I went to school for seventeen years and worked in corporate America for seven more and none of that really prepared me for the most important work I’ve yet done in my life, which is to become the provider of nourishment and protection to another human soul. I look at his cheery little face and rapidly-growing chubby little body and am amazed and also freaked out to realize that I’m his lifeline, in the most basic sense of the word.
But. I’ve come to learn what every caretaker of small children already knows, that raising children is a lot of very meaningful nothingness. Mundaneness? I don’t quite know how to put it. What I mean is, growing up I always had this concept of work and usefulness that equated to doing something intellectually impactful to reach some goal. Cure cancer or end world hunger or save the whales. Everything beneath that goal, the daily routines of life, was secondary and only in service of that greater aspiration, something to rush through to get to the more important stuff of life.
But I remember when I got married and started taking care of not just me but also my husband, I realized from watching my mother and aunts and other women around me that cooking and cleaning are worthwhile and important activities too, that keeping a home pleasant and welcoming is a skill and a meaningful use of time. I learned not to rush through house work but to enjoy and take pride in it instead of resenting it.
Motherhood is that, but on a whole other level. Just before we left the hospital, our nurse said to me, “When you go home, focus solely on learning how to feed him. If that goes well, you don’t need to worry about anything else. Because what could be more important?” I’m glad she said that because I’ve thought about those words many many times these past several weeks. It’s been a lot of frustration and stress as I tried and failed to get him to latch properly (it took us a good six weeks to really get it down), groggy nights of feeding every two hours, a surprising amount of physical pain (sometimes enough to make me cry), hundreds of dirty diapers, and hours of sitting and waiting and holding this baby while he feeds and burps and sleeps. All of it so mundane and repetitive and exhausting but again, what could be more important? And in the same breath, what could be more trying? It’s so cliche but I now have so much more respect for other moms and caretakers of small humans.
I don’t know, just thoughts. I could probably have done a better job getting into this but I’ve been typing this post on my phone with one hand while feeding and that’s the best I can do for now.
This little face though!