We are sitting on the floor and Autumn crawls into my lap. She doesn’t have a book she wants me to read or a toy she wants me to fix or a snack she wants me to open.
She just wants to sit in my lap.
I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
And so I wonder...how the hell am I going to go back to work next month?
I have been spoiled. So spoiled. And I know it.
With the horrors of the pandemic came a move from the city to the suburbs, into my parents’ house; a safe haven with extra hands, free food, no rent.
I was unbelievably grateful and absolutely horrified all at once.
This situation, I thought. How did I get into this situat
ion? I’m 44, a single mom, with my daughter sleeping in the same room where I grew up.
But as my sister reminded me, it’s not forever, it’s because of Covid, and it’s what’s best.
And with the move, came the most valuable, most unexpected gift.
Time. To be a stay-at-home mom. For a whole year.
My school promised to hold a teaching spot.
And so at three months, instead of hauling pouches of breastmilk to daycare, running to pump during lunch, and looking at photos of my baby’s growth, I was there.
For all of it.
Her snuggles on my chest. Her giggles in my face. Her babbles in my ear.
I didn’t miss a beat.
For a whole year, I’ve managed to avoid the reality that comes with being a single mom; heart-wrenching daycare drop-offs, balancing housework and work work, and being both parents 24/7.
We spend long mornings in pajamas, reading books, having tea parties, blowing bubbles. In the afternoons, we visit animals at the zoo, listen to concerts in the park, and go on swings at the playground.
I wasn’t even supposed to have the year, but now that it’s ending, I need longer.
I desperately need longer.
And the more I think about it, the more I realize, I will always need longer. It will never be enough. No matter how much time I have.
I will always want more, like a child given a cookie. And then two. And then three. She will just keep asking until she’s told no.
And even then, she won’t give up. She’ll beg. Plead. Throw a fit.
More. Just one more cookie.
And I think about how I tried to teach Autumn sign language, and how the one word that stuck was ‘more.’
More Grandma and Grandpa. More Kix and blueberries. More chalk and bubbles.
And all I want is more Autumn.
Everyone agrees the days are long, but the years are short; it goes fast, too fast, and so far, I’ve done well.
I haven’t blinked her entire babyhood.
They all tell you to cherish the time because soon it will be gone.
But they don’t tell you how.
Whose grand plan was it to send you home from the hospital with this amazingly complex gift and not include an instruction manual?
Whose idea was it to require a village to raise a baby, but no directions where to find one?
And whose decision was it to make Momming a full-time job, and then not provide any salary, benefits or vacations?
I’d like to speak to the Universe who made all those choices. I’d tell it you made things too hard, you need to ease up, you should provide more.
More time, more money, more help.
(Except the stuff. Babies need too much stuff. Ixnay on the stuff!)
But I already know what the Universe would reply.
Momming fills your heart, not your bank account.
And even though sometimes I question the former when she’s flailing on the changing table, whipping blueberries across the kitchen, or pulling the dog’s fur, I know it’s true.
Momming will never make you rich, but it will always make you loved.
And money isn’t everything, but it is something.
And so I decide I will stay in the moment, in the here, and the now.
Because that’s all any of us can do--enjoy what we have--and stay present.
Because you never know what tomorrow will bring, good or bad.
And because circumstances, people, life--it all changes too quickly.
For today, we dance to Phillips Phillips’ Home, and the lyrics resonate:
Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
For today, we bang rhythm sticks, shake maracas, pound drums, singing nonsense because I only half know the words and she can’t yet pronounce them. And then Wonderful World comes on, and we cuddle dance.
For today, I am still with my daughter. She is still one. And I am still here.