19 Jan I remember those days
I’ve known moms who quit their jobs after the first couple of days back after maternity leave.
Heather Hickland, executive director of the World Awareness Children’s Museum and fellow preschooler mom, emailed me that she remembered the first day was “always hard on the heart and schedule.”
Monday was fine. I didn’t know what I was in for.
I never could quite get the hang of Thursdays. On this one, websites were hacked, tense emails arrived, new work flowed in, and baby Daniel doused the sitter with a bodily fluid trifecta.
That evening was my first solo venture out with both boys, while Cory worked. My in-laws Bob and Nancy Avon, who live next door to us and who are so often the supports holding me up, were in Florida.
It was the grand reopening of Samantha’s Café, with a buffet, wine, and live music by The Daley News (The Chronicle’s own Pat Daley on keys). Walking in was overwhelming — a bazillion people to catch up with after my two-month social hiatus, Tasmanian devil Henry to feed and entertain, and Daniel to lug around like a bag of concrete.
Henry tolerates about 30 seconds of adult conversation before the lack of attention starts him on a path of terror and destruction. I understand his perspective — it’s a room full of knees, and he’s hungry, homesick and bored. None of the knees are listening to him.
Liz Wilcox, co-owner of Samantha’s, set Henry up with (vegan!) Chana Masala in the kitchen. She said I looked like I needed an “arms break” and took my adorable two-ton load to give me a moment with Henry. “I remember those days, and one-on-one time being like gold,” she said.
Later, a friend Facebook-messaged me asking if I was upset with her because I had seemed standoffish. I explained how frazzled I was, and she offered to come by to help sometime. I broke down later, thinking about it. Daniel barfing on my scarf as I said hello to Rhianna Hogan-Cerro. Alesa DelSignore drawing with Henry while I ducked into Jen Kraft’s office to nurse. Jacky Touba giving Daniel gifts. Pat Daley offering to get us a plate of food. Not wanting to impose on anybody, but being unable to juggle it all alone.
Friday, I dreaded Cory going to work while I spent the evening alone with the boys. I told myself, people manage with more kids and fewer household adults than us, with health problems or bad relationships, and with less family and community support. I know I have it easy, in comparison. I’m lucky. I shouldn’t complain.
The self-talk didn’t make it any easier. I felt on the verge of a breakdown. I thought about asking for help, but everyone has their own problems. This shouldn’t be a big deal; not worth inconveniencing anyone. Shut up. Be a grown-up. Deal with it.
Finally, I asked on Facebook for tips on life with two kids. I had an outpouring of support. They said to breathe, to plan, to embrace “good enough,” to let go of guilt, to do what I need to do to get through it. That learning independence isn’t a bad thing, and “you can’t pour water from an empty cup.” From old high school friends to new acquaintances, these gems of advice. It helped.
I’ve often heard “It takes a village to raise a child” — but I’m only starting to realize the depths of that statement. Like the butterfly to the caterpillar, I hope to reach out to new moms with empathy when I see that familiar look of exhaustion in their eyes.
“I remember those days,” I’ll say.