My daughter is turning one tomorrow, which is a huge milestone. (For her, for obvious reasons, and for me, since it means I have officially survived 364 days of being a mom.) This weekend I spent some time reflecting on the last year, and realized a couple of things.
1. Babies are surprisingly forgiving. Though I always thought I wanted kids, it was one of those "someday" things for me: some distant day in the future, around the same time I would win the lottery, write a novel, or invent something as useful as post-it notes. Before I became a mom, I had never even changed a diaper. I lived in fear that I'd be completely clueless and inept when C was born. And I was clueless and inept, but I somehow muddled through. (This is due in great part to my extremely patient husband, who thankfully had changed a diaper or two in his day and was more than willing to do 3 AM feedings.) Soon enough, we had landed ourselves a decent routine. She didn't care whether I sang to her off key, or whether I was wearing matching socks, or whether the dust bunnies were gathering in the corners of our house. All she cared about was whether she was safe, warm, clean, fed, and loved, and I could deliver on all of those fronts. And when I went back to work, her daycare teachers made sure that she was safe, warm, and all of those other things, which made it a lot easier for me to be both a good mom and a good employee.
2. Babies are tiny, but require a whole lot of stuff. I am shocked by how much stuff we have acquired and/or used over the last year. Diapers. Wipes. Formula. Swaddles and sleepsacks. Two different car seats. Three different strollers. A swing, activity sets, dolls, blocks, things that make a lot of noise. A bouncy chair. Sheep that sound like the ocean. Four dozen tiny socks. The list goes on and on and on. We already have two gigantic plastic bins full of baby clothing that no longer fits. If we decide to have another baby someday, we'll be more than set. If not, my two younger sisters will someday be raiding my basement with the same fervor that brides tear through the aisles at Filene's Basement.
3. Multitasking takes on a whole new meaning when you become a parent. Marketers by nature are pretty good multi-taskers: on an average day in the office, I have at least three (and usually more) projects going at once. But now that I have a daughter, pretty much every waking moment is spent doing more than one thing. I read stories when I'm eating breakfast, let C root through my makeup bag when I'm putting on my mascara, and when we finally get out the door, I'm carrying close to half my body weight in baby and assorted bags. When we all get home at night, we go through a similar routine (in reverse). Come 6 AM the next morning, the whole routine starts all over again. Which brings me to my next point:
4. You don't realize how much free time you have...until it's gone. Before I had C, I was pretty darn busy. I worked full-time, attended grad school, volunteered, and served on the board of a professional organization. I still managed to get to the gym on a regular basis, go on an occasional date night with my husband, and had some semblance of free time. Now, 99% of my free time is devoted to C, and if I get in three workouts a week, I consider myself the new Denise Austin. While part of me wouldn't have it any other way, a small, selfish part is really wistful for that time when I could pursue a variety of outside interests. My compromise is: If I'm not traveling overnight for business, I make a point to have one night a week out. That might be to attend a networking/industry event, a board meeting (I still am on the board of that professional organization, but my role has changed to more of an advisory one, which is something that I am better able to manage these days), or a girls' night out. "My" one night a week is a sanity saver, for more reasons than one.
5. I love being a mom more than I thought possible. It's pretty hard to explain, but I'll sum it up with this: even if I have had the worst day ever, when I pick up C from daycare and she throws her tiny, sticky arms around me, nothing else really matters.
Happy birthday, my girl.