Restoration

Today, our baby started daycare. On the door to the infants’ room, there was a large, colorful welcome sign with his name. This was sure to be an emotional day for me, but I didn’t expect to tear up at such a simple gesture. After I kissed him goodbye, he watched curiously as we walked out of the room and closed the door behind us, not seeming remotely as sad as I was.

I know the staff will do their best to take good care of him. I know he will behave, because he is an easygoing and happy kid. I was only nervous about whether he would eat (he refused bottles from us for weeks) and sleep (at home, he often needs to be rocked, and sometimes only wants to nap on us)—but thankfully, he did both. Not much, but he will learn and adapt.

This was the first day in almost twelve weeks that I was away from the baby for more than three hours. Throughout my leave, I have sought out simple activities to feel more like a “normal person” and less like a mommy robot: reading, writing, hitting the gym, walking around town, having friends over to visit, and going out to malls and restaurants. Physically, I’m almost back to my pre-pregnancy self; I’ve lost 40 of 46 pounds, gotten my mile time under eleven minutes (I was never very fast, anyway), and steadily lifted more weight. Yet I was always glancing at the baby every few minutes if he was in sight, or listening for a cry or panicked phone call if he wasn’t. I have spent so much time researching baby behavior and reading baby articles and chatting with other moms of newborns that I fear I no longer have anything to say about other matters. Today gave me the first glimmer of hope that I could have non-baby thoughts and be my own person again.

On Monday, I will be heading back to my office in the city. The restoration to my “regular life” will be complete, with minor adjustments. I will need to put work on pause three times a day to produce sustenance for our child. I will be working from home twice a week to manage miscellaneous chores and errands, have some alone time, and maybe pick up the baby early if I get all my work done quickly. Every weeknight, we will need to prepare bottles and pack a bag for daycare. But I will be working full-time again, and I am really looking forward to it. My company is incredible, and I am pretty darn good at my job.

Being a parent, I’ve learned, means being an interpreter, food safety expert, physical therapist, manicurist, personal shopper, and even (possibly—but hopefully it never becomes necessary for us) entomologist. It comes with plenty of mental and emotional challenges. I miss the types of challenges I would face at my job, though. I found them more interesting, and—much as I hate to admit it—I feel better equipped to handle them. Being a stay-at-home parent has worn me down more than I expected. Every day is fourteen solid hours of cycling through feeding, entertaining, diaper changing, and coercing into a nap. Going out adds variety and reduces loneliness, but I still feel so burnt out by the evening.

I think I would love the homemaker life once our child is old enough to talk and be less needy, because I do enjoy spending time with him, meal planning, cooking, cleaning, and so on. Part of me feels weak for not embracing that life today, for throwing him in daycare so I can run away to another state for eight and a half hours a day. At the same time, I know working will make me happier and saner—at least for now. Who knows if I will still feel this way five or ten years down the line? As little as one year ago, I never would have imagined I would be having these thoughts or living this life. We learn and adapt.

Hopes

Dear D,

As I watch you sleep, I wonder how you will grow and change in the years to come. I hope you turn out to be fun, outgoing, thoughtful, supportive, and analytical like your father. May you be creative, adventurous, organized, interested in cooking, and a bookworm like me.

Like any reasonable parent, I hope you do well in school and get a good job. Unlike the stereotypical Asian mom, though, I don’t care if you want to be a doctor, lawyer, tech bro, rapper, DMV clerk—as long as you can live happily by your own means. Oh, and as long as you don’t join a pyramid scheme, because then you would no longer be any child of mine.

More importantly, I hope you lead a life of fulfillment, be it from your job, relationships, hobbies, or something else. There should be something that makes you look forward to each new day. I hope you are proud and confident.

I know this means we have a lot of lines to tread carefully. As someone who grew up with a narcissistic parent, I occasionally find myself echoing certain harmful mindsets or behaviors on my own motherhood journey. I am still not done unpacking all the internalized toxicity, and I am trying to be cognizant of potentially passing it on.

So I hope I am always patient, kind, understanding, and generous with you. I hope I never make you feel bad for something outside your knowledge or control. I hope I show you the respect you deserve as your own unique person, even if you don’t turn out to be anything like us. Especially if you don’t. I hope to foster a bond with you that my parents never did with me.

I hope you perceive me as your cheerleader, not your ringleader. I hope you feel comfortable talking to us, your parents, about anything good or bad going on in your life. I hope you trust, respect, and value us. I hope you feel loved.

We have loved you so, so much since day one, and always will.