Some days as a stay at home mother the thought of emptying the dishwasher yet one more time or folding my husband's mound of underwear in the laundry room is enough to make me scream silently and then go rock myself in a corner. It can be that mind numbing. But then just as I am forming some real day dream in my head about careening off to some important and mentally challenging career a little kid comes along and attaches herself to my pant leg and simply says, "Wuv Yu, mama." And I stop, I smile, and think it's a journey, not a destination this kid rearing gig of mine. If I were working, I wouldn't know that she knows the toy bus is yellow and that she she can say "Wuv Yu, mama" right now. Granted I would probably only have to wait until 6pm to hear "Wuv Yu, mama." But still, you get my point. It seems to be very important to me to hear the "Wuv Yu" moments as they come during the day.
With my first daughter, who is now 6 years old I could hardly call those early years after her adoption "stay at home" motherhood and existence. We were never home, unless you count the fact that we technically lived here and we slept here. We playdated until we were ready to drop, we Gymboree'd every single week, we library story houred each and every Wednesday, we practically lived at the Children's Museum, we took Kindermusik lessons, we took gymnastics and swimming, ballet and tap. She thrived in the excitement and learned so quickly each and every thing life had to toss her way. Now that I look back on those first few years with Ava, I wonder in my heart if she didn't have some mild form of sensory integration problems. She simply was not happy unless she was moving. Even if it was a stroller ride at the mall, she was happy. Sitting at home in the playroom was NOT an option and she would scream until I plopped her body in the car and we did something. Luckily she wasn't picky as long as we would move it, move it. Today she seems to have worked through some of her down time issues and is happy with a mix of high energy activity and some downtime on the couch reading a book or playing a quiet game. For this I am grateful.
Then, in Sept. 2006 we brought Olivia home at 10 months old. She showed early on a completely opposite personality from her sister. She was quiet, easy, and very happy in her comfort zone which included our playroom and her bedroom. One block off the cul-de-sac and she would scare easily. She despised crowds and in the early days would cower and shake in large public places. She was exceedingly kind to everyone and everything and could melt your heart in about 3 seconds flat. All the attachment books offered advice to keep adopted children like this home the first year or more. Form the secure attachment before you do anything else. Let her know this is her home and that will not change, she can trust her family. And that is what we did. With the exception of a few short toddler classes and a twice monthly play date we have stayed home. Exposure to babysitters has been almost none, with no family in town there are no huge Sunday family gatherings. She attends a Moms morning out one morning a week but even for that we had to struggle to find peace and normalcy.
Now it is the 18 month anniversary of Olivia's coming home. She has bonded securely and is a happy healthy child. It is time for some balance. I can't help but sense she needs a slight push out of the nest even if only in small short doses.
A new gym membership has been healthy for me both physically and emotionally these past two weeks. I find myself feeling like I'm in a time warp for 1 hour out of the day without Olivia attached to my hip. I am exceedingly conscious of my body on the elliptical and the people around me as I bob and sway to Amy Winehouse, sweating and panting. It feels so different to be somewhere without her. I strangely stare at each person at the gym wondering if they have a child downstairs in the kid play area. I turn my ipod down to hear the seemingly inevitable page I will receive telling me to come collect my crying child, and yet guiltily I savor each moment until I hear my name over the PA system.
Yesterday I fought pangs of guilt and I pushed her to play in the play area alone, even though she clearly was not thrilled to be alone in the big room full of kids without mommy. When we came home she talked about KidsZone and how she cried. But then I would ask her if she'd like to try KidsZone at the gym again? She'd shake her head yes and say "no cry". Oh, the stab of mommy guilt, be still my heart.
Stepping back from the little cries of missing mommy I think we will not give in and forget about finding a little balance and a little time (very short periods of time) away from each other. It will be good for both of us when my body and mind are a little tighter and her confidence to be on her own is a little stronger.