Well, this is it. The last day of my maternity leave is upon us. I thought I’d be more of a mess than I am, but it could just be that I’m overtired and crying takes a level of energy that my body refuses to exert. Or maybe I’m just in denial until I wake up tomorrow morning and our nanny is at our doorstep and I’m in my new (adorable) shirt from White House Black Market that I bought specifically to cover my belly paunch to ease me back in to my first day back. It’s like back-to-school shopping, only you’re not trying to impress the boys in your class – you’re trying to sustain a level of sanity without too many tears in front of your boss.
This has been the world’s greatest maternity leave ever known to man. Seriously, ask God when you die. He’ll back me up. Everyone warned me that dealing with two kids would be so much harder than my maternity leave with just the one. Yes, it was. It took more balancing, more planning, fewer freakouts, more money, less me-time, and double the love! I refused to be confined to the walls of this house, so nearly every day, Coen watched Super Why on PBS at 9 a.m. while I fed Maby her bottle. After that, we were off! Every night was fun for me planning what the next day’s adventure would be. Some days were “snow days” and we did just stay home, but I have pictures of snowmen and forts and art projects to prove we did anything but lounge around. We had a rainy Monday this week, and watched two movies (Toy Story 1…and 2…go figure). But this was a rarity. I can’t sit still, thus my children will not sit still.
We would get in the car and drive to the Children’s Museum, the Bell Museum of Natural History, Choo Choo Bob’s, the ice cream shop (any and all of them), the mall (also any and all of them), Tot Time, Pump It Up, Kiddywampus, the Railroad Museum or Chuck E Cheese.
I’d watch Coen drain his energy, all the while we would talk and enjoy mommy/toddler conversation and I would smile. Usually after grabbing lunch (the best was Rainforest Cafe under the mechanical apes), I’d pop them both in the car and I’d have two sleeping kids by the time we reached the highway. Worked like a charm almost every day. I’d lug them inside and lay them down for naps and then I sucked every second out of my mommy-only time. During these hours, I would clean the house, make the night’s dinner, catch up on phone calls (fewer people would answer at 1 p.m. on a Tuesday than you’d think), scrapbook, or just watch The Doctors and Dr. Phil. Oh, how I loathe you, Dr. Phil. The man has the job of a monkey if a monkey had common sense. These hours were nice and relaxing, but it was always nice when Mabel would wake up and be my little lethargic angel until her brother woke up and we were back to finding ways to entertain ourselves.
Coen is only 2 1/2, but we would have conversations like adults sometimes. OK, maybe it was more me not having adult interaction, so I would use my kid, who was strapped into his car seat in the back and couldn’t escape even if he wanted to, as a sounding board. This past Sunday I took Coen to a new church. I’m trying to find a church community that is open-minded, non-denominational, welcoming and comfortable, yet still teaches the lessons I would like for my children to learn and the morals I would like them to have. Mainly, I just don’t want them on their death bed someday in 100 years thinking they’re going to spend the rest of eternity in the company of dirt. At this church, we sat in the back row and I listened while Coen entertained himself very well with snacks and books. A lady snuck in next to us and introduced herself. Very nice lady, but she basically told me Coen needed to go to the nursery. I looked around and noticed, no, there were no children at this church. Plus, the average age was about 87 and there was a medley of bells playing the introductory song. BELLS, for gosh sakes! I smiled a nervous smile and walked Coen to the nursery. They had a speaker in there so I could’ve heard the sermon IF the lady in charge of the nursery would’ve stopped talking for four seconds. And Coen kept asking to leave because the “nursery” had three small baby toys and a rug. That. Was. It. I felt bad for him, and to be polite, I just entertained him with Buzz Lightyear until the service was over and we could graciously excuse ourselves. Anyway, long story short, on the drive home, I told Coen that mommy didn’t like that church, but I’m going to keep looking until we find one we like and then daddy’s going to come with us. I told him how proud I was of him for being a good boy and treated him to McDonalds. This is the perfect example of how most of our days go during leave. We play, I talk, he listens and replies, Mabel sleeps.
Some may laugh thinking no kid that age is going to understand any of that. Yeah, probably not, but our relationship grew so much stronger over this time of leave. I gained a bond with my daughter that money couldn’t buy and as far as Coen goes, we hug tighter before bedtime now and he calls me back into his room to say “I love you” if I forget. I was able to let loose and be the fun parent and just enjoy my kids. Time-outs were still given and frustrations were still had, but overall we just enjoyed one another. This is what I’m going to miss the most…the sheer enjoyment that we bring each other being together every day.
Yesterday, for one of my final days at home, our nanny came to watch Mabel and I took Coen on a bike ride. We rode to the lake and sat on a park bench to eat lunch. It was silent for a bit and I was looking out on the water when Coen said (unprompted and completely out of the blue), “Mommy, I don’t like dat church eeever.” I looked at him confused a bit. He kept going. “Mommy dunnunt like dat church. Don’t worry, mommy. We hafta find a diff’int church. And daddy will come wif.” Well, I’ll be darned! He does listen! Even to what seems like adult conversation and is simply me getting some aggravations off my chest. Ahh, my little sounding board. My little peanut gallery. My little friend. Oh, how I’m going to miss my little friend.
Well, now I did it. I guess my body does have the energy to cry.
Good news is, I can go back to work and know they are both in good hands with Danielle. I know she will continue to have these conversations with them and give them both wonderful experiences and go to fun places like we did every day. I will still have my Wednesdays that I work from home. And I know everything will go back to normal faster than I am imagining in my head. For now, I’m going to think about the positives as much as I can. My friend suggested focusing on the return of adult interaction, or dressing up in my cute clothes and not worrying about spit-up, or even something as simple as drinking a cup of coffee while it’s still hot…there are pluses. And I will focus on those pluses. But, that certainly doesn’t mean I may not sneak off to the bathroom three times a day to call home. Who knows…maybe Coen can give me advice on that days’ client crises. He is good at that. Wish me luck!
On a side note, today is my DAD’S BIRTHDAY. Happy 57th, dad!
You are the man who taught me to grab life by the horns and roll with the punches. To cherish little moments and respect family values. To pay my credit card on time and keep my car clean. To turn little events into big events and to not be afraid to cry at sad movies. To appreciate life every day that it’s given to us. I learned all of this from you, dad. And we all love you very much!