I'm sitting in a cozy little sunbeam on the kitchen floor with the cats while I write this post (or draft depending on if I get it finished before the boy wakes up from his nap). I have a hot cup of tea by my side and the CBC on in the background, because I am one of the few Canadians under 50 who regularly listen to talk radio.
I've chosen this setting partly because it is calm and lovely and inspiring (birds chirping outside, a small family playing at the park behind my backyard), and partly because, despite the sun, it is freaking cold and I refuse to turn the furnace back on (because it is May thank you very much!) so this is the warmest spot in the house at the moment.
Sam is napping in his room where the heat is turned on a little - I'm stubborn, not neglectful. But seriously we had warmer weather during the Summer Olympics back in February.
Now, on with today's topic:
Living in Canada, I am very spoiled in a lot of ways. Beauty, wide-open spaces, natural resources, health care, and now that I am a mother I can fully appreciate a year-long maternity leave. Well, almost.
The government has done it's best to encourage and support parents in staying home for 52 weeks with their new children. My job is guaranteed for me upon my return, and even if my employer doesn't offer any benefits with the leave (which they don't), the Feds fork out a whopping $405 per week (after taxes) so that I can eat while I provide the love and nurturing my son deserves for most of the first year of his life.
Except that David and I had bad timing. He got laid off from work the same day I found out I was pregnant with Sam. It was laughable at the time. And certainly it had no bearing on our decision to start a family or not - we had been trying to get good and pregnant for over 2 years. What it does affect is the necessity for me to go back to work sooner than I would like. Sooner, like tomorrow. Less than one week after Sam has turned seven months old.
The reasonable part of me knows that I shouldn't worry, Sam will be fine. I am after all leaving him home with his dad. The mother-bear in me wants to scream NO! No one could possibly love and care for my son as well as I do!
Reasonable Jamie: It will be good for Sam to be with his dad more. He'll learn new coping and social skills. It will be good for dad too; confidence, bonding, and all that. Good for me to learn to let go a bit. Good for everyone.
Mother-bear: Hands off my baby! He's mine!!
RJ: I can work flexible shifts, mostly nights if I want to. I'll still see lots of Sam.
MB: I don't care! I don't WANT to go to work (sob!). My most important job is here!!
RJ: Well suck it up, we need the money.
MB: (sniff) . . . fine.
Honestly, I don't know how moms in the States do it. Go back to work after only a few months or even weeks. I barely trusted in my own abilities to take care of my baby when he was that young, let alone someone else's. I suppose that like me in this situation, you just do what you have to do.
But I am worried about things like being able to maintain my milk supply so that I can still breast feed. About missing big things like the first crawl. Or even little things like reading his bedtime book. Will I lose touch with my new mommy friends I've met through playgroups, etc. who aren't back to work yet, who still have time for coffee and library and swimming dates in the middle of the week?
I worry about David and Sam having a good time together. Will Sam nap for his dad? Will he take the bottle willingly? Or will every task be a struggle? Will David be bored or frustrated with Sam? If I am to be perfectly honest with myself (and the internet), I worry that Sam will do better with his dad than with me. Will this mean he doesn't need me anymore? Will it undo all the attachment work I've done with him? What if he starts to prefer the bottle? What does all this say about the mother I've been for the past seven months?
I know (hope) a lot of my fears are baseless. The fact of the matter is: Sam is growing up regardless of who stays home with him. There's no stopping it. And I wouldn't want to. (With hesitation. Would I?) Even if I was able to be a SAHM, he would eventually go off to preschool and then kindergarten. Where I have no control.
And I guess that's what this boils down to. I don't want to give up control over everything that influences Sam. It scares me to not be 100% in charge of his little world.
In order to maintain my marriage intact, I'm going to have to try really hard not to micro-manage David's parenting. He's an excellent dad. And while I will have written out my suggestions for Sam's daily schedule (re: naps, snacks, activities, etc.), I simply have to step back and let David and Sam find what works for them. I'm sure David will figure out things that I haven't even considered; and I'm sure that Sam will surprise me by cooperating with his dad on things that he fights with me on. In the end I have to trust that they will sort it out.
It would do me some good to remember what I have told others: Everything I've learned about being a parent, I've learned by doing it. I wasn't born with some innate knowledge because I am a woman. And I certainly didn't read any books ahead of time. A lot of it has been trial and error. And all of it has come with incredible support from my partner who is about to take over as primary caregiver for a while.
My boys are resilient. They will forge a path. They will be ok.
I'll keep you posted.
Sam and his Momma Bear