Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The easiest and hardest decision to make

My dearest Thumper,

ThumperSippyFirstAt 9.5 months, you hit a new milestone today. You drank milk from a sippy cup all by yourself for the first time! I’m not even sure if it’s a milestone, but you know how we are about celebrations. We tend to overdo things around here. Like the not-one-but-four extravagant meals your daddy and I had this past weekend to celebrate our seven-year anniversary! (You were present for three of them.) I think it’s just an excuse to overindulge – which we did, quite a bit – and not feel guilty. But I suppose seven years is pretty cool…

But I digress. Sippy cup. Milestone. Yes! Having just started army crawling about two weeks ago, you’re about a month or six weeks behind your sister when she was your age, but don’t fret. She was at daycare since her fourth month. You started at eight. She spent the earlier part of her life honing her motor skills because she had to.

At daycare, it was easier for caregivers to get the babies independent at an earlier age, and so she was. I was so proud that Little Miss could hold her own bottle at four months(!) – a tiny consolation for not being the one to hold that bottle. Or rather, to be the one to breastfeed her myself. Refined motor skills were second prize to what I really wanted, which was to be there, doing the things I could and wanted to for her.

But now I get a second chance. A once-in-my-lifetime opportunity to stay home with my baby and witness firsthand the milestones I missed while I was away at work the first time around. You see, when my freelance contract ends at the end of the month, I will no longer be working full time.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do after this freelance gig and instead of looking for a replacement full-time position, I’ve been entertaining the idea of a new career trajectory that allows me to work from home. Part time. Because then I am able to dedicate more of myself to my girls.

It’s exciting, but it’s also really scary. For once, I will not have the safety net of a weekly paycheck. Your dad just quit his job two months ago to pursue his dream, and while it’s going really well, I don’t know if it’s enough to carry us all through while I sorted things out on my end.

More worries. More uncertainties.

But today, when it was just you and me together, I got to see you place your knees on the ground and your bottom in the air as you pushed up with your hands from the army-crawl position. You were this close to crawling for real, and I watched it all happen! And when I introduced the sippy cup, I saw the glint in your eye when you figured out how to tip it up to get the milk to your mouth. How could I not want to be here?

Being near you is intoxicating. Not only because you’re a good, easy baby, but because you’re my baby-baby. My last! If I miss this opportunity to relish your babyhood, I will miss it forever. That’s scarier than the unknown that awaits me after this month.

For once in my life, there is a possibility of making this happen - to be at home with you while pursuing a career I love. I won’t lie; not having a stable income will be a colossal adjustment, but we’ve weathered through worse.

We can do this. We have to.

In the car last week, your daddy and I had this conversation. Well, I did most of the talking but he listened, which was important too.

Me: “It’s great that we can afford them nice things but you know what I remember most about my mom when I was growing up? The meals she and I made together - well, she did all the prep and allowed me to chef. Because of that, I made my first meal on my own at 11!

“I love food; I love cooking. And it would be wonderful to share that with our girls. Except I’m always looking for the easiest and fastest meals to make now so we can quickly eat and be done with it because we’re always scrambling or exhausted after work. And on weekends we’re constantly off doing something. There’s barely any time for us to spend in the kitchen, cooking together as a family. And I hate that.

“The things I remember fondly from my childhood is so much a part of me. Then I realize that I don’t just want to give our girls nice things. I want them to remember us because of the things we did together. I want us to leave them a legacy. My cooking. Your nerd things. [cough cough Star Trek cough cough]”

Your daddy (a.k.a. the most amazing man I know): “You’re right. We should.”

And we are.

Making plans. Crunching numbers. Trying to make it all work.

So that when the proud, I-did-it smile happens:

I can be there for it.

I hope by the time you’re old enough to read this, Thumper, you can look back and see the evidence of this decision. And that you and your sister will have plenty of memories of making homemade pizzas, fighting over who can cook a better curry, and (*sigh*) even quoting lines by Captain James T. Kirk.

Your mommy.