As a pregnant Stay-At-Home-Mom to an almost 2 year old daughter what I think about can more often than not be sorted into three main categories:
1) What are we going to eat?
2) What will I do with my free time today?
3) Am I serving my daughter well?
“What are we going to eat?” and “What will I do with my free time today?” seem like two basic, stress free questions, but they are not. I have a hate-dislike relationship with cooking, and I am always hungry which makes my attitude towards the task less than par. Not to mention the fact that feeding a toddler is frustratingly difficult. You want so badly to see them eat well, check off the main food groups at each meal, and crave fruits and vegetables, but wanting and achieving are two very different things. One day they like it, the next they don’t, cut the sandwich wrong and what would have been an enjoyable lunch is now the cause of a major tantrum. Breathe in, breathe out.
As for the question of “What will I do with my free time today?” that is really more of a daydream than anything else. My hopes are always high, my list long, my aspirations lofty, but as I tiptoe out of her room after bedtime the door squeaks and she is up again (I suggest ridding of squeaky doors before you have babies). During nap-time the house chores call and the dogs beg to be fed, pet, and let out to pee, (I also suggest buying a fish in place of a dog), and once the free time does arrive sleep washes over me before I can touch both feet to the ground.
I often think of Mrs. Large, (which the further I get into my pregnancy seems like an appropriate name substitution for myself), from the childhood book 5 Minutes Peace. She is an elephant desperately seeking “5 Minutes Peace” from her three children, 5 sweet minutes to herself which end in failed attempts where she ultimately only achieves 3 minutes and 45 seconds. She is an elephant in a children’s book and yet I often think how nice it would be to sit down with her over a cup of coffee and laugh at our schemes for achieving 5 minutes peace in a day.
Last on the list is the question that plaques me the most, “Am I serving my daughter well?” Am I giving her the nutrients she needs? Are smoothies, quesadillas, and mac n’ cheese really cutting it? Am I teaching her what she needs to know, do I meet her development and educational needs? Or, is that cartoon I use to get her to sit still while I dress her and do her hair stunting her brain growth? (“Screen free before three” they say.) Am I responding to her requests appropriately and supporting her emotionally? Do I make her feel loved, important, valued, and heard? Am I setting a good example, teaching her how to be kind, patient, and polite? Am I the type of woman that she will want to grow up to be? This question terrifies me because I am painfully aware of my own downfalls, my humanness. And worst of all there is no way to really know until she is old enough to look back, reflect, and tell me herself. By then, I could have screwed it all up. I was in the Peace Corps following college and their slogan was “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love.”
The individual who came up with that must not have experienced parenthood.
Lost in my own mom thoughts, I ponder over recipes, dreams of reading that book or finally doing that home workout, and how I am going to be a better mom than I was 5 minutes ago, when her big, deep, brown eyes shut my thoughts down and call me to her. She calls me “honey” and invites me to play and I realize there is much to enjoy. Her laughter, that sense of humor gifted to her by her Dad, her imagination, her wonder, her excitement for life. I blow dry my hair and she requests that I dry hers as well because in that moment she wants to be like Mom. We laugh at funny faces over lunch, turns out quesadillas with avocado is a win-win, and her small hand grasps mine as we walk out the door, feet crunching on snow, because it also turns out that she trusts me to keep her safe in this big, wide world. We talk about our day on the drive home and she repeats my words, some in Spanish, some in English, our conversation is simple and informal, and yet, new words arise, alas, she is learning.
The day comes to a close as I close her door for bedtime. Lights off, stories read, she falls asleep on my chest, just the three of us, quiet and calm, baby kicking happily from inside my belly, and my worries take 5 minutes of peace; for amidst the “what’s” and “am I’s” of motherhood, there is always so much to enjoy.