Oh how the time does fly. People say that to me all the time and I believe them. Because no time has gone quite so quickly as the last three months with my three.
I am nearing the end of my 14 week maternity leave. I can't believe it's almost over and I go back on Monday. I am not sure I am ready but ready or not here I come. It is time and as the breadwinner I will never get to ask the question if I can stay with them full time. Just like when Harper arrived and suddenly I stopped working now suddenly I will be back working. Transitions can be difficult but necessary.
I remember when she was born there were times when the days melded together into some sort of amalgam. One long day that was a haze of nursing and sleepless nights and naps and daylight and darkness and maybe a few tears. After about a month or six weeks that subsided and the haze lifted somewhat and the new normal began to emerge.
Then there is some sort of routine to it all a routine that will change dramatically on Monday when I return to work. My husband will take the reigns again. I reassure myself that I'm ready for this but something tells me deep down I will miss it in ways I can't fathom yet even though I have done this twice before.
I am a task master. I need to complete daily activities and feel a sense of accomplishment. My job has always given this to me. When I take my maternity leave this fades away. The demands of the child take precedence over my needs. Sometimes honestly I'm left feeling lonely and anxious because I don't have my routine.
At times I created tasks for myself. Clean out a closet donate items to Goodwill. check. Clean up the mud room hang up the coats put the shoes in the bin. Check. Do the laundry fold the clothes put clothes away. Check. But none of this was really taking care of myself in a way that mattered. Still it was self care because for me this made me feel more stable during a very uncertain time.
I love my time with my children. I also love my time working. They challenge me in very different ways. I'm grateful for the lessons that they teach me. The truth is I'm better when I'm busy not burning the candle at both ends but busy.
I want to make the most of this life. I want my kids to see me be successful in all endeavors. And certainly that's not exactly possible but I will give it my all. And I will make time for them. I will make quality time for them.
It's true that with three children it is much harder than it was with one or two to find that quality time in a day. Someone always needs something or wants something. It isn't easy when I have to tell somebody no. I'm getting much better at it and they are probably better for it and so am I.
These last 3 months I've been able to do so many things that I am not ordinarily able to do. I take Brenton to school in the morning. I watched him walk into school. I watched him say hello to his friends and his teachers. He asked me to drop him off so he could walk the rest of the way into the building on his own. We read together. We drew pictures together. We played with play dough. We built letter boxes and made sentences. We did our nails with sparkly glittery color street nail strips that made us smile.
I waited for the bus with Emerson. For most of this time it was cold and we had to stay in the car with one another. We danced and listen to music. He really likes the song all the stars from Black Panther. Would I have gotten a chance to know this without this maternity leave? He can almost write his whole name. For month it was just an E and now he is making a near perfect R and traces the alphabet too. He turned 4 and we had a power Rangers/Cars party. We had to teach him how to be gentle with his sister. He didnt need his gate anymore. I put him to bed and he greeted me and sat with me while I pumped milk in the morning.
We went on a family vacation to Cape May. We visited my parents who have moved closer. Twice. My mother turned 70. Rolston and I celebrated 11 years of marriage and he got his first pedicure. We went to breakfast with Harper. We watched comedy specials together and laughed. Hard. We actually talked. We had time to get reacquainted as the people we are now because times have changed and so have we and in the busy times we just dont have the time to stop and ask questions about how we see the world.
Maternity leave is generally about getting to know the newest baby. But in my case it gave me the opportunity to do so many more things with the boys and Rolston too. We all got to know each other better. I took Emerson to the Nature Center we planted plants while Harper slept in her sling. I took them to swim lessons. I watched them become proficient without floatation devices. We played. We watched movies at home and in the actual movie theater. They built me towers out of legos and told me tales of Voltron and Power Rangers and Transformers. They snuggled me and gave me kisses.
Harper grew and grew and was so so loved. From a tiny baby ball of mush into a smiling engaging wonderful happy girl that she is today. Still smelling sweet like babies do but changing almost by the day. I have taken so much joy in shopping for her adorable girly pink and purple clothes and taking her out with me and watching her watch everyone. She coos. She was a champ when she got her 2 month shots. She made me think while I watched her nap when the boys were at school in the morning.
Mornings gave me time to think about so many things. During those naps I thought about who I wanted to be as a mother. I'm not sure I ever considered that before in a meaningful way. It was a gift. I will be able to do this more effectively even when I go back to work. I can think about ways to do things better or differently. I thought about what I want for them and how to be there for them. I thought about how I want them to know me and remember their childhood. I thought about how to be my best self for them and even thought about practical everyday needs.
After some struggles with behavior at home we set up a reward system for the boys. They earn stars when they complete certain chores or when they do good deeds. It provides them with a sense of achievement much like how my job does that for me. Instead of spoiling them with the latest toy of their dreams, I make them work for it and it means more to them in the end. So I'm grateful for this time to take a step back and apply some of the things that I've learned.
So this time has probably made me better. Yes it has been a tough transition and the tears were not always just from the kids. But with each tear was a new awareness emerging about myself. I know more about what I need and want.
I can figure out how to move forward through the fog and anxiety. It will not be easy. Raising children is hard. Being a wife is hard. Life itself is hard. It is complex but there is beauty in it all.
I am extremely grateful that I had this time to take that in whether I was always aware of it or not. And some days were squandered by keeping myself surface busy and others taken full advantage of each moment breathing it all in. I will hold these days in my heart and in my memory as the time our family was finally complete and I got to spend three months with my three.