For the second time in as many months, I’ve had to turn down or postpone a training opportunity, and it made me kind of sad.
It might not be for the reason that you think, though.
Both involved long days over a weekend. One was near home, the other one involved travel. If I opted for the one involving travel, my husband and baby would both come with me. The travel part isn’t the issue.
The long days are kind of an issue. See, my son nurses to sleep, whether it’s for a nap or bedtime. If I’m around when he wakes from a nap, which I almost always am, he also nurses out of his nap.
I don’t feel tied down by this. I don’t see it as sacrifice. I see it as how I parent. It makes both me and my son happy. Some babies by his age (18 months) have self-weaned or have been weaned by their moms. He is nowhere near weaning himself. He nurses multiple times a day, and if I were to try and wean him (and why would I, when it works for us, and it clearly makes him happy), he would be so upset, and as a result, I would be so upset. There would be tears all around.
A friend once told me it was selfless that I had breastfed this long. I’ve often reflected on this: I take it as a great compliment. Don’t get me wrong: I’m no saint, and there are moments I’m frustrated and tired and wish I didn’t have to be the only one who can easily get him to sleep (this is usually when I’d like to be sleeping but he’s not quite ready!). But truthfully, 99% of the time I love it. I love the cuddles and stillness and our bond that has come from breastfeeding. I love that my guy can fall down (just a couple of) the stairs and nursing will make him feel better.
So I’m not sad that I can’t do the training now. There will be other opportunities. In fact, it made me think of one of the Sears’ books I read. The Attachment Parenting Book really resonated with me. At one point, Bill Sears said he made changes in his career so he could work from home to be with his growing, young family. He said it was what was best for everyone at the moment, and he was confident other opportunities would come along down the road when his children weren’t so young and they and his wife didn’t need him around as much. That’s pretty much how I feel!
No, what makes me sad is when I decided I would wait, I wasn’t sure who I could reach out to, who would really understand my emotions and decision. Don’t get me wrong: I am surrounded by many wonderful friends, moms and otherwise. However, almost all of them returned to work outside of the home after a year or sooner because their maternity leave was finished. In some cases, they never had a maternity leave because they are self-employed, so they, too, have returned to work. Many of these moms use day homes or daycares because in order to return to work, they have to. I’m only aware of one other mom in my circle who extended her maternity leave to stay home longer, and I think I only know one stay-at-home mom. Other friends don’t have children yet or their children are much older.
This isn’t me saying there’s anything wrong with the above scenarios. There isn’t. It just doesn’t describe us. Years ago, before we had our son but when we talked about starting a family, the plan all along was for me to have a job where I could work from home, part-time, especially while he was young. The plan was that when he was older and in school, I could take on more hours if I wanted. I hearkened back to my childhood: my mom was always around. Even once I was in school, she was the mom who drove everyone to field trips and sporting events. I walked or biked home to have lunch with her (and the Flintstones). That’s who I want to be now and later.
A few months ago, when I considered doing a weekend of training, a well-meaning friend told me that my son would adjust to my being away all day and during nap-time. I do believe this to be true: it’s well known that breastfed babies adjust when their moms aren’t around. Many moms continue breastfeeding after they return to work and their children are in daycare during the day. I’m the first to assure a mom of this fact if she’s returning to work and nervous: because a) it’s true and b) it’s what she wants to hear. But the thing is, I’m not returning to work outside of the home, there is no pressure to do anything (like career development) right this instant, and so, that isn’t what I want to hear. I admit to sometimes being overly sensitive, but the comment from my friend hurt – especially because I know she considers herself an attachment parent as well. The point all along has been that he and I don’t have to adjust to my being away for long periods of time. That’s why we have the arrangement that we do. In his own time, he will be ok with my being away for longer stretches, and in my own time, I will be ok with that, too. But right now, neither of us is ok with that. If it isn’t broken, why fix it?
The funny/sad thing is I thought of emailing an author I reached out to a few months ago. I was so moved after I read her book, I sent her an email telling her so and was thrilled when she wrote back! A brush with celebrity, if you will. She mentioned she wasn’t ready to be away from her three and a half year old for 10 to 20 hour stretches yet, and that he wasn’t ready for that either. I thought to myself, she would totally understand! The stretches aren’t quite as long, and my son isn’t that old yet, but she would totally get it. I know from reading her facebook posts and articles that she nurses her son into and out of naps as well.
I don’t write this looking for sympathy. If I’m honest with myself, I could text one of my best friends this post right now (and probably will), and she will tell me I’m crazy to think she doesn’t empathize. I know all that. And I’m grateful for it. I partly write this so I can remember the moment and the feelings years from now when my toddler is a teen and this is all a distant memory.
I also write this for other moms and dads. We all make decisions that are best for our families, and as a result, they aren’t the same decisions as everyone else: and that’s obviously ok! Sometimes that can leave you feeling alone, but the reality is you aren’t alone. I know I’m not the only mom who parents through breastfeeding, just like you aren’t the only parent who returned to work when your baby was six months old, you aren’t the only mom whose child has a blast with his buddies at daycare, and you aren’t the only mom whose toddler will only eat bananas while watching YouTube videos.
Sometimes it’s just nice and reassuring to find other parents who do some things similarly to you because you know they’ll “get it.” And if they don’t do things the same as you, that they love and support you so that you can confidently keep doing your thing. It can be lonely or scary on a parenting journey, because you’re learning and feeling new things all the time, and knowing you’re not alone makes it just a little bit easier.
As for the training, it will happen all in time. Babies change and grow every day. We’ll both know when we’re ready for it.