For the past four months, I’ve pretty much been living one day at a time. Sometimes even one hour at a time. I’ve mentioned it here before, but it has not been easy transitioning to life as parents with our family being so far away. I knew it would be hard to not have help when we made the decision to come out here. Still, I never knew that a thirty year old could miss her mom so much.
So when my mom came to Seattle for my birthday last weekend, I took advantage of having two extra hands in the house. It was a win-win for me, as it allowed me to do some things I had put off for months, all the while knowing that Cullen was being snuggled by someone who loves him to pieces.
I spent most of the weekend just hanging out with my mom and talking, while she rocked, cuddled, and soothed my little teething baby. In my typical day to day (hour to hour) survival mode, I don’t think I realized just how much I try to juggle on my own. Suddenly with extra hands on deck, I realized what a difference a little help can make.
My mom suggested that while she was there, Casey and I go do something we never get to do together anymore. And the first thing that popped into my mind was one of the things I have missed the most since October – going to the gym. I hadn’t gone in five long months, and I have been really missing my former strength and muscles. This was the perfect opportunity to get back to it!
While I was there, I talked to the front desk lady about bringing Cullen into their Kids Klub (he is just now old enough). Knowing he was safe and sound at home with Grandma, I hit the treadmill for an hour of running followed by a light weight set – OUCH. It left me sore for days, but it also left me with something else – the realization that I need to start taking time for myself.
I don’t want to sound like a victim or martyr or anything even close, because I absolutely love my life as a mom. But as I’ve learned to navigate my new role, I’ve kept my head afloat by focusing on the needs of those around me. Each day I make sure Cullen is taken care of, my work is done, my dogs are fed and exercised, my house is picked up and relatively clean, and I get a bit of free time to hang out with Casey. Add in the fact that Cullen still won’t take a bottle, and it doesn’t really leave me with any time for – well, me.
Being at the gym running and working my body again, I felt a burst of energy that I haven’t felt in so long. I realized how much I miss the satisfaction that comes from a great, hard workout. Right then I made up my mind that I would make my triumphant (solo) return to the gym this week, and that Cullen would have his first experience with childcare.
After taking care of Cullen alone these past two days, along with taking care of poor sick Casey, I was more than ready for a break this morning. I laced up my gym shoes, packed Cullen up with a full belly and some favorite toys, and we headed over to the gym.
I signed up for the Kids Klub program, and checked him in with the very young and very sleepy childcare worker. I did my best to not be a ridiculous overprotective mom, and limited myself to only telling her a few small details. On my way out the door she asked, “does he like watching TV…?” Somewhat surprised, I reminded her that he is four months old. I wasn’t expecting child educators to be working at the gym or any such thing, but I did think they would at least have general experience with babies.
Determined to not be crazy and judgmental, I handed him over and hopped on a treadmill. I felt liberated. This was it! This was what I needed – a solution to finding that “me time” for just a few short hours each week, that would leave me recharged and help me get back in shape.
As I plodded along, I kept seeing people pass me in the corner of my eye. And as each person approached, I assumed it would be the childcare girl coming to get me because Cullen was melting down. But of course, people continued to pass and Cullen was just fine. I told myself to relax and just enjoy the time alone and focus on my run.
Just after mile two, a familiar face popped up next to my treadmill. The childcare girl, informing me that Cullen had been crying the whole time and she didn’t know what to do. And just like that, my plan unraveled.
I hopped off and ran back to the Kids Klub, where I found Cullen whimpering and falling asleep in another girl’s arms. She said something like “I think he’s tired, he’s falling asleep now,” as she handed him over to me. I felt frustrated that three childcare workers (and he was the only kid there) weren’t able to soothe a baby to sleep. But at the same time, I guess it’s not fair to expect them to know his individual cues and signals.
By the time we got to the car, he was sound asleep.
He snoozed peacefully while I drove home frustrated, barely sweaty, and totally defeated. I’m determined not to give up though. I know that Cullen needs to be willing to separate from me, just as much as I need a bit of time to myself here and there. I don’t really have a plan yet, but I’m going to go back to my gym and try again. I refuse to quit after one bad experience. I’m thinking I might try leaving next time while he is napping, so that he’s most likely to be happy when he wakes up and easy to please.
If necessary, I’ll consider looking for a different gym with a childcare system better suited for babies (this one seemed more geared toward older children). I feel like I know what I need to do to give myself a break, but every time I try to make it happen I get knocked back down. The whole bottle refusal thing really makes things tricky.
He sure is lucky he’s so damn cute.