I was feeding Jake lunch – pastina with homemade marinara sauce – and he was refusing to eat. He was throwing everything onto the floor, and then pointing at it, waiting for me to pick it up to repeat the cycle all over again. Normally I would have scolded him, or made a silly joke, or made funny noises to get him to eat. But all I could muster was to stare blankly at him with glassy eyes. My husband, who works from home, was sitting next to me at his computer.
“Mommy is going to lose it in a second,” he said to Jake.
“No I’m not. I’m beyond that,” was my response, flat and quiet.
“Take a break. I’ve got this,” he replied.
“He won’t eat,” I said, as I burst into tears. I headed for the couch and covered my face, sobbing. I was not crying because Jake wouldn’t eat, or because he was throwing things on the floor. But I sort of was. It was all of it and nothing at all. I was crying because I didn’t want to be feeding him in that moment. I wanted to be somewhere else. I thought about the countless meals ahead of us that I would have to prepare for him and negotiate / trick / plead / or do nothing at all to get him to eat. I thought about the countless hours and years ahead of us where I would have to entertain him and teach him and kiss him and love him. I wanted to run away.
Then I immediately thought about not being there to prepare his meals or to feed him or take him to the zoo or the “zoo” (a.k.a. Petco, on hot days), or to read to him or teach him or love him or kiss him every chance I could. And I didn’t want that either.
I thought about how I have an MBA. An advanced business degree, and how any job I could get right now would do nothing more than pay for daycare. Why would I want to be away from my kid for 50+ hours per week only to hand my entire paycheck off to a stranger to raise him?
But this was hard. This is hard. I want it all. And I’m not talking about the whole lean-in movement, Sheryl Sandberg blah blah blah. In that moment, and in this one, I just want to be with my son, and also have me time, and feel like a contributing member of society, and to contribute financially to my household and to feel successful. I take the mini victories as they come: a clean(ish), happy, well-fed child, a clean(ish) apartment, a good meal cooked, a truly wonderful husband, a business plan nearly completed. But it’s hardly enough at times. Is that just the way it goes? The simultaneous curse and blessing of it all? Because it is a blessing. I know it. But I somehow feel ungrateful that I want just a little more.