Friday, September 12, 2008

He'll Cry More If He's Homeless

The title is a mantra in our household, and as with most kinds of whistling in the dark, it doesn't always keep the hobgoblins of fear away from us.

I work at home. Not just the work of a household, but the kind of work that has deadlines, that depends on other people and has other people depending on it, and that brings in money. In order to do this work, I must be accessible for certain hours during the day, and I need a several hours, usually in a row, in which I can concentrate.

Sometimes I think my son would be better off in daycare instead of with a mama who can't always play with him when he wants to play. He used to jabber away with mock conversations, but he hasn't done that in weeks. Is it because I'm not paying him the attention he deserves? Am I not talking enough, responsive enough, smart enough to handle both him and a job? Daycare with all the stimulation and other children must offer advantages over and above what his constantly typing mother can give him.

Eye contact is the big one, of course. Lack of eye contact is one of the early warning signs of autism. He was never fascinated by my face, even as a tiny newborn - but I had to go back to work when he was three weeks old. He was in my lap, or beside me, the whole time. Still, my focus was on the screen and the keyboard instead of his sweet face. I know rationally that I did him no harm. Probably. But it doesn't keep me from breaking out in a cold sweat when I can't get my wide eyed son to look at me.

We nurse on demand in this house. But I feel like a cow, and from the first week of his life he has hated nursing in my office chair. Anywhere else, he's happy as a clam, and it seems to me to be a reasonable concession. But good lord. I'm bored just sitting there getting milked, and daytime television strikes me as a horseman of the apocalypse. So I've always had a book open during nursing. And now I'm wondering - have I taught him that he's not important enough to focus on? Is that why he gets upset after a long day of not having my full attention?

I know he hates the home office, some days - he'll cry and cry in the office, but the minute we go to another room everything is fine.

I do everything I can. I write these posts when he's napping. I try to schedule conference calls for naptime, or at least a time of day when he's usually happy to watch the wind blowing through the trees. I hold him on my lap when I'm doing research. I try to play on the floor with him for a few minutes every hour that he's awake. We go for walks every evening. The Perfect Husband reads dozens of stories every night. We cosleep. And yet I keep hearing the refrain "not enough, not enough." I look at his smile, I hear his laugh, and I think, my god, who thought I had the chops to get this kid to adulthood with the same perfection he had when I got him?

I have to work. TPH says "he'll cry more if he's homeless," and it's true. My friends whose babies go to daycare say I'm lucky I'm home with my son, my friends who don't have paying work say I'm lucky to have professional gratification and success. I am lucky, a hundred ways, I know that. But there are still days where every choice feels incomplete and every decision feels wrong.


Lahdeedah said...

Well duh, welcome to Motherhood.

It's a mixed bag of nuts. Sometimes you get the totally awesome cashews, other days your hand just picks out plain ole peanuts.

Look at it this way, and it'll help ease the agony.

You can only do the best you can.

The one thing we forget is that kids are amazingly adaptable. They can adjust and be happy as long as you're meeting their needs somehow.

But, personally, I think working from home is exceptionally hard if you don't have someone to watch the child in the house while you work.

Anna said...

I would have to add; don't over-guilt yourself about it, either. There's plenty of that being flung around anywhere you care to look.

If you are really unhappy with the situation, maybe you can make some small changes. What about an occasional baby trade day with another SAHM? That way you get a break, he gets some other socialization, etc.

I know I'm not providing any new ideas, but I just wanted to chime in and agree that sometimes it sucks and makes you panic. Overall, I bet you are an awesome mom.