Saturday, June 27, 2009

the dichotomy of motherhood

Mark has abandoned me for the comforts of a home bed. I told him that if he was leaving, he should take River with him. If River slept at home in his crib, both Mark and I would have the chance for a good night’s sleep. They’ll be back early tomorrow morning for another day of fun.

So, now I find myself alone in a tent at a campground. I hear a young woman singing to the accompaniment of a guitar, the flicker of flames, the sound of childrens’ voice, the night-time sounds of the forest. And I feel torn in two.

When they first left, I immediately felt an intense longing for River. I saw his clothing in my suitcase, came across his cheerios in my backpack. Each object I saw made me miss him, despite his being gone only minutes. Yes, he keeps me on my toes. Yes, I’ve been tired over the past few days, physically as well as emotionally. But at the same time, I’m enjoying the job.

Shortly before they left, I had the challenge of talking River out of eating a rock and instead, throwing it on the ground. Could I talk him into doing it himself so that he’d understand, so that I wouldn’t have to grab it away, so that he wouldn’t scream? It took a while, but I succeeded. And that felt good. I’m constantly being forced to grow with my child, to help him in his latest stage of development. Sometimes it’s difficult, but it’s not too threatening. Overall, he’s affectionate and shows his love for me. Unlike with a teenager, I don’t have to worry about him hating me for the long-term. Even if he gets upset, I know that within a few minutes, we’ll be on good terms again. This is a very forgiving way of allowing me to test out my role as a parent, without the threat of real rejection. I thrive on both the challenge and the expressions of love.

At the same time, what joy to roast marshmallows at leisure without having to look up every few moments to make sure that River is not running down a road with a car coming toward him. How nice to read a magazine, then a book. To luxuriate in a hot shower without him underneath me. To have quiet time alone, in a forest, in a tent that really, is a tight fit even for two adults.

At the same time, I miss his energetic little body crawling across the small space, forever seeking and exploring. How can I miss him and long for him so intensely, and at the same time, be so grateful for this time alone? One other wish would be a quiet evening with Mark in a tent in the forest. For that, I’ll have to hold out until our vacation later this summer, when we’ll be leaving River with my parents for two weeks.

I suppose this is the unresolvable dichotomy of motherhood – the child forever in ones heart and thoughts together with an ongoing need to live an independent life as one’s own person I feel lucky to have the love that makes my heart ache this way. At the same time, I wish I could draw a clearer line between my life as a mother and my own time, and not feel guilty as I’m living out one role or the other.

Have you found a good way to deal with this dichotomy?

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