I have never been very good at the whole separation thing. I cling to my loved ones like one of those annoying dryer sheets that follows you to an important business meeting. After Cullen was born, that clinginess intensified. I couldn’t even imagine being away from him for more than minutes at a time, and I didn’t really notice that a lot of my individuality, hobbies, fitness, and probably even some relationships suffered because of it.
Fast forward many months, and I eventually started to loosen the reigns a bit. As breastfeeding got more predictable and manageable, I was able to leave for 2-3 hours at a time, while my husband did some dad duty. Every so often if family came into town, Casey and I would quickly rush out to a very rare dinner. We’d feel like kids who had snuck out of the house and couldn’t believe they were getting to eat a fancy meal. You can’t really feel it when you’re still in the thick of it, but man – that first year is a roller-coaster, right?
It took a long time for me to feel comfortable with the idea of someone other than family watching Cullen. And I think it took me becoming frustrated enough by lack of work time and personal time to actually do something about it.
For the past few months, my friend Katie has been watching Cullen once a week while I go work at a coffee shop. As soon as we get there, he trots off with his little buddy in search of new toys and trouble they can make together. He barely looks up to wave goodbye when I leave, which I actually love. While I work, Katie texts pictures of Cullen laughing, smiling, riding a wagon, or playing outside. It fills my heart to know I am getting the break I need and doing work that has to be done, while he is having a fabulous time with people he knows and trusts.
Since we moved to our new neighborhood, we also found a local evening babysitter. We make a point to go out just the two of us at least once a month. It’s so important to connect and spend time as adults, as partners, and as friends. We don’t limit our conversations to outside topics or anything, and in fact we talk a LOT about parenting. But it’s a great time to relax and unwind together, and I always feel so refreshed and happy afterward.
It took a long time for me to stop being such a control freak and loosen up a bit about childcare, but I got there eventually. I really feel like a whole new person this year. It was long overdue, but I finally realized that having good childcare and taking much needed breaks means I’m a much happier, and more fulfilled as both an individual and a mom. At some point, we’ll probably start thinking about putting Cullen into a morning program part-time, as I know he’d really benefit from the social and learning environment. Baby steps!