this sunday i had the kind of day i struggle hard to defend. and it was worth it.
saturday was spent zooming to san fernando, first through traffic and then rain. first, i had manically put together a food bag for zi, cooking pasta and veges, packing the very necessary crix supplies, bananas, grapes etc. i say manically because these days i do everything manically and because, shockingly, a friend had agreed on the spur of the moment to accompany us in case i needed another driver so i could feed or breastfeed zi on the way. i couldn’t make the trip alone, but needed to go. i tell you, mothers need their social networks. jah bless sistren.
anyway, after all that effort, zi ate none of my food and lived off crix, grapes and banana virtually from 11 am to 5 pm. this stressed me out, no, left me feeling guilty to no end. i have a hard time with the food business. i was such a terrible eater as a kid, i have no idea how my mother stayed sane (or if), but she’s worse at the guilt stuff than me so i’m sure it made her feel terrible too.
zi has been eating badly for almost three weeks now. not so badly that she’s not perfectly fine. just not well or at all between breakfast and dinner. and the straw was the doctor reminding me that she can look fine and still be mineral deficient if all she is eating is eggs, bread and oats. hence the ital pasta and vegetables cooked with love. when she has bad meals, i feel like somehow its my fault. it’s the food or the timing. it’s cause i work so i’m not around to establish a regular schedule, looked after as she is between my mother, my helper, myself and stone on different days. it’s cause i work so i’m not around. it’s cause i’m tired and low on patience. or because we’ve been on the road at odd hours or by someone who is giving us food later than i expected or in forms zi doesn’t like. or something. it’s generalized, obviously misplaced guilt, solely based on my sense of full responsibility for her, a little human being who can’t articulate what’s going on, whose need to eat, sleep, learn and laugh is in my hands, who i chose to bring into the world.
i guess i’m still getting used to the ups and downs of motherhood, and i’ve discovered that ubiquitious, irrational, seemingly-unending thing that is so hard to understand until you experience it: mother’s guilt. that thing mothers may still carry even when they have no responsibility for your life anymore. i get it. i’m not sure i like it. i don’t think i want it. but, i’ve met it.
so saturday i felt bad that i dragged zi to San do, throwing off who knows what factors that might have made for that good lunch which has been rare in the last weeks. thankfully she slept the entire way back so there were no crazy-hungry-and-simultaneously-sleepy highway scenes but i still racked my brain to assess how i could have done things differently and still got things done. in the end, i knew there was nothing else i could do. but i still felt bad at the increased sum of mineral deficiency from the additional missed lunch.
but sunday i stayed home. i manically did all my household stuff while she slept on her daddy’s chest. i napped. i spent the whole day with her. we ate on time. it wasn’t rushed. it wasn’t on the road. it wasn’t at someone else’s place. it wasn’t before we had to get somewhere on time. it wasn’t before i left for or returned from work. and, for who knows what reason (well zi may know, but she’s not at sentences yet), it worked. i covered the pasta, veges, mushrooms, everything with a little cheese, put on youtube videos, sang and she ate. and i felt good.
the eating/ guilt thing is obviously a stand in for the tension i feel trying to make maximum time for both my work and my baby, and knowing she’s losing out on the non-scheduled or flexibly-scheduled interaction that can be attentive, responsive, timely and successful. so, on weekends, as much as i can, i try not to book anything so i’m not seeing her only in between that, not to have to go somewhere so her whole day gets organized around that ETA, not to be rushed or pre-occupied or meeting anyone else’s expectation about what i should be doing. as i give full days to work, i try to give zi her due days, her rightful hours of undivided labour and love in the domestic familiarity and stability of home. someone with a different job could do it differently. i’m not sure i have another choice i’d feel good about.
sunday reaffirmed that mothering – and for me feminist – commitment, its joys and sense of fulfillment, its ability to give you the time, space and chance to get things right. at home by ourselves that day, in the rain-fresh glow of afternoon, we walked around the yard, with her in a sling on my back, touching flowers, smelling bay leaf, making shadows and discovering birds overhead. it was magic. then, we meandered inside and sat down together to eat.
it’s so small, so silly, but i felt like the best mom in the world to her knowing that, at that moment, she knew i was just hers, she was laughing and loving the mushrooms and beans i cooked for her myself, and after a great meal, there’d be snuggling seemingly without end if only for that one day.