A mother scorned

Since my oldest son was born, my husband has been the one to give our children their baths. I do it when necessary, but mostly I avoid it. When they were little babies their slippery, wet skin and squirmy, wiggly bodies made me very nervous. He had a deft hand, and enjoyed the task, so it naturally evolved into his regular contribution.

While he bathes the children, I typically clean up our supper dishes, tidy the kitchen and make lunches for the next day. And then, as they splish and splash and generally cause flood-like messes in our family bathroom, I collect their jammies and join them in time to gather children snug into their hooded towels.  My youngest prefers that I take over at this point, and I’m only too happy to oblige. There is something particularly heart-warming about a toddler wrapped tightly in a towel, smelling fresh and clean. I hold him close and nestle into the wetness of his neck, enjoying his cherubic face.

One night last week, as I scooped him up into our nightly cuddle, I whispered to him: “Mmmm, I love you my baby.”

His response. “I not baby mama.”

I was taken back, feeling a little scorned. I looked to my husband, shock plain on my face. Not only did his words catch me off guard, but the vehemence with which he delivered them was startling.

My husband was amused, since he’s not one to feel emotionally tied to their babyness. I, on the other hand, felt as thought I’d received a cold glass of water in the face.

Both my boys are changing, rapidly it seems, in front of my very eyes. I’ve been ruminating about it recently after reading some powerful, everyday stories by other bloggers I admire. I realized I’ve written so few stories about my boys here. As I thought about it, trying to come up with some things to share with you, I realized I really have so few to share.  What I can’t decide is whether it’s because I’m away from them so much, 10 hours a day, five days a week, or if it’s because when I’m with them I’m not engaged or observant enough to store and later tell our stories.

My oldest son will soon be five and every day I see him emerging from a sweet, sensitive pre-schooler to boisterous middle childhood. He’s bold, testing his and our limits, venturing more and more into ideas and interests that don’t include us. Later this summer, my youngest will be two and a half, and as I already described, he’s shedding his babyness as if it’s a weight that’s been holding him back. He’s in a hurry to be bigger, to be like his older brother, to try new things.

I feel I should hold on tighter, slow it down, wrap them in my protective arms and keep them close forever. When I let myself follow these thought, I find myself regretting my choice to work full-time as I raise my children. The time they spend away from me feels stolen and lost, and sometimes what I’m missing cuts like a knife. They have whole, large pockets of their young lives that I know nothing about. And even though I know they are safe and loved where they are, I still can’t help but feel a flame of resentment at the situation I’ve created.

It’s a funny tug-and-pull situation. I’ve always struggled with motherhood. Even today, almost five years later, I haven’t really sunk completely into its consuming embrace. I know I wouldn’t be good at staying with them every day, that we all benefit from time away. But more and more I feel like I’m living my life on a tight-rope, balancing precariously as I walk between two end points: motherhood and career.


15 thoughts on “A mother scorned

  1. I do this with Miss M. I just want her to cling to babyhood a little longer, and she’s ready to leave it in the dust.

  2. They grow, they grow, they keep on growing…

    Like you, I don’t always notice it – they are just who they are. But then I hang out like I did on the weekend with my 4 yo nephew and 2 yo niece and I think, whew, where have the years gone? My 11 year old son is my height and has a crush on a girl, my 10 yo daughter wants to go to a movie with friends (and without parents), and even my own baby, my 8 yo, is not exactly a baby anymore.

    I used to think I never wanted them to grow up – and often, I still don’t, yearning for the memory of those baby years. But now they are older, the things we are able to do together and the fun we have…well, I wouldn’t change any of that for the world.

  3. I understand this feeling – the tug-and-pull as you say. I was torn as the babyness disappeared in my boys, yet relieved as well. There is great discovery in each of the stages. (And even as teens, I can still see their baby faces.)

  4. Kate says:

    They grow so fast! The pull to be with them, the draw of the outside world, oh, I get it! I can’t even envision a perfect balance.

  5. denise says:

    Come closer! Get away! Be a baby! Grow up! Let me hold you! You’re too heavy and it’s hot! I vacillate between this multitude of realities everyday. I so understand your tug and pull. So so so understand. And as for the pull toward career–ugh. I feel that one increasingly more each day. xoxo

  6. harrietglynn says:

    I realized that because my son isn’t an adept talker, it keeps him babyish (he’s 22 months). I know it’s ridiculous but when he really starts talking well, a part of me will be quite sad.

    • Christine says:

      I have had trouble with every developmental change, a little bit of sadness comes with each new skill they learn. It’s bittersweet, not at all ridiculous!

  7. martha says:

    which is why I chose to work part time. coz I missed my kids too much while away at work. And when I’m with them the whole day,I wished i had space for myself.

  8. Oh gosh I resemble this post so much. I don’t want to miss anything. Yet I (more than) hesitate to be a stay at home mom. I know I’m a better mom when I’m working.

    And yet, the push and pull, the mental tug of war, persists.

  9. This is so poignant, Christine. I can relate very well to the fear of missing (or just not being fully present for) their childhood. I’ve just finished reading Torn, and was struck by how many women struggle with the concerns you describe, whether they work full time or more occasionally. It seems to be a constant tension between meeting our own needs and those of our kids.

  10. Lena says:

    My oldest is three and every day he likes to brag about how old he is and how he is “not a baby Mommy!” I tell him, even though he now has a baby brother, that he will always be my special, first baby. And it’s true, even when he is graduating form college — getting married — having kids (knock on wood) I will always remember him as a little one: as a squealing, drooling adorable baby boy.

    Time passes but the memories will live forever. Let’s just enjoy these actual moments of babyhood, toddlerhood, childhood as long as we can!

  11. pamela says:

    even those of us that stay home with our kids miss huge pockets of their lives to school, playing with friends and siblings, to their own interior, secret lives, and to my lack of attention. They are ours and they are their own mysterious selves. Don’t forget the important lesson you are teaching your kids about a womans worth in the workplace and about pursuing your dreams. Beautiful beautiful post!

    • Christine says:

      Thanks Pamel for this perspective. It’s true isn’t it? No matter what we do, we often think the grass is greener on the other side. But you point out an important thing we should all remember, that they are their own mysterious selves. That’s the way it’s supposed to be! It’s not always easy to embrace though. 🙂 And thank you for reminding me of the example I’m setting, I really appreciated reading this.

  12. Because my daughter is my only child, I focus and cling on to the “baby” moments as much as I can. This post comes at an appropriate time in my own life. Just the other night, my husband and I decided to run an errand and we expected our daughter want to come along. Instead, she said, “You two go ahead. I will stay home with grandma.” It was the first time she wasn’t clamoring to be within a few feet of us. It made me sad. Just as I conveyed this over to my husband, she called me and said, “Momma when are you coming home?” I was momentarily relieved, but know the day will come when she won’t make that phone call.

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