Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lunch date al fresco

In two more weeks I'll be back at work. Now, please understand that I have no ambivalence about being a working mama, but I have had, this and each of the previous two times, plenty of ambivalence about maternity leave. The role of the at-home mother is so different from how I usually define myself. It doesn't take a lot to care for a newborn: just love, feeding and cleansing, a lot of holding. But for the baby, that's the whole of everything. It's a role that's physically constant and I love to be in that everpresence with my infants. But as much as it's physically constant, it's cerebrally...empty. My brain goes blank. I can snuggle all day but I don't engage in thought. It's a challenge for me to embrace that emptiness, as I've tried to describe before. And there's an additional challenge: that if I'm at home all day, am I now supposed to be the keeper of the home?

To be clear, the lovely husband imposes none of these thoughts on me; they're where my brain goes when it's filling that emptiness. If I'm home, should I get those breakfast dishes washed and put away, get all the laundry neatly folded and tucked in drawers? If I don't add those tasks into my day, am I shirking? Negligent?

I get very squirmy whenever I consider that I should tackle all the homekeeping in additional to baby nurturing. It stems from defining myself as a working mom, as one half of a two-income household. We work, and in the extra minutes after work and between child tending, we address the house. Neither of us makes it our focus. Neither of us wants it as our focus. We pour all of our at-home time into our kids, and we catch-as-catch-can with the housework. So now that I'm home, should I modify that perspective (temporarily)? But if I begin to think about washing dishes as soon as the lovely husband and girls are out the door in the morning, I immediately feel repressed. I feel claustrophobic. I feel better leaving the dishes in the sink all day and washing them at 10 at night, even if I'm home all day. But they look at me with reproach every time I pass through the kitchen. I want to yell at them: I'm home for the baby! Not for you! But even dishes that can glare at me in judgement still don't have ears. Hence, my maternity leave ambivalence.

The best solution, I've found, is not to be home. I wish I figured this out in the first two maternity leaves I took. My role is constant care of my baby but that certainly doesn't need to be within our home. So as much as the days allow us, we go out. We take a lot of hours-long walks and we run a lot of errands and we spend a lot of time in the car delivering and retrieving his sisters, but all of that is okay, because all of that is getting out.

Today we had a delicious lunch outside. G napped while I ate my salad and when he woke, I moved into the shade and fed him while we enjoyed the breeze and the sounds it carried. Here's the required trick to eating a restaurant meal with your baby: cut all of your food into bite-sized pieces before you begin eating, because there is no guarantee that you will have frequent access to both of your hands simultaneously.

Post-partum barely-cooked fish and baby sound asleep in his stroller. Double win.

So G and I had an excellent lunch date, even though we ate in tandem and he's not much for conversation. It's okay; we've spent so much time together the past few months that we're comfortable with each other's silence. No awkward moments here.

Although he may have laughed at me when I freaked out a little after biting into a stealth water chestnut. *shudder*

He's a hot date, little G. I think I'll ask him out to lunch again tomorrow. After all, I have to return to work soon and when I'm gone I just know he'll be eating with other women. Pin It