I can, actually.

There are things people say to mothers who let a thin sliver of lament show through the cracked veneer of their sanity.  Several of those things piss me off, and some of them mystify me.  One of the most befuddling is any variation on the following theme:

Well, yes, but I bet you can’t imagine your life without Sprout now.

I had a baby.  I didn’t disappear up a darkened tunnel to the lobotomy-station, or undergo a memory transplant.  I lived 37 years without having Sprout and I can perfectly recall what it feels like to be free to leave the house without an hour of forethought and an anxiety attack*.  I can imagine with crystal clarity what it is like not to have him around.

This weekend K-man took Sprout to visit some of his family for most of the day and I got a bigger, better view of the extent to which my freedom has been curtailed.  Obviously, I cleaned the house and cooked two bulk meals for Sprout.  But then.

Then, I walked into town without a pram and sat with a toasted panini and a book and watched the world breeze past me.  I shoe-shopped.  I returned some clothing I’d bought for Sprout because it was too small.  I had time to do all this because I didn’t have to repeatedly pause to deal with crying, puking or shitting, wait for the world’s slowest lifts, or manoeuvring the pram around too-closely-situated shop stands.  I was not on a timetable according to someone else’s apparently insatiable desire for food or movement.

It was so fabulous, so fantastic, that on the way home I cried in mourning for my lost freedom.

I’ve got a few coping strategies.  First, I look for a middle-aged woman who is having a good time.  I think look at her and how happy she seems.  She probably has grown children, and she has her life back now and a family. That will be me one day, I think.

Second, I try to remember what my friend JR said to me.  He’s so full of wisdom he can’t help leaking it wherever he goes.  He said two things.  Number one, every time I have a little wistful sigh about things I used to do, he says ‘and you will again‘ and gives me his Dalai Lama expression.  Seriously, he’s like a far more stylish Yoda.  Number two, when I expressed guilty feelings for wanting some space from Sprout, he said that although obviously I love Sprout, that does not mean I have to love everything he does or want to spend every minute of every day with him.  I should absolutely not feel guilty for wanting life’s balance to tip a bit less far towards childcare responsibility.

Third, I do one thing every day just for me.  Even if it’s only a ten minute thing and I have to wait until 8.30pm and ram it into the hour window before I collapse with exhaustion.  For example, today’s thing is this piece of writing.

When people tell me that I surely can’t imagine my life without Sprout I reply that yes I can, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want my life without Sprout.  It seems an obvious distinction to me.  And now, he has been asleep for over two hours and I must go wake him or he won’t sleep tonight.  I’m looking forward to seeing him.

*Yes, anxiety is a bitch.  I’d never really experienced it before.  Sprout-induced anxiety forced me to get help from professionals.  More about that in another post.

3 Responses to “I can, actually.”

  1. 1 Jen on the Edge September 30, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    Your friend JR is wise. Heed his words.

    Also, I am a middle aged woman with teenagers, so heed mine: You will have a life again. This I promise you.

    What that life will be might be the same is what you had or it might be different. There’s no way to predict. You will grow and change as Sprout does the same, so by the time he’s in school all day, your life will hopefully be whatever you want it to be at that time.

    And then when he’s old enough to do things on his own — such as it is in my house with two teenagers — your life will be whatever you want it to be at that time and it might not necessarily be what it was before you had Sprout or even what it will be when he starts school.

    Things change and so will you.

    But I promise you, you will have time to yourself again. And it will be great.

    My life before children was largely frivolous: Work during the week days, then lots of play at night and on the weekends. Then there were the years of exhaustion and anxiety and just hoping to one day, please godallahoprahbuddha use the loo without one of my constant toddler companions.

    These days, my life is more my own. I work full-time, but still have time for my family and for myself. I party far less and think much more. Things are exactly the way I want them to be as P and I approach the time when our girls go off to university and we start our second phase of being child-free. I could not have imagined this 17 yeas ago when G was born, but this time is good and I am content.

    I’m not going to tell you to hang in there or enjoy these days while you have them because I well remember the daily, hourly stress of wee ones. Instead, I will encourage you to have faith that you will once again have more time of your own and the elements of your life will be more under your control.

  2. 2 Nic @ Life, Smudged. October 4, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    Jen, I really want to thank you for taking the time to write this amazing comment. I read your words several times and have really thought hard about them. You have helped me by writing this. Thank you.

    • 3 Jennifer October 5, 2015 at 1:11 am

      You are most welcome. I wish I had had the internet when my girls were babies, because a lot of my stress and anxiety and loneliness would have been mitigated greatly.

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