An essay inspired by an unlikely alleyway conversation:
We'd seen him so many times before. He was a tall man, always in sunglasses and a beanie with a little swoop of white hair peeking out from underneath — like a man who never wanted to grow up. He drove a black van with the word "SUPER" written on the side. For years, he would show up at neighborhood parties, yet I never knew his name. To me, he was just an old guy who never wanted to grow up. I did wonder from time to time who he was, and what his life was like. What did he do for a living? Why did his van say "SUPER" on the side? But we never did get around to figuring that out.
The "Van Life" has always been a dream of my husband's. Being equal parts homebodies and travel junkies has always been our style... but when the disaster that is 2020 hit and we became homebound, more or less, for the foreseeable future... we decided no better time than the present to jump on board the van life bandwagon.
I know I commiserate with most of you by saying that it's so hard to get things done these days. So many pieces of our normal have been broken, and we've all been left trying to build new, beautiful things out of what is left. At any given moment, I could be tackling several separate things—whether it be cooking dinner, answering a Slack, picking up toys, writing an email, wiping the counters, or tending to whatever need my toddler currently has. This has lead me to miss many small moments my son has simply because I'm not looking, or I'm not present. And I'm realistic enough to know that in the current headspace I'm in, I cannot make the shift to be present 100% of the time—but I will try to make small improvements where and when I can.
Here we are, 67 days in. The shock has worn off, and we've assimilated somewhat nicely to our new routine. We know where we will be going this weekend—nowhere. We know who we will be seeing this weekend—no one. Yet somehow, as the global pandemic dust settles all around us, we are finding ourselves connecting with far-away family now more than ever before.
And just like that, he is one. I am no longer a mother of a newborn. That is no longer my identity. It is this identity that I have lived with for what feels like so long. Seemingly, I rubbed my eyes, poured my coffee—and boom, there was a toddler. There is no level on which I am ready to accept this. Inside, I’m pleading—give me back the newborn onesies, the burp clothes and breastfeeding accoutrement I have packed away so neatly in plastic containers I store for another time, or to give away to friends. No longer needed, they’ve been pushed aside—somewhat analogous to how I’m feeling in this season of motherhood. They are the cherished relics of what I felt would be the hardest time. They elicit a sense of nostalgia. The strong and somewhat nauseating smell of baby detergent enveloping us both as we would rock in the glider, or cry together on the couch. It still sits on my nose to this day.
Between when I started and ended these words, our world has changed drastically. In the last day, the last week and the last month.
I started off this post by complaining about my anxiety, and how my “new” was adjusting to working life at home, all of us. The brushing of shoulders and sharing of duties. The silent stares of “are you going to get that, or am I?”. The constant push and pull of working parents juggling all of the things. This is still my new. But I have a new “new” now: sole family earner.
When my husband and I were engaged, we read Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages. At the conclusion, my husband said to me "Your love language is gifts." I couldn't believe it, and I still refuse to admit that. That seemed to "materialistic" to be my reality. I did not want to be associated with that. Receiving gifts has never been something I enjoy, and not to mention I get super awkward having to open gifts in front of others (read: bridal and baby showers). We do not do much gifting to each other anymore after several years of being together, as we are more in the phase where we enjoy experiences rather than objects. I do not expect gifts from him. How could my husband-to-be think that my love language is gifts?
I’ve considered myself and my husband to be reasonably healthy people. Sure, our diets and exercise levels certainly could use some improvement, but I typically only see my primary care physician annually. My husband never even went to the doctor until we were together. It’s safe to say that nothing could have prepared us for the onslaught of sickness we experienced this year. My mom friends and coworkers warned me, but I equate this with pregnancy and labor: nothing anyone ever tells you can prepare you for the actual experience.
Hi! I'm Laura, a 30-something first-time mom raising her little dude in southern California. It's been quite a first year, and this is my way to try to make sense of it all. This is a safe space for all moms to get some laughs, recommendations and feel like they are not alone.