“I have always needed the freedom to wander with the reassurance that home is where I left it.”
I wrote this recently…but it wasn’t until I was rereading it that I was struck by how similar this sounded to the quote that my mother wrote in my baby book…the same quote I would write in Jefferson’s baby book 32 years later.
“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of those is roots; the other, wings.” -Cecilia Lasbury
My mother wished that for me as a newborn, and I am finding that the prophecy has been fulfilled. I love the stability of home, but I can never spend too much time there. And that includes the people in my life. I love and adore Bradley, but we grew to appreciate independence and space from the very beginning of our relationship. Neither of us spend every night falling asleep in our own bed, but we leave the home with an earnest promise to return. It’s not that I want to leave. It’s that I want to come and go. Leaving is only appealing to me if I know when I am coming back.
I wondered if motherhood would change that quality about me. I also feared that it wouldn’t change that quality and yet I would be tethered to home in a way that would breed resentment or boredom. What I found is that my style of motherhood is the brand where you find a balance of both worlds. For me, that balance is centered around being intentional.
If I am away from my home, it is intentional. I am making a conscious decision to spend time away from my family. I am at peace with that decision so long as the time away serves a purpose that I am intentionally pursuing. I work weddings on the weekend because I am intentionally seeking to learn more about photography. I work 40 hours a week as a social worker because I am intentionally looking to contribute to my family financially while doing something that satisfies my need to be helpful. When I go to the gym for an hour, I am intentionally seeking to build a healthy life so that my family can enjoy me at my healthiest. Those are intentional decisions. I have no patience for anything that feels wasteful or tedious.
That intention also plays into how I am when I am home. Those precious few evening hours when my son is awake, I only spend that time with him. We play on the floor, make a mess over pureed fruits and vegetables, splash in the bathtub, go for evening walks, and cuddle on the couch while he babbles about his day. There is no errand important enough to steal me away during that time. I don’t take phone calls during that time. I don’t cook dinner (just kidding…I never cooked dinner). The point is, I intentionally choose to forgo anything that pulls me away from enjoying time with Jefferson. The time we spend together is so dang good, y’all. I look forward to my evenings so much now because I know that sweet baby is all mine when I walk through the door.
The other thing that sets my wandering heart at ease is knowing that my husband is able to build a relationship with our son that is separate from me. I want them to have their own unique relationship. I want there to be secret rituals that only happen while mom is away (I imagine pizza for breakfast, staying up past bedtime, etc.). Listening to Bradley stomp and dance around the nursery in the evenings when Jefferson was a newborn…trying to find the balance between swaying and bouncing to calm him during the witching hour (which was never a hour but sure as heck felt like it)…I am grateful that those Daddy-and-me moments happened from the beginning. Mommy and Daddy will do things differently, but we do them with the same loving goal of giving him a safe and happy home.
I also think it is good for my mom ego…that tiny part of my brain that will occasionally try to convince me that I am the only person on this planet capable of caring for my child the way he needs to be cared for. That voice is a liar. Surely my love for him is unique and special. And it is not lost on me that I carried him while others can only hold him (verbiage stolen from the song “The Highwomen”). But that narrative only puts crippling pressure on me and encourages me to forgo help, including that from my spouse. So when I feel that anxious voice start to chatter in my mind, I intentionally take a step back. I see my happy, healthy child in the hands of another, and I know that there is a whole village of people that are contributing to his well being. And by caring for him, they allow me to care for myself.
This isn’t to say that it is always easy for me to walk out of the door. I miss the giggles. I miss his expressive eyes and loud squeals. I think of him almost constantly and feel so much excitement over every picture my husband sends me. (And if you are standing next to me, I will show you, too. Small miracle I didn’t show every person on the New York subway while I was visiting last weekend.) Regardless of the hesitation, I find myself renewed when I return.
So, sweet Jefferson, know that your mother will not always be home. But she will always come back. And I hope to extend that same luxury to you if and when you need it…the courage to give you the freedom to leave while always being sure to leave the light on for when you come back.