I am really tired. In addition to exhaustion, my first full week of paid work since my daughter was born made me realize the following things:
No matter how awesome my office day was, my favorite moments of the day are snuggling with my daughter before she sleeps and I feel really good that she gives me a happy smile before closing her eyes.
No matter how shitty my office day was, nothing makes me feel worse than coming home and listening to my daughter scream and cry because she is frustrated about not getting what she wants for dinner. If she had her way, she would only eat cheese and blueberries. As I write that I realize she sounds very fancy, but as we are trying to expand her taste buds and get her excited about vegetables, it is mostly dramatic and loud.
Parenthood and anything else is exhausting. By anything else, I mean getting dressed, bathing, eating, exercising, reading, maintaining a relationship with your spouse, keeping in contact with your friends. Adding in a third and my default state has been exhaustion.
Public transportation is a blessing and a curse. I love not having to drive into the city. Part of my survival mechanism has been taking power naps on the train. I have a favorite conductor and when I see him I feel like I am getting rewarded with goodness. On the other hand, when there are train delays, I curse on the inside. I feel sad, like yesterday, when I get home so late.
It is nice to reclaim part of my identity. I have been putting on real clothes and bathing regularly. Being able to go to the bathroom alone and eat lunch with two hands is incredible. I like talking with adults about things which are not only related to my child and my marriage.
I miss being with my daughter, but I am glad that she is spending more time with Partner. It is fun to see him developing a relationship with our day care provider and create his own routine for getting her out the door in the morning, doing drop off, and pick up.
Hopefully, we will find more of our rhythm and things will get easier. If you have any suggestions for balancing things, I would love to hear them. In the coming week, I am hoping to at least pack my own lunch one day a week. We have been packing food for our daughter, but we need to do a bit more self-care in this area.
Over the weekend, we went to Atlanta to celebrate Gaby's wedding! The hotel in which we were staying was walking distance of downtown Decatur where I spent a lot of time. A few times over the weekend, I was hit by a memory of sitting in a particular spot filled with angst and worry about gaining the affection of a particular fellow or any fellow. Twelve years (!!!) have passed since I left Atlanta. Many things in my life have changed, the most obvious these days is a 20 month old bundle of energy.
I knew that the weekend would be fun and filled with love. I was excited to introduce the Little One to the family that I created when I lived there and see her play in a city I love so much. On Saturday, the betrothed hosted a picnic at a park that had a terrific playground. The Little One was blissed out to have her favorite things in one place: slide, bubbles, balls, and cheese. I could hardly contain my excitement when I introduced the Little One to everyone. As predicted, she was shy, but quickly warmed up as she played and ate.
In between wedding activities, we had some time to explore Decatur. There was an art festival, so there was a lot of activity. As we walked around the square, the Little One was giddy because there were two more of her favorite things everywhere she looked: curbs and dogs. She loved walking to a curb, sitting down, chatting for a bit, and then getting up, walking a few steps, and repeating the process. She also squealed, "DOGGIE" each time she saw a dog. The owners were pleasantly surprised and asked us how many dogs she had; we would chuckle as we said, "ZERO."
We at at one of my favorite places, Raging Burrito. Those who have shared meals with me know that burritos are one of my favorite foods. I was so excited to learn that Raging Burrito has a kids menu and high chairs. We sat down for dinner; the Little One enjoyed her burrito and Partner told me that he could absolutely see how I would love this place. Afterwards, we walked around and enjoyed the band that was playing 80s music on the square. I got tears in my eyes as I remembered the happy (and hard) times I had experienced in Decatur. I also got teary eyed and felt a surge of warmth as I realized I am also experiencing happy (and challenging) times now. The merging of worlds felt surreal and awesome.
As I watched Gaby walk down the aisle, looking radiant, I began to cry. She looked stunning, of course, but I just felt so happy to be part of the celebration and was so excited for my friend to start the adventure of marriage. The service and reception were a good reflection of Gaby and Jason's relationship, but also the way I know of Gaby moving in the world: filled with sweetness, tender moments, beauty, and laughter. I figured out that Gaby and I have known each other for 12 years! During that time, we have met each other's friends and family. At the wedding festivities, I loved reconnecting with people and meeting folks about whom I had heard.
