Dear Working Mom: I See You, I Admire You

Dear Working Mom of an infant. I see you. I admire you. I understand you.

I see you wearing lipstick and mascara. Maybe you’re trying to disguise your tired eyes or maybe you want to look pretty and presentable. It’s working. (No-one notices if there’s dried spitup in your hair or there are smears of something unidentifiable on your clothes.)

I see you juggling childcare. I also see you responding to emails, whether it’s from home, the pediatrician’s office, or elsewhere. Whatever it takes, I see you meeting deadlines and following through. I appreciate it.

I see you putting in a full day’s work, despite being up since the wee hours or maybe even most of the night. You hold your head high and get on with the job resolutely.

I see you trying to do it all. It looks like it’s working but I know – and so do you – that there’s a breaking point and you need to do something about it before it jumps out of the shadows and takes you down. Please, look after yourself. Ask for help if you need it.

I see you looking stylish. You might feel otherwise but I know the fact that you are showered and dressed – and looking good, mind you – every single day is an uphill challenge. But getting out of PJs and yoga pants, brushing your hair and putting on some eyeliner makes you feel like are a functioning, contributing colleague and I get that.

I see you keeping mum and not complaining about sleepless nights or fevers or teething to your colleagues. Go on, complain a little. It won’t damage our respect for you. In fact, we’ll respect you even more.

I want to tell you it will get easier. Maybe not for several more months, even years. But you will eventually get your sleep back. Today’s challenges will be replaced by different challenges, some smaller, some bigger.

I’m sorry to tell you there will always be laundry, and groceries to buy, and meals to cook – in spite of your having worked a full day. I hope your partner is an all-in contributor to share the load.

I’m here to tell you there will be a lot of wasted food along the way. And socks. So many odd, abandoned socks.

I’m reminding you that it’s perfectly OK if your house is not pristine. Clean homes are overrated. Weekends are for family time; your reward for surviving the work week. Weekends are not for scrubbing toilets. Unless you are cleaning up a blowout in which case please do scrub.

I’m want to reassure that you’ll be able to focus again. And have creative ideas. And plan and write and brainstorm and delegate and all that. But I’m also here to tell you that it’s unlikely you’ll ever get your sharp memory back. It’s called placenta brain. Because fetuses eat your grey matter. It’s the truth.

Mostly I want to tell you that I’ve been there. I understand what you are dealing with and how you feel. The relentlessness of it all. I admire you for getting up every day, dealing with it all its shocking, numbing weight, putting on a smile and doing your best. I respect and appreciate that. And I’m here to help whenever I can. Just ask.


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The 5 Senses of Motherhood

Nobody warned me just how physical parenthood would be. It’s like a full-on assault on the body and soul, every single day. Physically, it takes its toll too, and I’m not just talking droopy boobs, bags under eyes and the inevitable extra pounds around the middle. Five consecutive years of lugging a newborn, then a toddler, around—usually on my left shoulder or hip—have pretty much wrecked my neck, vertebrae and  rotator cuff. Aches and pains aside, it occurred to me that motherhood has a meteoric impact on our five senses, and even heightens them.

1. Sight: I used to stare at every millimeter of my newborns, fascinated by each tiny detail on these creatures that my body had made. Eyelashes, freckles, lips, the fragile maze of their ears, toes, fingernails. My eyes would—and still do—drink in these details. Fast-forward a few years to crawling, cruising toddlers that you can’t take your eyes off for a nanosecond for fear they’ll climb a book case or eat a bug. These days, I watch my kids with less obsession and with more amusement and curiosity, observing how they interact, socialize, wrestle, role-play. As I tuck them into bed every night, the images of their sleepy, happy faces—hungrily reading, eager for dreams— are seared into my brain.

2. Smell: Remember the sweet smell of the head of a newborn baby or a toddler, fresh from the tub, wrapped in a towel? And the nasal assault of a blow-out diaper. Pee-soaked clothes during potty training. Puke in the car seat. A mother’s nostrils smell it all!

3. Sound: Oh, the torture of listening to your baby crying during the night as you attempt to sleep train him or her (and not cave.) Or that moment when you first hear your baby say “mama” or “dada.” Not to mention being able to identify your kid’s cry in a crowded playground. I love the sound of listening to my daughter’s carefree singing. Of course, there’s also blocking out the whining, the negotiating, the bickering. Oy!

4. Taste: Kissing away salty tears. Licking the brown smudge on your fingers, confident it’s chocolate and not … Finishing off their half-eaten mac ‘n’ cheese or soggy cheerios.

5. Touch: The tickle of their breathe as they whisper in your ear. The feel of their small hands clasping yours. How they tug at your arms when they want to go that way but you need to go this way. The intensity of a hug. The way they prod at your boobs so as to get your attention (or is that just my kids?) Tickle fights!

And let’s not forget that other sense —a mother’s intuition—that nigglye feeling in your gut that something’s bothering your kid, that warns you he’s about to barf, and alerts you to an imminent meltdown so you can activate diversionary tactics.

Yes, in addition to our  supersonic five senses, we mothers are also endowed with many super powers. And you know what? It’s all good.

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