Here is a picture of the ridiculously huge piece of french toast, and the macerated strawberries, that I had for breakfast this morning. The leisure to treat myself this way is provided by a little “secret” I haven’t shared with blogland yet: we have begun sending Mimi to daycare two mornings a week.
I know that I am supposed to feel embarrassed that just staying home with just one toddler was driving me mad. There’s only one of her and she’s a sweet little girl. We have a ton of fun together. Unfortunately, in her first year there were certain issues I had with worrying incessantly about her. It began during my failed experiment in exclusively breastfeeding and continued as Mimi’s weight percentile dropped throughout her first year. Coming up to her first birthday and her twelve month checkup I was a nervous wreck and just needed some time when it wasn’t my job to worry about her.
By the way, her twelve month checkup was fine. She has settled into her own growth curve and the doctor isn’t worried. Lesson to new moms: doctors like to scare you.
The internet likes to scare you too, and also to make you feel guilty. Dr. Sears wants you to give up your body, your bed, your sleep, your naps, your everything and if you don’t your baby will be emotionally damaged. Lucky women who are able to breastfeed are militant and judgmental and even La Leche League wants you to know that if you don’t EBF for the first year and continue until the kid is in kindergarten, the baby will be stupid, fat, and asthmatic–also if breastfeeding isn’t working it’s because you aren’t trying hard enough. Baby health websites are afraid of liability issues and construe everything as a worst-case scenario (and if they don’t, your own mommy-mind will). It’s rough out there for moms.
And then I read a NYT bestseller that my mother mentioned to me: Bringing Up Bébé, a book written by an American living in Paris, on her observations about the differences between American and French parenting. What a breath of fresh air! This book tells me all the things I had felt were probably true. Maybe that’s good marketing on the author’s part, but I felt so elated while I was reading this book. It emphasizes children’s emotional resilience, the value of letting them be independent wherever possible, the crucial importance of boundaries, and above all–the mother’s right to continue being a fulfilled human being who takes time to keep doing the things that made her happy before her children were born. And that means putting the kids in daycare. At an early age.
My mornings alone aren’t all french toast and bubble baths. Mostly it is a time for me to get serious housework done. It’s when floors are vacuumed and mopped, furniture is dusted, beds are laundered and remade, and I attend to oil changes and dentist appointments and all those errands that are excruciating or impossible if you have to manage a small child while doing them.
Mimi’s mornings at daycare are about meeting new people and doing new things. There are different toys. There are different adults. There are other babies to meet and play with. There is different food to learn to eat and like. There is a different place to learn to take naps.
We do not belong to a church with a MOPS group and a preschool and a nursery. We do not have family close by for Mimi to spend an occasional morning or afternoon with. What we do have is a lovely daycare center just a block from Sparks’ place of work, where he can see her in the playground from his window, and where the caretakers know us and also Mimi’s grandparents, and have for years. I like to think that it is a lot like the French Creche daycares. There is no emphasis on early learning or accelerated reading, which pleases me, because I didn’t learn to read until they taught us in first grade, and I got a Ph.D. at 26 so obviously I didn’t suffer. Mimi just plays-plays-plays, explores-explores-explores, gets an opportunity to interact with peers and to be out from under my mommy-goggles for a while.
It seems a little bit like my French toast. You take something that seems less-than-ideal (in this case a piece of toast Sparks forgot about) and you make it into the best thing you can. And it will be good enough. No, it will be better than good enough. It will be great.
With mommy-guilt melting away, I finally bought a dishwasher basket for Mimi’s bottles and stuff. I had been hand-washing and hand-boiling them for over a year. Just to prove to myself that I was willing to do “my best” for Mimi. Pffffffft. Get yourself a dishwasher basket, mom.
I think we’re all doing just fine.