I Get To

Nonfiction by | August 7, 2023

I am afraid of the baby waking up. I am afraid that the baby won’t wake up. I have been afraid of a lot of things since I gave birth to my son.

I spend the whole day with my baby and my second child, D, alone. Day after day, I spend it dreaming of having some help around the house. I wish someone would spend the day with me, not to do the household chores, but to take care of my children, so that I can focus on my work. The mere thought of it makes me feel guilty. Am I a bad mother for secretly wishing I could spend a little less time with my kids?

I want to call my mother and ask her to come to our house. I want to tell her that I need her help, but I know I can’t. My 64-year-old mother has a limp and moving around with the baby is just impossible. I need my mother, but I don’t want a smoker around my kids. That’s the real reason why I don’t call her for help.

Maybe today wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe it wouldn’t feel so arduous having to take care of two kids while working a full-time job and doing household chores in between. At least, I get to it. I get through it and tomorrow is a different story.

I was in the middle of speaking to a client when I heard my daughter shouting. She was calling for me saying that the baby was awake and was crying because he wanted some milk. I had to apologize to my client for I needed to cut the call. I told him I’d call again as soon as I calm the baby down.

I get to the baby and lay down beside it for a good thirty minutes or so. Then we both got out of bed and walked to the playroom where we would spend the rest of our day playing, cuddling, working, and all of it all at once.

“What’s for lunch today, Mama?” D asked kindly.

“I don’t know,” I quietly replied. I have always been honest with D. Since she was young, I have always been open to her about a lot of things, something I taught myself to do. I wasn’t like that with my first child. This is me trying to unlearn things to be a better mother.

I honestly didn’t know what to feed my kids for lunch. My morning was spent juggling work and motherhood.

“What about breakfast for lunch?” D suggested.

“That sounds like a good plan,” I said with motherhood guilt slowly kicking in. I quietly walked away and prepared hotdogs to cook. I should be feeding D healthier food, but it’s the only thing I could think of at that time. I get to feed D with food and that’s enough for today.

Nighttime came and my eldest daughter L and my husband were home. I was excited to welcome them, thinking I can finally get my hands free from the baby, but they both looked exhausted. I don’t want to add to their burden. A part of me wants to say that I was burdened by the fact that I have to take care of the kids and earn a living. But I am the mother. Everyone expects me to take it all in.

And so, I get to the crying baby. I comforted him like the good mother that I am. Today, I chose my baby over the urge to let him cry until he gets tired. I am tired, so I cried while my baby was sleeping soundly in my arms.

We took the kids out last weekend. I bumped into an old classmate of mine and we exchanged smiles. She asked me where I was connected and I told her I was working from home. She told me she was still working with the same bank. She wished she could stay at home with her kids like I do. I just smiled.

It was the only thing acceptable at that time. I didn’t have the courage to tell her that I thought she was lucky to be away from home for a few of hours every day. I wouldn’t dare tell her how tiring it was to be with my kids the whole day everyday 24/7. So I smiled. Anyway, she didn’t ask me how I was doing. Nobody does.

I clean our floors more than three times a day. As my son crawls and D plays on the floor, I feel like I need to clean our floors as often as I could. The hair on the floor didn’t bother me before, but now, I can’t go on three hours without giving in to the compulsion to clean the floors.

A friend I haven’t spoken to in months asked me about my routine. She sent me a message telling me how incredibly amazing I was for being such a hands-on Mom. I told her how I get to things everyday. That started it all. I told her how frustrating it can be to teach D a simple math problem and she still ends up getting the wrong answer when asked to do it alone. I told her how angry I was that my husband can get to hang out with his friends while I am at home with the kids.

I went on telling her how no one in the house can get things done in ways that I consider right. And that no matter how seemingly important my concerns are, there is this baby whose needs will always be my priority. It is oppressive.

I realized I must have said too much because our chat fell quiet. She didn’t send any reply to anything that I said. It must have overwhelmed her.

I wished she has something, anything. I wanted to tell her about my good days as a stay-at-home mom too. I wanted to tell her how proud I was when L came home with a perfect score in her Elective Math quiz. When I congratulated her, she simply replied, “Thank you Mama for helping me.”

One of my proudest moments as a mom was when D was picked for the special dance. She was one of the few students in her ballet class that was in the Director’s List this year. Her teacher said she is showing a lot of promise. I came home smiling.

I was already 37 when I gave birth to my son, so I took special interest in his development. I read books about baby milestones and became nearly obsessed about whether my son was hitting it or not.

Imagine my happiness when he rolled to his tummy for the first time. Oh, I couldn’t stop talking about it that I actually annoyed the people around me. But I didn’t care. That was one of my proud mama moments.

I feel like I am capable of doing so little, but I am asked to do so much. Yet again, I have to remind myself of the mantra that has got me going all this time. I get to the crying baby, teach D how to read CVCs, assist L as she learns how to balance equations in Chemistry, and give my husband a massage after a day’s work.

I get to witness my children grow up and get to be there when they need me. I get to teach my daughters with what I think they need to know to survive the world while I teach myself how to survive my days. I get to mother this baby boy and show him how it is to love and be loved.

The next day, I do it all over again, only it’s not like I’m at war. It’s not as awful. It entails a lot of work, but days are no longer impossible. I get to experience all of motherhood and its quirks.

Little by little, I get to live.

Lysette lives in Davao City with her husband and 3 children. She is passionate about homeschooling.

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