Each time after giving birth, I fell immediately and madly in love with my kids, so much so that I couldn’t stand to be away from them. My arms felt empty when my newborns weren’t cradled against me. I longed for their tiny bodies during my daily 10-minute showers. Hours could go by with me having done little more than stare at their sleeping faces, a contact high from the new baby smell nearly bringing me to tears. During those timeless, early weeks of each of my kids’ lives, I could honestly say — and as a feminist, I said it with much reluctance — my babies completed me.
Then the babies got older.
A profound love is still there for my kids — I shouldn’t have to even say that. But the milky sweet honeymoon is definitely over. I’m infatuated with my babies until I’m not. And then I call in for backup.
With no reluctance whatsoever, I say that childcare is what completes me now.
It’s not that my kids aren’t a joy. I swear, they’re a joy. But I live a large part of my life inside my head and, as any parent knows, it’s difficult to be with your own thoughts when someone else insists on sharing theirs. Which my kids do. Even the 2-year-old whose vocabulary is still pretty small.
I find that if I know there’s a break ahead — ah! Tomorrow’s Monday … everyone’s got someplace to be! — I can step away from my own mind, from work demands, and actually pay attention to my kids. I love it when my son walks through the door at the end of the day with his dad, knowing he had a great day of playing with other children at his daycare instead of hanging out with me, the world’s most inept playdate mom. Getting him ready for bed is actually fun — I want to do it — rather than a hurdle to get over, as it is at the end of days he’s spent alone with me.
I can remember the first time I dropped off my oldest for childcare, how sad and confused she was when I left the room without her — yet how sad and relieved I was to be going. Just for a few hours. It was only a few hours!
With each of my kids, I’ve found I need more and more childcare — just to keep me minimally satisfied and moving forward. And happy. At a recent evening spent celebrating the people who made Time magazine’s 100 most influential list, Amy Poehler said her nannies (plural!) were the most influential people in her life last year. She thanked them and other people’s nannies too. In Tina Fey‘s book Bossypants, the funny mom is conflicted — but in the end, unapologetic — about her daughter spending so much time in the care of others.
I miss that mushy-gushy feeling from the days and weeks after each of my kids were born. I loved the neediness of those times — the kids’ and mine. Just holding a baby made me happy. Holding my kids who are now 10, 6 and 2 still makes me happy.
Especially around dinnertime when I haven’t seen them since breakfast.