, you guys are healthy, nimble folk! Okay, how about getting a new bruise, and pressing it? EVERYONE does that. That’s how it feels. I look around at this silent office, completely emptied of Piper’s “touch” (i.e. scribble of pen/crayon, smear of food, broken crayon underfoot), and it just feels… wrong. Like everything is out of place, and this is just some weird parallel universe where I’m in a completely different place all day and I never had a baby. There are the times I call home during the day to see what’s going on, and my Mom puts Piper on the phone with me. I hear her familiar baby babble (she’s still more fond of that form of vocalizing than actual talking), and again, tears come to my eyes. My heart turns into the Grinch’s, growing ten times its normal size. I cheerily ask her if she’s having fun, and go back to the office, feeling a bit of a rain cloud following my every step.
Somehow, life just isn’t as bright when my little gibbon isn’t beside me.
Once I really get into a groove at work, I feel a sense of freedom. There is no need to be super quiet while she naps, there is only myself to worry about when it comes to lunch and breakfast (honestly, when it’s just me, there is no breakfast), and there isn’t a little sticky hand constantly banging my keyboard, or trying to steal my iced tea. My meals are my own, I am free to listen to the radio as I get my work started in the early morning, and I don’t have to hustle to get everything done while she naps. And at night, I have anxiety attacks when I think about her coming into this new office, definitely not the home she got used to. I worry about everything at night, it’s when my mind decides to catch up to me and blinks fears and terror into my every thought.
It’s horrible, this constant switching back and forth in my mind, the need for more time with Piper because I know how fast this time goes, and the need for some time alone to work unaffected by her toddlerisms. My heart breaks many times a day when I’m without her by my side, while it beats a little bit faster and a little more anxiously when she’s here. It’s like I can’t win for losing, a term my Grandma used to say.
I’m hoping that by keeping her with me Monday and Friday, it’ll be just long enough to get my fill of her Toddlerishness, while not overdosing on your CONSTANT.NEED.FOR.ATTENTION. and food. Attention and food. Which quite honestly I am okay with when we’re home. When I’m home with her, I am fine, I can spend ALLLLL day feeding her, and reading to her, and holding her in my lap while she colors. It’s just trying to do that while working just isn’t working as well as it was a year ago. And while I realize that was inevitable, it’s hard on my heart to feel that relief every morning when I go to work alone.
Being a parent is never always easy, it’s never always hard, but it’s always challenging and makes you really realize what a difference your life is without your children around you.