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Thursday, February 9, 2006

I was talking to someone the other day about how I feel much more on top of everything at my job lately, about how the things that used to drive me crazy seem so much more manageable. "I think it's because parenting a baby is so much harder than anything I do at the office," I said laughingly. "I mean, compared to dealing with a screaming kid for hours on end? It's nothing."

The response I got was, "Gee, you make motherhood sound like so much fun". Which immediately made me feel awful, like I had betrayed Riley somehow, and when I tried to verbally backpedal I started worrying that I sounded insipid ("it's hard but, like, rewarding, sooo rewarding"), or that I was being totally offensive by minimizing the challenges inherent in any job, or that I would never stop talking until a new ice age crept over the earth and mercifully froze my flapping maw shut.

I've been thinking a lot about how my life has changed in the last five months, and I find the subject almost impossible to articulate with any kind of clarity. Maybe because every day brings new changes, maybe because it's pointless to try and pick apart the whys and wherefores, maybe because I am easily distracted and hey look something shiny! (Oh please please listen to the theme song.)

Anyway. I didn't say what I meant in that discussion, at all. There are lots of reasons why my job might seem less stressful to me now. There's the fact that I only work three days a week, there's that four-month break I had. But I do feel that taking care of Riley is teaching me things, that it's changing me in ways that help me at Workplace.

The job of being a parent has been the toughest project I've ever worked on, the most relentlessly challenging in a million different particulars. I've had to confront some of my less-admirable personal characteristics - selfishness, laziness, impatience - on a minute-by-minute basis since August 31st, because babies don't listen when you say "just a sec " and they don't care that dinner's getting cold and they definitely don't give a shit if you want an extra hour in bed and here are the new rules, the rules are you don't get to make the rules.

I am still horrifically shy, I still leave jar lids half unscrewed, I'm prone to inertia and self-doubt and half-assedry, but I believe I am a good parent, and I am surprised by the pride I feel about that. I am amazed by what that feeling does for me, how it influences everything I do.

Riley is more important to me than anything I have ever known. It's immeasurable, the love I have for him, it's fierce and all-encompassing and it's transforming me in subtle ways that become more apparent to me each day. I feel as though something inside of me that was depleted and sad has been filled to brimming; I feel as though some some aching, resounding cavern of discontent has been eased and quieted.

That's difficult for me to say because before I had Riley, before I chose to get pregnant, before I started thinking that being pregnant wouldn't be the end of the world, one of the biggest reservations I had about parenthood had to do with the seemingly ubiquitous opinion that having kids was the One True Path To Happiness. I really, really resented that, and I felt this panicky sense of wanting to have certain accomplishments under my belt that I could point to, before I ever became a mom and therefore turned my entire focus to the full-time job of marveling starry-eyed over my spawn. So I could feel as though I did something, whatever that something might be, before life was essentially over.

I understand now that life does turn upside down when you have a child, and that things are forever changed, but I didn't expect that I'd see so much further into my own possibilities. I don't see closed doors, or stifling new roles. Instead, Riley makes me more present, more a part of the world I live in. Not because I have fulfilled my Destiny by breeding, but in ways that are so much more complicated, that I'm just beginning to understand.

I am stronger now, I am more confident. I feel more capable, in every sense of that word.

So, yeah. Work is better these days. Lots of things are, really.




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