My favorite moment was during a slow dance. The terrific band was singing, "At Last" and Partner and I decided to dance. Suddenly, I recalled that I had always wanted to smile at a friend while we were both slow dancing with our amazing partners. I had a chance! Jason and Gaby were enjoying a sweet dance. As I was trying to get Gaby's attention, I felt like I was watching a video montage in my head. I recalled some highlights from various conversations where we processed many heartaches, gave each other pep talks, and worked through lots of transitions. Not to be dramatic, but being on the dance floor together felt like the marking of time. I am so happy that she looked radiant and peaceful. I almost squealed in delight when she opened her eyes, looked at me, smiled, and waved.
Weddings can be stressful events. Traveling with a child can be tough. Working out logistics while on vacation is super challenging. All those things are trivial for the chance to witness love and be part of an event that makes you want to cheer with hope and optimism!!
I started work on Tuesday. During the morning commute, I was the only one smiling. I could not believe that I had finally gotten a job! I was going to work! I could eat lunch without interruption! I could talk with grown-ups! I also felt nervous. What if I had forgotten how to speak to grown-ups unless the conversation was related to kids? What if Partner forgot something during the morning routine or drop off which resulted in the Little One being so upset she had a bad day? What if the Little One forgot all about me if I was not the one to do drop off or pick up? What if I was so exhausted when I came home that I could not manage to spend time with her or him?
Returning to work after being home with my child for 20 months is FUCKING intense!
The first day was a blur of meetings and an overload of information. In some ways similar to being a new parent where I knew I had some skills, but I was not sure when they were going to surface. I touched base with Partner who told me everything went well with drop off. I felt relief. I started smiling and getting really excited about the job. I loved hearing that people were excited for me to join the organization. When my new supervisors introduced me, I sounded incredibly impressive.
During the walk to the train, Partner told me it was raining and to call if it was too wet when I got close to home and he or Reshma (who was staying with us) would pick me up. I knew things were hectic, so I did not plan to call. When we reached my stop, I looked out the window and gulped. It was WET! As I was about to get off the train, Partner called to tell me Reshma was on her way. She texted to tell me where she was parked.
When I got to the car, I asked why she came. She told me that Partner had asked her to come because he looked outside and was worried. She said that he would have come himself, but they were not sure the Little One would stay with Reshma.
The next two days were hard. This morning, Partner told me that the Little One was crying for me. I left before she woke up so that I could get to work early. I cried at my desk. In the weeks prior to my start date, we had begun to transition the Little One to longer day care for more days. I was having a hard time. Appa (my father-in-law) has been surprisingly excited and interested in my work, so I confided in him that it was harder than I expected to leave the Little One.
His responded by saying, "That's what happens when you love your job more than your child."
I know that is *absolutely* not true and that is truly a shitty thing for anyone to say to a working parent. I also know that he would never say anything like that to Partner even though Partner went back to work when the Little One was two weeks old and has been working ever since.
Still... the seed was planted and when I heard about my daughter being upset, the seed began to grow.
I felt horrible for being happy at work. I wondered about my sanity in thinking that I could be a better parent after having a break and the space to do something that I cared about and at which I am good. I questioned my commitment to her because I was glad to reclaim part of my identity. I felt like we were being indulgent for needing another income.
I called Partner back. He told me that she missed me and he missed me, but it was a transition. This was good for our family. Things would get easier. We all loved each other and were going to make things work.
As I am searching for stories to read to the Little One, I come across a lot of fairy tales that include a princess needing to be rescued. There is some variation of prince killing a bad guy, saving the day, marrying the princess, and living happily ever after.
I wish I could write a story that included a message like this: true love does exist, but it is something you work towards and create in small, meaningful gestures. Your Partner anticipates and worries that you are going to get wet, so sends someone to help keep you dry. Your Partner and you help make each other's dreams come true. You work for each other's happiness and provide reassurance that aspirations do not make you as asshole.
Maybe I will write the story someday, for now I am excited to live the next chapter.