Confessions of a Work-at-Home Mom: The First Mother’s Day
This Sunday will be my fourth Mother’s Day as a mother of one. Today, I’ve been thinking back about the first time I celebrated the holiday as a parent.
I remember being sleepy – lost in a haze, is more like it. My son was two months old, and he has never been a big fan of sleep, particularly not in those days. The area above my eyebrows ached constantly from lack of sleep, and I was always running low on Visine and clean coffee cups.
I remember feeling puffy. While a lot of weight fell off of me after we returned home from the hospital, the scale read a good 25 pounds more than the reading I remember on the day my doctor confirmed that I was going to be a mom. I was pretty sure at least a pound of this baby weight was sloshing around in the bags under my eyes.
I was anxious. On the date of my first Mother’s Day, my maternity leave was due to be over in a couple of weeks. The plan had been for me to return to work and to turn my son over to a childcare center full time. I had realized over the course of the weeks before that I didn’t want to do that. And I still wasn’t quite sure what to do about it.
I was lonely. My husband was logging more than 60 hours at work each week thanks to an emergency project there. When he wasn’t at work, he was at school, working on classes to finish his bachelor’s degree. While I swore it wouldn’t, motherhood had irrevocably changed the dynamics of my relationships with my closest friends, none of whom had children at the time. While I reveled in the joys of having a new baby – the huge, wandering eyes, the buttery skin, the gummy smiles – in the evenings, after my son’s bedtime, I felt swallowed by feelings of isolation.
In one moment, my place in the world had shifted. It felt as it one bit of time and space had folded onto another and I’d passed between the two, like the characters in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I’d been a successful reporter and editor and I could do pretty much as I pleased, when I pleased. But I didn’t want to go back. Trade moments like teaming up with my grandmother to give my son his first bath, swimming in the heady scents of my baby as I rocked for countless hours in the nursery rocking chair, the morning of the poop cannon? Not a chance.
I just wasn’t quite sure where I was or how to proceed. I figured that if I could just get up each morning and do the best I could to repeat the best parts of the day before, I’d eventually find my footing.
Yesterday I wore to church the present I received from my husband and son that first Mother’s Day. It’s a necklace, and the centerpiece of the pendant is an amethyst, my son’s birthstone. Each time I wear it, I can’t help but feel like I’ve traveled a million miles, and maybe aged a few decades, since the day my husband first helped me with the necklace’s impossibly tiny clasp.
I still feel mostly like I have no idea what I’m doing. Even so, there’s this sense that my feet are on the ground now. That’s a step up considering that, on my first Mother’s Day, I was feeling sort of like my feet were planted on the underside of the Pedestrian Bridge and that my brains were liquifying and flowing from my ears and into the Arkansas River.
I’ve lucked into a network of supportive, inspiring, down-to-earth mommy friends who don’t take it personally when I can’t make it for dinner or if I have to break a coffee date. My husband now has a very flexible schedule and is, more often than not, at home with our son and me.
One of the most rewarding aspects of becoming a mother has been more fully understanding and better knowing my own mother, as well as my grandmothers and, well, just about any mother out there. I read blog posts by mothers who use this membership in one of the largest clubs in the world as a yard stick for measuring both other women and themselves, but I haven’t experienced that compulsion. If anything, our shared roles as moms has freed me from a lot of the judging I was doing of the mothers in my life. I’ve been able to let go and forgive.
I know now that the vast majority of us do the best we can with this motherhood thing. To me, that counts for something. Plato’s eternal form of Mother is someone we all seem to recognize when we see her, but I don’t think we have to be her. We just have to be confounded and elated and heartbroken and soppy-sweet in love and, maybe once or twice in our lives, all of the above, all at the same time, and come out on the other side. Hard work – the kind that’s done day in and day out with the reliability of your grandmother’s allegiance to her favorite brand of laundry detergent – seems to help, too.
Moms, what do you remember about your first Mother’s Day? Do you remember giving your mom, grandmother or caregiver a Mother’s Day gift? What happened to the way you felt about Mother’s Day when you became a parent? How did it change the way you perceived the mothers in your life? Men, what say you?