It’s 4pm on a cold winter day. Too cold to go outside. So it’s me and the little stuck inside together. She is currently sporting a princess dress while trying to wear a 1 gallon ziplock bag full of little fuzzy pom-poms like a hat, and all those warning labels about not letting your child play with plastic bags ping through my mind. “I don’t want you to wear that, you could suffocate,” and I gently pull the bag off her head. She did look funny.
She’s also just learning the art of the evil laugh. She takes a bucket of sponge letters and numbers, ones that I have just cleaned up, and then she begins to he-he-he at me while she picks it up and dumps it right out. I decide to leave the mess, what’s the point? I remember asking my friend once what motherhood was like: “well, sometimes I just feel like a maid…” I understand now, and I’ve only got one to clean up after.
When my daughter was a couple months old, and much of my time was spent holding her because she would only nap in my lap, I liked to watch the Pioneer Woman on Netflix, which is funny that a mostly-vegan like me would enjoy her beef-raising show. I would watch her smile and cook and soak up all her homey mother-ness through the screen. It didn’t feel so lonely with her on.
Around that same time I would sometimes drive 25 minutes to the nearest Starbucks just to have a break from all the holding and nursing. Moments to just be free, an empty lap, only a latte in hand. I would usually go into the lobby for human interaction, to look another person in the eyes and say, hello, I exist.
One time, when my daughter was just about a year old, I was at IHOP and this young family walked in with a daughter about 6 months older than mine and sat right next to us. I commented on the girl’s penguin sippy cup. “Target,” she said. When their order arrived the mom gave the girl a strip of bacon that she began to slurp and gnaw on. The parents smiled and took pictures. All the while, I was on the edge of my seat this close to asking her on a play date. But then I realized how desperate that would be, putting the mom moves on her at IHOP.
Sometimes I wonder if motherhood would be easier or less lonely if we lived communally, multiple generations under one roof. I imagine all the women preparing meals together, sharing the load and sharing conversation, extra hands and eyes to keep up with the little ones. I envision a support system so foreign to many of us moms living in Western, individualistic societies. But then again, if I lived in this type of culture, I’d probably be sititng here writing about the constraints of communal living and the struggle for solitude.
There is no perfect living situation or culture, but we all need a village to help raise our children, to keep us sane.* Sometimes the village is bustling with life, and other times, all are sleeping, not a soul in sight.
It’s 5pm and my daughter is now standing at the door, crying to go outside. She is not old enough to understand that it’s too cold. And though I know I should be enjoying this precious, real-life moment stuck inside with my cute little tot, I’ve exhausted the ways to entertain her, and I just want my husband to get home so I can have a moment of freedom (or cook dinner). I give up; it’s time for a show till papa gets home.
Sometimes, on cold winter days, or when the kids are sick, or when you’re couped up with a newborn, or when the kids go back to school or off to college, or for a dozen other reasons, motherhood is lonely. But I think that’s normal; sometimes life is lonely. At least there’s Netflix.
*Note: This is not a plea for help—I have a wonderful village. You know who you are, and I’m grateful for you. 🙂