Being a working mom is tough. You are too little to understand why things are the way they are–why mommy is hardly home–so I try to cram as much as I can into the couple of days I do have with you trying to play catch-up. It’s almost like I’m trying to make sure you know me and know I am your mommy. I know it may sound silly, but the working mom guilt in me is always questioning that.
I promise I had the best of intentions today. I had the whole day planned out:: wagon ride, then breakfast at our favorite coffee shop down the street, followed by the neighborhood park, lunch, nap, then afternoon play until dinner. I wanted our time together to be perfect.
But it wasn’t.
I heard you rustling in your crib so I jumped out of bed to get you. I went to work yesterday without seeing you, and when I came home you were already in bed. I just knew you would light up as soon as I opened the door, but you didn’t. You were fussy, your diaper was full and you didn’t want me to hold you. It was a struggle just changing you so I didn’t even try to put on the outfit I laid out for you the night before. I tried my best to make you smile or laugh or even just let out a little giggle, but you weren’t having it. So I went to what ALWAYS works for us when things aren’t going well-what always draws you back to me.
“What does a dinosaur say?”
We went downstairs for toastios and milk. I wanted to give you time to warm up and me time to get your favorite wagon ready for our walk. But today the wagon was not your favorite. You fussed getting in and spent the next 6 blocks on our way to the coffee shop trying to climb out. I pulled out my phone to play your favorite music, but was quickly met with a loud, “Noooooooooo!!!” So daddy ended up carrying you most of the way. I spent those 6 blocks thinking about what might be wrong. Were you getting sick? Were you teething? Were you having a “toddler” day? Were you mad at me for being gone so much? You usually always want me to hold you. Did I do something wrong?
So I tried again…“What does a dinosaur say?”
Breakfast was a disaster. You didn’t want to sit on the chair then you wanted to sit on the chair, you threw your croissant on the floor and then got mad because it was on the floor, you wanted your own glass of water then poured it on the table. I tried to be patient. I wanted to comfort you, but I also had to correct you. “We can’t act like this in public. Do you want to go home?” Those words simply fell on deaf toddler ears. Your dad and I quickly inhaled our coffee, cleaned up the mess, and loaded you into the wagon that you now hated. By this time you were in full-blown meltdown mode. I tried talking to you, I tried holding you, I even tried singing to you. Finally, I walked with you while dad waited behind. You finally calmed down, and my heart stopped racing. I felt like we were going to be OK.
“What does a dinosaur say?”
We made it to the park. You didn’t want me to play with you like you usually do. You wanted daddy to push you in the swing this time. I checked in with you to see if you wanted me, but you didn’t. So I just sat back and watched. You were so big. You did everything by yourself. You climbed the steps and went down the slide. You threw your yogurt in the trash all by yourself. I didn’t know whether to be in awe that my baby was growing up or be sad that my baby didn’t need me as much. I sat there not knowing how to feel, but understanding that on this day I needed you more than you needed me. When it was time to leave you seemed happy. So I picked you up and held you tight for a brief moment before you scrambled away.
“What does a dinosaur say?”
You went down for a nap after lunch without wanting me to hold you like you usually do. I just told myself you were tired and tried not to take it personally. I tried to be practical by telling myself that this is what toddlers do, but my broken heart won out and instead I spent the next two hours questioning myself and my ability to be a good mother. What could I have done differently? Am I a terrible mom? Am I gone too much? Are we not bonding anymore? I admit I cried a little thinking about you and me. I wanted this day to go so differently, but we simply weren’t on the same page. I felt like a failure.
The rest of the day was a repeat of the morning. I tried every trick I knew, but nothing made you happy. I even left the house to regroup, hoping that my being gone would make you miss me and be happy to see me when I got home. I returned somewhat renewed, but was met with arms outstretched, tears rolling down your cheeks and you screaming, “Mamamamamamamama!“, which made me feel guilty that I left in the first place. You spent the rest of the day in a series of ups and downs, mostly downs, and I spent the rest of the day trying not to lose it.
Then it was bedtime.
I have to admit I was ready for it to be bedtime. I was mentally exhausted after spending the day trying to figure you out and beating myself up. My mind nor heart could take much more. I could tell you were exhausted, too. I know the day was as tough on you as it was on me.
I got you dressed in your jammies and took you up to bed. I turned down the lights and walked to your crib, but at the last moment I decided to hold you instead. We sat down in the dark room as you squirmed trying to get comfortable. So I tried one last time.
“Hey Remy, what does a dinosaur say?”
You pushed yourself back off of my chest and with the sweetest smile on your face you whispered, “Rrrrrraaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!”
You snuggled in close to me, letting all the frustrations from the day leave your body as you melted into mine. I exhaled deeply and finally felt some peace. With tears in my eyes and despite all of my failures, I realized this was the only win I needed.