I wrote this exactly 3 years ago, when my son was 5 months old, and I’d been back at work for less than a month. The seasons have turned many times since that difficult and wonderful one. I left the workplace, then returned on flexible, part-time terms, then returned again, full-time. My son is building a whole new world at his new school, filled with wonderful new people. The seasons are turning once again, and the constant companion of grief remains. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Enjoy this trip down memory lane.
One of my wise friends told me that motherhood is one long series of disentanglements. You let go of the baby who lived inside you, then you go back to work and spend time apart, then you wean, then they go to little school then big school and so on and so forth. And all those big little goodbyes come with their big little griefs. We are very fortunate to have employed an amazing woman as a nanny for my son. She’s worked for us for years (as a domestic helper before he was born) and loves my son and he loves her. Some mornings, as I navigate the awful, no-good morning goodbye, she will bring him to the front door to “see mommy off”. The two of them stand there as I gather my stuff – handbags and breast pumps and coats and computers – and then wave goodbye. It’s become a little game, actually, one my son quite enjoys: I’ll half close the door so he can still hear me then open it again and surprise him before I finally close it behind me. He squeals with laughter each time. I’m glad she does this. It takes the edge off for my baby.
And yet it makes me near nauseous with grief. On one occasion, they were still standing at the door as I drove off and I could see my son’s little arm extended as if he was reaching for me (I don’t think he was – he often reaches at the door). I sobbed the whole way to work.
This is motherhood. A collection of goodbyes and letting go and big and small grief. My old childless self, my friendships marked by uncomplicated uninterrupted availability to my friends, my marriage before my son. All things forever changed and lost and replaced by this new life. All grieved. Saying goodbye to my son each morning, knowing that the day will come when he will reach some milestone that I will have to hear about from his nanny: a new grief where there once was none, one that I have to learn to navigate daily.
And one day all this will have fallen away. My old self returned, my son grown and living away from me. And different grief will live here.
As much as I hate it when people offer the old ‘enjoy it while it lasts, it goes by so quickly’ advice about my son’s infancy (and judging from my mom groups I am not alone in this) I get it on some level. Motherhood is filled with losses and letting go. One day, sooner than I can imagine when I’m up with my son at 3.30am, the letting go will be bigger and more final. So, for now, I cherish these little goodbyes even as I harbour my grief. I take comfort in the fact that the pain of each morning goodbye is made better by the raucous hero’s welcome my baby gives me when I come home each day.
I’ll enjoy each moment, goodbyes and all. After all, it goes by so quickly.