Feeding and taking care of my child is an important, essential job. I need to keep reminding myself of this.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked how I could keep up the blog with a newborn. That answer was relatively easy; I write on the phone while nursing. But the question he didn’t ask – why I’m keeping up the blog – struck me. There are pat answers involving maintaining my audience and SEO, but if it came down to it, I would ignore them. No, the reason I’ve kept writing is because it feels like important work.
Now, if anyone said to me that taking care of a newborn wasn’t important work, I would excoriate them. I would explain how caretaking is vastly undervalued in society and how “work” is so much more than what people are paid for. I would ask how dare they assume the work of stay-at-home parents is less important than that of those of us who work outside of the house.
And yet, without meaning or wanting to, I’ve bought into that mindset. I subconsciously regard taking care of my child on maternity leave as less important than the “real job” I’m returning to. In the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year, I didn’t want to see my maternity leave as wasted and yet that’s too often how I feel.
I believe I have this mindset because I think of taking care of Little Bird – feeding him, changing diapers, comforting him – as as a given. Of course, I would do those things. That’s just what you do.
But while there’s not much intellectual stimulation involved, there’s a lot of hard work. Mentally erasing that work sells myself short. None of it is compulsory; no one is holding a gun to my head.
Every time I get up at 1:30 AM and 3 AM and 5 AM, that’s a choice.
Every time I nurse him, that’s a choice.
Every time I let my tea get cold for the fourth time because a child is calling for my attention, that’s a choice.
Every time I’ve stayed home to protect the baby’s fragile immune system, that’s a choice.
Every time I rock and shush him to sooth his crying, that’s a choice.
Every bounce, every feeding, every lullaby, every long night – they are all choices.
I need to remember that each of those actions, all of this hard work, are choices. They are choices I make to show my child my love for him. And they are choices that I need to appreciate myself. Because if I can’t respect my own choices, I can’t respect anyone else’s either.