the other side

Oh, hello. I seem to have (barely) emerged from my momlife crisis with my sanity and life in tact. And weirdly, given how much I love being home with my son, I think the thing that ultimately pulled me through was… my job.

I’ve been working well over full time hours for about 5 months now, with part-time childcare. This means that the other hours have been weekends, or nights after everyone has gone to sleep, or while Bumby is parked in front of 2 hours of Paw Patrol and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Trying hard to avoid the last scenario meant overtime for the babysitter, or an afternoon where we “worked” together at the kitchen table (he with paint, me with a laptop) and he tried to send an email to my boss while I was in the bathroom. It was super stressful, and I was super exhausted. Forget about a commitment to a weekly yoga class, I would have settled for a 10 minute walk and more than 5 hours of sleep. This sounds rather hellish, yes?

Here’s the thing though. It forced me to focus. I had to be productive, and work hard, and dig deep. It was time when I was only myself, my accomplishments were measured and noted, my mistakes were forgiven, and I felt the thrill of success. I realized, hey, I know some shit! I know how to do hard, complicated, legal stuff!

The time I did have with my son felt like it was in technicolor, super intense Friday afternoons that I viciously guarded from interruption where we slowed down, walked at his pace, and had an amazing time cleaning up the patio, or making muffins, or painting our nails. He now sighs and says “Oh it’s so RELAXING” every time he gets in the bath (apparently I say that when I get to take a bath – who knew – even though bathing with a 3 year old is actually not relaxing at all).  We took vitamins and did facemasks together to try to engage in what little self-care there is with this kind of schedule (note: do not get a black charcoal facemask and let your toddler try it. They are likely to ask you do to “silly black face” at really inappropriate times). The reality is, those technicolor afternoons with him were my self-care, the time carved out to disconnect from work, slow down, and live in the moment.  Living on toddler time is much better self-care than a facemask and a multivitamin.

This was me, juggling a demanding work schedule, being professional and wearing a suit and getting it done, and this was me, baking muffins and watching a worm and laughing at my son’s farts.

Also, I finally made Bumby’s photo book from his first year of life. It’s adorable of course. But damn I look tired. Also, there are a LOT of pictures of him with my wife. She is bathing him, feeding him, holding him up to put his first ornament on the Christmas tree. When I saw his, I sobbed. I had constructed this narrative in my head where I did “Everything” for him while she got to do “Everything” else; where I had given up my life while she carried on business-as-usual. It’s not that often where we as humans are confronted with evidence contrary to our personal beliefs and we are able to take it in and accept it, but perhaps that is self defense, because it fucking sucks to be totally wrong in your belief. In fact, my wife, my partner, was right there along side me all along. Once I realized that and stopped blaming her for the way I felt, it got a lot easier. To be fair, I did a disproportionate amount of childcare, especially at night. But not Everything, not even close. She was just slightly more experienced than I was at getting through early motherhood with a sense of self still in tact.

In the last 3 weeks, I have had two deals sign and one close. Some of the biggest deals I’ve worked on yet in my career, and I was the lead on all of them. So now, I get to figure out how to keep it together as the pendulum swings back the other way and I have more downtime, more family time, more time for the dreaded self-reflection before ramping up for a May with business travel and deal closings and etc.

I have not gotten a tattoo. I have not spent (too many) ill advised long nights in bars. My marriage is in tact and of fact stronger than ever. I have emerged from this feeling like I narrowly avoided a disaster, born from too much time spent wondering who I was and who I had become and whether the old me was still in there. And honestly, born also from allowing these things to come between my wife and me, and expecting one date night every four weeks to fix it.

In case you’re wondering, the old me is not in there. I mean yes, I still care about things like social justice and the environment, I still love the same people I did before, I still live in the same town I have lived in for 10 years. So I look a lot like the same person. But early marriage and early motherhood is a metamorphic stage, and trying to be the old me was an exercise in futility. Fact is, I’m not 26 anymore. I don’t actually like long, ill-advised nights in dive bars with inappropriate company any more. I like long dinners with my wife, over good wine, and an early morning walk with my family and my dog, sans hangover, to the bagel shop.  I like figuring out how to make our kitchen work without remodeling it even though major appliances are dropping like flies.  I like the garden even though I rarely have a productive vegetable garden and all my houseplants die.  I like my circle of friends to be very small – this is not because I am not likable, it is because I am very selective about who I am willing to spend my precious time with.

I still don’t have a tattoo, but it is because I like my body the way it is, not because I am not “edgy.” I am actually totally edgy, in my own way.  Try doing something I think is stupid, and you will see how edgy I can be. Actually, how think how edgy it is to like your body, especially when you’re a mom.

So meh. Maybe I’m old, maybe I’ve mellowed. Or maybe I’m more self-aware than I thought, and this person has always been in there.  I’m enjoying getting to know the me that enjoys work almost as much as motherhood, and I am enjoying figuring out this new phase of my relationship with my wife, the one where we have weathered conflict and had some (very) hard conversations, and still like each other.

Want to know something weird? Soon after I made some sort of peace with all of this change, Bumby started sleeping all night in his own bed (rather than coming in to kick my wife in the stomach and shove me off my pillow starting at 1 am). Guess what is really good for a marriage? Sleeping next to each other, that’s what. Last night, my little mirror told me he doesn’t come down to our room because he “doesn’t feel scary anymore.”  Yeah dude, me either.

 

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gentle

Yesterday, my wife and I woke up grouchy. We were trying to pack away a million Christmas decorations and do approximately 950 loads of laundry and had to shovel the walks and it was cold out. Also, I wanted coffee and Bumby insisted on helping me make it which of course meant half the water was dumped in the coffee part and half the coffee grounds were on the floor. When my wife came in from walking the dog, she snarked about the likely-gross Bumby coffee. I snarked back about something, I don’t know what. And this continued for a bit until I got a little mean and made my wife cry. She went upstairs. I thought I would give her some space, but really it is more likely I didn’t want to admit I had been an asshole. 

But Bumby. Nothing gets by him.”Mommy crying.” 

“Yes. Mommy’s crying.”

“Nap?” 

“Well, no. I mean, she might want a nap. But she’s crying because I hurt her feelings.”

He hopped down off the couch and grabbed my hand. He started dragging me toward the stairs. “Mama. I’m sorry, Mommy. Gentle gentle. I’m sorry.”

This is what we tell him when he hits or scratches or otherwise attempts to injure us or his siblings when he is frustrated. You say you’re sorry, and show the person you know how to be gentle in your touching. So, right. Also with feelings. 

We walk upstairs and find Mommy at the computer reading about Trump. (Hard to see how this would make her feel better, but to each her own, right?)

“Sorry, Mommy,” says Bumby. 

“No no. You didn’t do it. I hurt Mommy, not you. You are fine.” He looks at me expectantly. So I say to her, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.” She looks at me a bit skeptically but gives me a hug. 

“Gentle,” prompts Bumby. 

“Yes, gentle. I will be gentle with them.” The hug becomes real, and we go downstairs. 

The coffee was not ruined after all. We ate toast and cleaned house and played outside and watched the Steelers pommel the Dolphins. It was a really good, tiring day.   Sometimes when you hurt someone, it’s best to apologize like a toddler, to just say you’re sorry and promise to do better, without explaining your side or making a lot of excuses or discussing who started it.