Saturday was Indy’s half-birthday, so I spent a lot of time this weekend thinking about these past six months, and what I’ve learned; what I’m proud of, and what I’m not. The things that I’m proud of are fairly self-explanatory: I’m proud of the fact that I’m handling all the stuff I need to handle on a daily basis while caring for our son, I’m proud of how he’s growing and learning and changing every day, and I’m proud that despite all my fears, I am very, very much a mother, and have settled into being a parent with the ease that comes with doing something that you love with every part of you.
You know what’s surprising about parenthood? All of those cliches – those things you kind of thought parents were lying about – turn out to be true. I was out at a party last weekend and someone said to me, “Jordan, tell me the truth: do you ever kind of wish that you weren’t a parent, just for a second? I know mothers aren’t supposed to admit that…but it’s true, isn’t it? Sometimes you sort of wish you didn’t have a kid.”
And I thought about it, because a year ago I definitely would have floated the same question to a new parent, but the truth – the simple, easy truth – is: no. I mean, sure: there are times when I’m tired and wish I could sleep in, or times when I miss being able to stay up late watching movies with Kendrick, or times when I’d like to…I don’t know, just be irresponsible for a second…but while all of those things are fun, the second my son smiles he just blows them all out of the water.
Has it been perfect, smooth sailing all the way? Oooh god no. But you know that already. It’s smoother now, now that those scary months (they say it’s the first three months that feel almost impossibly hard, but for me it was four) are past, but of course there are still things that I struggle with; it’s an enormous transition, and six months isn’t enough to settle it all.
For example: I’m someone who takes a lot of pride in having a fairly pulled-together home, but right now I’m not proud of our apartment. It’s not, like, tragically messy…but I feel like we just have so much stuff now that the second I get it all under control, someone moves or breathes or exists, and it’s a disaster again. I’m also not particularly thrilled with my dog ownership skills at the moment: Indy takes up so much of my time and my heart and my physical affection that I feel very sad about how little attention Lucy and Virgil get compared to what they used to enjoy. For both of these reasons, I am so excited to get into a place (soon soon!) with extra space for the humans and a sunny yard for the furballs.
Most striking of all: Like I said in this post, something that I noticed immediately about parenting choices is that they’re much less conscious than I expected them to be. Perhaps you could parent in exactly the way you want to for an afternoon, but not for years, decades. Your beliefs, your upbringing, your way of seeing the world…it just comes out. You can’t help it.
Before giving birth – and in the months immediately following – I said often that I believed that the most important thing that Kendrick and I could do for our son was to make each other a priority, to pay attention to each other and make romance and togetherness not an afterthought, but an essential. And I still believe that: I think having parents who have a solid, happy relationship is a wonderful gift to give a child. This, by the way, is not in any way looking down on parents who divorce, because I understand that sometimes that can be the best choice for a family; but to me, making our marriage a priority is the way to make our son a priority.
But as it turns out, I’m less than the wife I want to be these days. I’m often moody, impatient, or demanding, and the reason for this is that there’s no more weighing what’s important: what’s important is my son, and anything that doesn’t directly serve the goal of making him safe and happy falls into second place. And sometimes it feels like any time that Kendrick and I spend relaxing together is time that I could be spending working to make money for our future, or cleaning the house to make it a more comfortable space, or researching the schools in various Westchester towns, or figuring out which cars are safest…you see where I’m going.
The to-do list contains far too many “do”s right now; so many that communication and romance aren’t exactly at the top. It’s not that I don’t want to prioritize my relationship – it’s that I’ve been blindsided by the way that I feel about our child, and I’m having a little bit of trouble taking my eyes off him for long enough to see anything or anyone else. In the first couple of months I was fine leaving him at home to go on a date; now, I miss him terribly when I’m in the next room. I wake up in the middle of the night anxious for it to be morning so that I can see him grin. Really. It feels exactly like falling in love: more every single day. And I’m sure that this just goes hand-in-hand with motherhood, but it’s thrown me for a loop.
Will it even out as time goes on? I imagine so. Now that it’s warmer, the three of us are starting to venture out into the world for adventures more and more, and these kinds of days are exactly what we need to feel like we’re still us. There is nothing like the joy of parenting, but I feel certain that, for me at least, the joy of partnership is nearly as great. And I’ve lost sight of that a little at the moment, but I certainly haven’t forgotten it.
More things that I am certain of: that marriage is work, that dance breaks for three are beyond compare, that ups and downs and changing rhythms are just a part of it all, that things can be simultaneously very simple and very difficult, and that we will find our way back to the occasional dance just for two.
Six months. The best ever. But for now, that’s where I’m at.