Friday, May 3, 2013

just us girls

Alex has been traveling with his school this week, leaving me all alone with E for the first time. Quite honestly, I've been dreading this week since the beginning of the school year. I was panicked at the thought of three full days without my partner in parenting. Because, parenting can be kind of intimidating at times. Overwhelming. Exhausting (obvs). Challenging. Although I am the primary caregiver and spend the vast majority of my day parenting alone on a daily basis, this felt different. There was 127 miles dividing our family. There would be no daddy coming home at the end of the day, sending the house into a roar of squealing and laughter. There would be no daddy on the other side of the bed….just an empty space where my hand usually rests on Alex's shoulder, and Em's hand usually rests on his arm. There would be no daddy to cook us dinner while we did bath time and pajamas upstairs. No, it would just be us girls.

But, what was I so afraid of? 

I used to make a living taking care of other people's children all alone. Newborns, toddlers, school-age kids. With multiple family pets and houses three times the size of mine to tend to at the same time. And I never felt anything but confident in that role. I was never afraid or nervous. I had it covered. But, it's been such a different experience—emotionally speaking—with Emerson. All my years of "practice" did not prepare me for motherhood. Nor did the piles of books I read while pregnant. It all felt different with my own child. My first child. I was nervous and so very glad that Alex was home with me the first four months of Em's life. We figured it out together. We became a unit. But, then Alex went back to work.

It was insane to me that given all my experience and knowledge, and four months "getting used to" having a baby at home, that I was still scared to begin my role as primary caregiver. But, there are a lot of things to learn when it's just you and a baby. How will you go to the bathroom, cook meals, shower, clean? When is your lunch break? How do you get ready for bed at night when your child is melting down because she very suddenly hit a wall of exhaustion and needs to go to bed….like right now? How do you keep in contact (i.e. phone, email, etc) with anyone….ever? How do you handle not having even a millisecond to yourself?

You just do.

That's the incredible thing about motherhood—you discover what you are truly capable of. Your only choice is to figure it out. To solve problems. To carry on. To be strong and adaptable. So, of course, I quickly learned how to take care of my 4-month-old all day when Alex went back to work, and I didn't skip a beat when he finally left for his trip earlier this week. Yes, I was sad when he left. Yes, I am beyond tired. Yes, I am ready for him to come home and give me a break! But, we were fine. In fact, Em and I had a beautiful week, and somehow my house isn't all that destroyed (hmm….is it really the baby that makes all the messes in this place?).

It was definitely exhausting, but I feel silly to have spent months dreading this time alone, because I learned to appreciate something so very special on a much deeper level: mother/daughter awesomeness. Emerson and I obviously have quite a strong bond already as we spend every single day together. But, this week was different. Maybe it's Emerson's age and recent development, maybe it's the fact that it is sunny and warm out (finally!) so we were able to do some really fun things together. I don't know. But, I got my first glimpse of "girl time" this week. We slept intertwined in the middle of the bed, enjoyed lazy, long meals together, combed each other's hair and played with makeup, splashed in the lake, had a little visit with grandma (thanks grandma!). There was a different energy to our days. That "girl time" vibe that only girls know.

As much as I love "family time" and am grateful to have a partner in life and in parenting, it was incredible to really appreciate that there is even more to love about being part of a family unit—the subunits. The husband and wife unit. The mother/daughter unit. The father/daughter unit. More units yet to be conceived. And they are all amazing and important and necessary for different reasons. Hooray for family!

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