Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Feeling bad about the swing

For the past five minutes or so, as I've been hacking away at months of unanswered email, Celeste has been "speaking" to me from her swing. Not crying- mind you- but vocalizing her desire to be held as opposed to, well, swinging.

But I could spend 8 hours a day for the next who knows how many months holding her as she drifts off to sleep. . . and then as soon as I try to put her down. . BAM! She wakes up. The swing eliminates that, and it helps her get to sleep so that I don't have to.

But I have the usual and unavoidable "guilt" about the swing. Shouldn't I be holding her? Rocking her? COmforting her? Am I a bad mom for letting a battery operated contraption do the lulling for me? But I have my own work to do, don't I? Things to invest my own time and energy into? Or am I not allowed to have my own time and energy? This is an has always been my own dilemma as a mother.

It was most pronounced during Eliot's infancy and early toddlerhood when I was in the throes of my Ph.D. I remember being so angry with him when he wouldn't nap- I had work to do! I had every hour accounted for, and without his nap, I would be behind. Somehow we made it through, but certainly I could have done better on my exams and dissertation if all naps had been accounted for. Or, dare I say it?- If I didn't have a child at all.

I was having a conversation with my friend Rebecca about this yesterday. She said she didn't know how I managed a Ph.D. with a newborn. I don't know either, but as I said to her, a lot of it had to do with compromising my standards of excellence and just doing what was required. I am a perfectionist, but when your attention is constantly divided, perfection isn't really an option. Some of your energy and attention is still your own, but not undivided attention. Once you're a mother, there's no such thing as undivided attention. Your attention is forever divided.

But I've always been determined not to be one of those mothers who hides away for 18 years to raise their children and then, as they wave to you from their dorm room window as you drive away, you ask yourself, "What have I done with MY life?" I'm determined to master the fine art of attention dividing, an I guess if the swing gives me a few moments of less-divided attention, this is a good thing. I should embrace it, no? I'm still not convinced.

She's kind of asleep now, and I stopped the swing. But she's squirming a bit and probably ready to be engaged by something other than the pink butterfly mobile above her swing. One thing is redeeming, as I remember from Eliot and feel equally with Celeste- when I pick them up from the bed that they're not sleeping in or the swing that may or may not have lulled them to sleep, the moment that the weight is shifted into my arms, they are forgiven. My attention is shifted and consumed by them and there's a spot inside somewhere, sometimes deeper inside than others, that melts and softens.

1 comment:

Penultimatina said...

Hi Mackenzie! Congrats on your beautiful baby girl!

Have you tried wearing her in a bjorn or sling? Gabi was also a "hold me" baby, but she was perfectly content to be worn while I typed, etc.