Sunday, March 16, 2008

Divide

I realized tonight that I only have two more weeks with le Petit before I have to start the adaptation period with the nanny.

The cocoon we've built together over the last eight months will be torn open, and I am not certain I'm ready.

I feel like I'm marching back to work because I have to, because it's my duty. I've been programmed since forever that life is full of unpleasant realities, and the endless succession of workdays is as unquestionably necessary as the endless succession of schooldays that preceded it. I so take this for granted that I cannot project myself into a future without a job, an office, and a career of sorts. The daily grind is reassuring. It is part of my identity.

Yet something has happened, and suddenly projecting myself into a future of long days away from le Petit isn't easy to do, either. Over the last months I've learned to understand him. He's no longer an exhausting mystery to me, but a bright-eyed, smiling, intelligent being whom I love more than I ever thought possible. He still exhausts me, but it is a exhilarating exhaustion, and I finally feel like I'm doing something honest with my life.

I have days when I want to just sit down at a desk and puzzle out computer bugs, since it sounds so much simpler than figuring out a baby. And days when I just want to communicate with a group of adults, even if our only interaction is fifteen minutes of mid-morning chatter around a coffee machine. Mostly I just wonder to myself, who will I be in two or three years when le Petit goes to school and I am no longer so intensely needed?

We left le Petit with family for forty-five minutes this weekend while my husband and I went out for a run. We left him with someone he did not know terribly well, and we made the mistake of attempting to sneak out without a word of goodbye. Before we'd even closed the door he had started to cry and he cried the entire time we were gone. When we returned, we learned that every time he was carried into a new room he would look around for us frantically. Even after we came back he sobbed inconsolably, and at the look of terror on his face we understood that the worst of his fears had materialized. He'd suddenly learned that Mommy and Daddy could just disappear and he could do nothing to make them come back.

Eight-month separation anxiety, the books all say; they all go through it, it passes. None of that reassures me when I think that I will have to start leaving him with a complete stranger in a matter of weeks. Yes, we will start slowly, and over a couple of weeks I will work up from leaving him a short hour to leaving him the entire day. I will not make the mistake of slipping away again without a goodbye. We trust the nanny, and we feel as comfortable as possible with the situation.

Yet as a knot forms in my stomach, I realize we have no Plan B. If the adaptation doesn't work... if he cries no matter what... if I am miserable and can't handle the separation myself...

I tell myself that I will give it time. We are lucky to have options and some financial flexibility, and I know we will find a way to make it work. I cannot forget that I am so much more fortunate than most other mothers who face the same questions.

But it all forces me to ask what exactly I want out of life and where I will find my happiness and my identity. The worst part is that the answers I choose will affect someone else even more deeply than they affect me, and that little person can't tell me how he feels about it all.

Or maybe he can, if I only I trusted myself to know how to listen.

2 comments:

Inki said...

I can definitely relate! My daughter is seven months old and currently spends her time split between me, my husband, and my dad (4 hrs/wk), which works out well. I get some grown-up time at the office and quality time with her. I think I appreciate the time I spend with her more when it's not all the time.
I'm planning on going back to work full-time this summer when my husband is on summer vacation and she'll start day care in August. I'm sure the transition to her spending more time with strangers than with me will be traumatic for me!

Isabelle said...

I know the exact feeling, although my experience is different from yours. All I can tell you is that the older your child is, the harder it is to leave him . He understands even better what's going on and plays with it (like holding you very tight and screaming your name). The first days are difficult, you think "what the hell am I doing here? I should be home with my baby", and then weeks fly by and you get in the routine where you are happy to spend the day with adults and have adults' conversations and where you are even happier to come back home to your baby.