A day off

March came in a like a stress lion for me; daily I found myself struggling to catch my breath and promising myself that things would settle soon, that I’d find time for a yoga class, that I’d stop hating myself for forgetting simple things.

When I found out family would be in town last Saturday, I called it: a day off. Even reserving it a month in advance does little to stem the mom guilt, that suffocation I feel whenever I leave my house without my girl. Mom guilt is the worst part of motherhood but the good news it it’s fleeting; by the time I picked up a coffee at a local bakery, I’d mostly moved on. I was ready for a day of nothing.

Nothing always begins with yoga. I tagged along to my sister’s favorite class, deep in Park Slope, a hefty hike away in the rain. I had taken a class the previous weekend, but it was at the Y, and it was restorative, which is basically an hour-long nap in various positions, so let’s not pretend that counted as any real workout. This, though, was a real class, one where my legs and shoulders burned and I panted. My head cleared. Poof. Namaste-urday.

Nothing continued with leftover pizza and magazine reading in my sister’s cozy apartment. She had work to do so, still in the rain, I left and found a coffee shop and enjoyed a latte and a croissant and a solitary hour with my laptop and no wifi, and got some writing done.

That is a midday treat, my friends.

In said coffee shop I saw a poster for "A Streetcar Named Desire" starring Gillian Anderson and coming to Brooklyn in just a few weeks. I texted a picture to my mom and sisters; last summer, I’d bought us all tickets for that very show and wrote about how it was one of the first times post-baby I’d said yes to future plans.

By mid afternoon, I felt fully restored. Also, my mom guilt had come roaring back. Sometimes it feels like it’s fine to leave my kid if I have actual things to do – work, of course, or a weekend vacation with friends, or a specific event. But when it’s just a Saturday in Brooklyn in the rain, when you’re just looking for something to fill the remaining hours, well…it starts to feel excessive.

It was time to go home.

Also, I couldn't stop playing peek-a-boo with the baby in the cafe.


Screen shot 2015-04-06 at 4.06.05 PMToday is my first day back at work full-time, after a transition period of part-time work. I like working, and I like my work, and I've always gotten immense satisfaction from leaving my house each day and entering a building full of people with  purpose. But there are Feelings today. Way back on a cold afternoon in January, when my husband and I could only get our girl to sleep if we took her for a walk (ask me anything about the streets of Park Slope, I know them by heart), we began talking about my return to work. I started crying, even then, even knowing that I wanted to go back, that being a full-time caregiver is not for me. Even knowing that it was far away. Because the thing is, this whole parenting-while-working thing is a lose-lose and a win-win situation at the same time. I lose whether I stay home or go back to work. But I win, too, just in different ways. And the struggle is figuring out which ways are more important. More pressing. More long-lasting.

There are Feelings, too, about time. Having a baby makes the passage of time very real. Time is counted now in a way it wasn't before -- how many weeks is she? How many weeks until this milestone happens, or until we have to look out for that? Before my maternity leave, the reality of it felt distant, surreal. I couldn't even picture the springtime. Now, poof, it's over*; I am here at work wearing flats and lightweight jackets. I am here, walking past tulips and waiting for drizzle. Spring is springing, and I am back at work, and I'm sad. Not about working, but because it means time has passed. And it's just going to keep passing.

Maybe this is a treatise on our mortality. I don't know. I just know that I see infinity in my gorgeous girl's eyes. I just know that I love her and I want to spend all day with her. I just know that I love her and I don't want to spend all day with her; I'm not cut from that cloth. I love her and I don't want to spend all day with her and I don't want to feel guilty for that, but I do. And what a waste of emotion and time, two things that I'm always already nearly tapped out of.

*Only it wasn't poof. Not really. My maternity leave has been equal parts exhausting, difficult, loving, calming. (All within the same hour, usually.) In the early days of parenthood when I hated it all (sorry/not sorry) I would count on that passage of time; telling myself it would fly by is what got me through some nights. #RealTalk 

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Warming up to Spring

Spring, sort of, in Brooklyn. The Philadelphia row home my grandparents lived in always smelled like sauerkraut, and while that sounds like an insult, I don't mean it to be. We would visit a few times a year, and as we pulled onto their street the green awning over their door was the only way I could pick them out of the lineup. As we got older, the television in the house would grow louder; the mess on the dining room table, bigger. There was always a bowl of black olives from a can to snack on, and Pop-pop taught us how to jab our fingers into each olive and eat them, finger by finger, can by can; reveling in the aluminum aftertaste.

Today the office smells like that old row home in Philly, like old-fashioned food and tulips, and this week has been quiet. I finished my book on Saturday and turned it over to my writing group, my critique buddies, and while they read I get to luxuriate in this freedom, this moment before I have more work to do on it. It feels like a spring break of sorts, which is neat timing, considering New York City seems to have closed for the week, too. The subways have been empty; my emails have dwindled as the sun stays up later, stretching out the days. I am warming up to Spring, my least favorite season, as a ray of sun latches onto my exposed forearm and begins to remind my bones of what it can do to me.

Spring's always been a temporary stop on a train to someplace better. Maybe this one will prove me wrong, show me what she's got besides a teasing warmth and an itchy nose.