I’ve written before about the feeling of isolation that comes with being a SAHM, and I stand by it. Staying at home all day with a baby is lonely, lonely work. But I don’t do that anymore. I work at home while baby attends daycare. But the nature of my isolation has changed, and it really hit me yesterday as I was taking a break from my work to toss in a load of laundry. Time away from my daughter makes me feel healthier.
Yesterday, there was no toddler tugging at my leg. I didn’t have to tread softly lest I wake her up from a nap, either. My daughter’s in daycare and I’m a full-time freelancer again alone all day in my apartment, and I fucking love it.
I haven’t worked full-time for over two years. When I got pregnant, the allure of reading parenting websites was far stronger than my desire to pitch an article or promote my Etsy store. What had been my routine—wake up, go to my favorite café, write three or four articles until my caffeine buzz made it hard to see straight, smoke a million cigarettes, go home, nap, maybe work on a painting—suddenly wasn’t viable anymore. Obviously the caffeine and cigarettes were the first to go. But there was something about being pregnant that made it really, really hard to keep up with the other stuff, too.
I wouldn’t say I gave up my career. I never looked at it that way. I just saw my growing belly as this marvelous, awe-inspiring thing, and it didn’t make sense to me to carry on with the status quo. I couldn’t get the baby off my mind anyway, so I spent that time doing things for it. I learned how to sew and made curtains, two quilts and a baby carrier. I made art for the nursery. I discovered how to cook with exotic stuff like turmeric and ginger.
I did do some journaling, but I figured my paying work would just sit on the back burner for a little while. The plan was to gestate this baby, pop her out, spend a couple weeks bonding and then start my career fresh from home with baby resting neatly in a sling or a bouncy chair.
But fate certainly has a sense of humor. I was granted the most gorgeous, dark-haired, button-nosed little girl—who seemed to want nothing more than to go right back into my uterus. Since that wasn’t an option, thank god, the next best thing was just for me to hold her. In my arms, not a sling or a Bjorn. Just my arms. All the time. I loved cuddling her, but I couldn’t so much as take a shower without her freaking out.
I thought this might change as she got older, but it didn’t. She would scream if I so much as went across the room to get something. She would cry after two minutes in a bouncy chair. The only way I could get some physical time away from her was to take her for a drive. But I can’t get much work done with my hands on ten and two, you know?
I got very angry at times. My depression really set in around the six month mark, when it was starting to look like I was never going to get to start working again. How could I? She would scream her head off for even the most patient and wonderful of the babysitters we tried, and it was impossible for me to sit in my office and work with her cries coming through the walls.
I look back and compare that to this moment. My daughter’s at daycare. My husband, who has the day off, is playing a video game in the other room while a jungle track plays quietly in the background. I’m typing, drinking coffee, taking my time. I have eight sweet hours to use however I like.
And I’ll have eight hours tomorrow, too. I just can’t believe how quickly I’ve adjusted to spending all of this time away from my daughter. And what’s crazier, and I wish there was a written form of a whisper because I’d be doing it right now, I wouldn’t mind having even a little more time away from her.
A few times, I’ve gone to pick her up and I’ve felt a sense of dread on the ride home. Now what? It was so nice not having to make all of her meals, clean everything up, change diapers, keep her entertained, tote her around in my arms to keep her from feeling ignored, count the hours until Shaun gets home. Suddenly, even when my husband’s at home to help, after I’ve spent my entire day in sweet solitude, I dread the remaining four or five hours of my day.
Maybe I’m so addicted to my isolation because I’m making up for lost time. Maybe my eight hours alone each day is the only antidote for that year and a half of being glued to my baby. Maybe the road to recovery from mama burnout is a long, long, long one.
Or maybe this is my depression talking, and I’m giving in to the illness by living in a bubble. I’m not just enjoying the separation from my daughter—I’m enjoying separation from the adults in my life, too. I rarely call good friends anymore. I rarely stop by to see family. It’s actually been a couple of months since I’ve seen my grandparents, who I used to visit (baby in tow) every Friday.
But I’m inclined to believe that, whether it germinates from a healthy place or not, alone time is exactly what I need right now. You may try to convince me otherwise, but as long as I don’t take up smoking again or start drinking martinis at noon, I don’t see any real harm in this whole reclusive thing.