I caught myself the other day thinking, “Once ______ happens…” or “When _____, things will be easier.” The present moment can sometimes feel like the moment waiting in the wings, about to go on stage.
But hang on, I realised. This is it.
This is my life. It’s not a practice round for the real life that lies ahead. And waiting around the corner isn’t some utopia that answers any of the niggles of my present predicament.
Case in point: I’m on maternity leave with my second (and final) baby. I go back to work in just under two months. Whereas with my first, I remember quite a lot of trepidation and anxiety (“How am I going to make it work?!”), this time around I am actually looking forward to it. I enjoy my job more, I really like and respect my colleagues and look forward to seeing them.
Mostly, though, I think I relish the chance to compartmentalise my life.
That probably seems ridiculous, as isn’t the holy grail to be able to combine your career and your passion and do this with your family around you?
Maybe for some, but what I’ve found over the past few months is being a full time, round-the-clock carer is exhausting. It’s demanding in a way beyond exhaustion, as it can feel like life and death of my precious child sits squarely on my shoulders. I have to feed a baby that is learning how to eat without choking, so innocent objects like Lego pieces, grapes, and scraps of paper now seem ominous. I have to watch him constantly, as his newfound ability to climb stairs isn’t hindered with the understanding of how gravity works. And just when I think I’ve baby-proofed the room, he manages to find something innocent to turn into a death trap.
Yet alongside this constant vigilance, I am still a person in my own right. I still need to shower, brush my teeth, use the toilet, sleep. I still need to be myself – to write, have relationships with people other than my baby. I still have urges to create and pursue things for my own mental well-being.
And despite having ample time in the sense that I am “not working”, I find in some ways I have zero time, as I have to carve any time very carefully into my day alongside the full time role of being a mother. When I do my yoga, it’s with one eye on my baby as he plays next to me. As I write this, I have had to stop my baby no less than three times from reaching for the computer cord before finally plopping him into a travel cot with some toys so I could just have a few minutes to write.
So I see returning to work in the near future as something to look forward to. Sure, I’ll have to balance work and home, and I’ll have less leisure. But I’ll also have a lunch break all to myself, knowing both children are being cared for and are safe. I’ll have train rides to and from work, when I can read, or write, or watch Netflix on my phone…the possibilities seem endless after ten months without a break.
But then, I realised – a day like yesterday or today will essentially be what my weekends are. I’ll wake up on a Monday looking forward to a day just like today, where I can spend it with my two boys, take them out somewhere to play, maybe get a coffee for me and a treat for them. Come home and do a craft together.
While I’m busy looking forward to being at work, in two months I’ll be working and looking forward to a day just like today.
So let us all remember – this is it. This is life. All of our life is made of the same medium of time. Let us not squander any of it thinking some perfect solution is right around the corner. Perfection is now.