I look at the picture with both feelings of nostalgia and pain. At the time, I had only been a mother for all of two months. I had no idea what I was doing, and I was scared most of the time. And yet, there I was, in a simple photo with a small smile, with my son soundly asleep on my chest. I remember thinking , “Help! This is the only way he’ll go to sleep! He only wants to be on me. I can’t even go to the bathroom!”
How little did I know what a gift that moment was. I never expected to want something like that so badly.
I write this after a particular difficult evening with my son. My husband made plans to meet a friend for a late dinner. I didn’t mind at all. I’d have a little mommy and son time, and then put the little guy to bed. Sounded easy enough.
I was so, so wrong.
As soon as my husband left, my son cried loudly. He rushed to the door, struggling to open it and catch up to his father. I carried him away, and he began to tantrum. I managed to calm him down, but every now and then he would run back to the door. The process repeated. Cry, tantrum, calm.
Eventually, the distractions stopped working. There wasn’t anything I could do. The tantrums got so bad. I went down the list that parents go through in these situations. Nothing worked.
When my son finally tired out, I held him close. Out of pure exhaustion, he gave in and settled in my arms. He was an unwilling prisoner.
His father came home shortly after. Our son jumped up from my arms and hugged him ever so tightly. A huge smile came across his face, and he was his giddy self once again. It was as if nothing happened.
Broken, I retreated to another room. I tried to tell myself that it was just a tantrum. I recalled moments where people said that children flip flop between their favorite parents. I shook my head in shame. It wasn’t true for me. I am never the favorite.
In his own little hierarchy, I am the totem pole. He holds his father at the high pedestal, and his grandma as a foundation. I am the monster in the basement.
I know it sounds so unreasonably harsh. Yet, in those moments of pain and anguish, that’s exactly how I feel. I know the root of it is purely the environment that we are in. My early days of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety fostered it. My husband became the one that put my son to sleep. He shouldered a lot of the parenting as I struggled. He was the comfort that I thought I should have been.
As we both returned to work, my husband’s schedule was far more accommodating to our son. I left for work when he was still asleep, and came back only a couple hours before bedtime. My husband was the constant. They developed a secure and loving bond.
My mother-in-law became my son’s daytime caretaker. She is there for all the things that I am not present to do. Feeding, Bathing, playing – all the daily activities that bring routine and comfort in life. Routines that do not include me.
Where I fit in is sometimes an anomaly. There are days where my son and I also share our own special bond. There are moments where he surprises me with hugs and laughter. There are times when we play and read.
But, there are many more times where I am a bystander. I am a sidewalk witness, looking over curiously to see what’s happening. I am an outsider, wishing for a way to become more involved.
Simply put, this all hurts. It’s hard as a mother to know that you are not your child’s favorite. Although you tell yourself it’s temporary, the realization of the current situation stifles any comfort. Where is my bond ? Why am I the enemy?
After the aftermath, that photo seems a relic from the past. I wish so much for that closeness; the feelings that only mother and child know. I know that he loves me, and that for a child that young, no tantrum or feeling is ever permanent.
The photo is a a motivator. Every day, I try. I feel broken, but I try. I may not be the favorite today, but every day I try.