Last night I was too tired to watch a movie. I took a walk down memory lane instead. I flicked through all the -millions- of photos I took of Camila up to now. I forgot how small she was. And how still she was. She used to be this little bundle of cuteness, almost inanimate. I could leave her asleep on the bed with cushions all around her and secure myself a good few hours mama-time before she’d be up again for the next nursing session.
The little doll that was once alternating sleeping and eating in a very convenient fashion for her housewife-mama, is now a proficient crawler. Grabber. Puller. Licker. Screamer.
In the quiet moment of me checking for flights home, I realise that nowadays quiet has become the silent alarm for danger.
I look over and there she is munching on a cow turd taken from our plant pot.
Or chewing through a box of corn flakes, pulling leaves off our plants, licking the available row of books on the bookshelf, pulling herself up from the fairy lights cord. Munching on the remote control. Poking a dead moth. At nine months, she is now a mini person, she giggles, communicates in a monosyllables sounds in a rainbow of tones, is eager to stand up on her own. Camila is on a learning rampage, full of excitement and continuing her discovery of the world through her mouth. Meanwhile housewife-mama is overwhelmed with tasks that never seem to be disappearing off the ‘to do’ list. I am constantly running after her, detaching her from cables, taking things off her hands just before they’d inevitably enter her mouth.
“when did my little angel turned into a goat?” I wonder to myself.
There are times when I feel on top of it: washing up: done, nappies: washed, clothes: tidied up in the closet, cooking: prepped. And then there’s Camila holding a dust ball up to her mouth and I go: Damn! cleaning: missed. Or sometimes is the laundry I left out, or collecting the clothes from the line which lately end up getting drenched in the sudden rain. Or changing the bed sheets, making baby food, organising my office space. Let alone the times when I have the feeling of having missed something and I realise it’s 2pm and I haven’t yet eaten anything. I even stopped including things like flossing my teeth, shaving my legs or giving myself a facial, or cutting out some time to draw, write, watch a movie or read a book in the list of things I would like to get done.
Mama’s little joys don’t count anymore.
I was laughing at a very organised and driven friend of mine once for scheduling a half hour relaxation between 11 and 11.30 in her diary and now here I am doing the same thing. Evening: try to watch ‘Cloud Atlas’….
Some mothers have feelings of resentment for the lack of time to themselves. They mourn their exciting, proficient, self indulging childless past. I accepted this was going to be my reality when the pregnancy test proved positive. I knew what I was getting myself into. Now shit just got real, I am living that time-deprived forecast whispered by that pregnancy test.
Fintan works, I am a housewife mama. My feelings are of guilt. If this is what my job is, not being able to get the cleaning or the cooking done makes me feel like I am not being efficient. I often wonder ‘how do mamas with multiple children and a career do it? do they “cut corners”? (employ a cleaner, order take-aways, stick children in font of the tv) or are they just more organised, they power through and get everything done with a stiff upper lip?
There is also the remorse for not being able to contribute financially to the household. This is mainly an effect of the new rural life we forged for ourselves and this feeling is awakened by the shadow of my former life in London where all my newly-mama friends live and tell me about. There I used to work, contribute to our spending and was able to retain my independence. Maybe the remorse is also of having lost a little bit of myself in this process of ruralvirginisation. If one’s identity is truly inextricably tangled with one’s profession, then what will Camila say her mum is?
So, is being a housewife-mama not enough?
During the pre crawling, grabbing, pulling, licking, screaming Camila-era I thought my life had reduced to what was left in between her nap and feed.
As I let go of what my pre-baby life used to be and embrace what my life now is, I realise my life is all the time, not just when Camila is not requiring my consideration. My time is simply constantly being shared with her and my attention devoted to her, albeit not remunerated nor career building material, it should not be cause of a guilt trip. Being a housewife-mama is a job.
There were times when Camila would entertain herself. She was so excited about having learnt how to crawl that she would keep busy transporting herself from toy to toy. But then the separation anxiety kicked in. She realised she was a separate entity from her mama and therefore the sight of mama leaving the room was as tragic as the sight of a chem-trail in the sky for a Vilcabamba ex-pat. She would burst in a fit of hysterical cry, longing for my presence with her arm stretched out to me. She would make the perfect image for a fundraising Unicef advert. I would let her cry on occasions but at times I would realise the importance of my reassuring presence for her.
The other day I was having a poo with her on my lap because she couldn’t be apart from me.
Little did I know that moment was going to be rather enlightening. The revelation that my life has truly changed became tangible. Just like when people- it is said- have their life flashing before their eyes moments before dying, so did I in that semi-private moment.
Sitting on the loo, with my fidgety infant on my lap stuffing her mouth with toilet paper, my eyes transfixed on the bathroom floor, I had a carousel of images from my former single life. The house-sharing era, the debauchery of the early London days, my solo trips to European capitals, my gym-obsessed stage, alcohol filled summer afternoons in London parks, reckless parties, make-up and hair straighteners, my picture-researcher job, the Fintan-romance and South American trip, all that spontaneity and freedom and independence. Being responsible for just oneself.
I felt joyful to call that my past and to acknowledge the invincible feeling of not having regrets. That is the colourful evolution that brought me where I am now, on a loo with my very own gorgeous baby girl choking on toilet paper. Had I not experienced all those eras and moments I would resent my present, and being a housewife-mama would certainly not be enough.
Mama’s little everyday joys might not count anymore, but mama’s big joy Camila is a living miracle who anchors me in my new present where assisting her in her blossoming as a person is all that is important. And cute. And funny. And empowering.
And with this epiphany I flushed the toilet and carried on with my high pitched afternoon in her company.