My hair is caked with dried spit-up from the 3 a.m. wake-up and I am exhausted. At least my 3-month-old Adrian only woke up twice last night. He nursed and fell back asleep, an hour each time.
For the first time in my life, I don't know if I'm doing it right.
I just keep pushing forward.
"Take a nap this afternoon," my husband tells me. He told me the same thing yesterday, and the day before that. I can't, I have too much to do.
Like many optimistic first-time parents, when I became pregnant I convinced myself my life, for the most part, would remain the same.
Sure there would be no more late night partying with friends, but I'd stick to my daily exercise routine, build my freelance writing business, keep a perpetually clean home, and continue having no trouble getting dinner on the table every night. The baby would just fit into my life.
Three months into motherhood, and a good day constitutes squeezing in three hours of work, wiping down the bathroom sink, taking a walk, and making dinner with ingredients from one of those meal delivery services. All this with a content baby in my arms.
Most days do not look like this. Most days I feel guilty for waking up at 9:00 a.m. after a sporadic six hours of sleep. My house hasn't been vacuumed in two weeks, and I cringe when making dinner because that means my son will likely cry to be held the entire time.
I'm a freelance writer. I nurse my son while working on the computer, propping him in my lap with pillows for a hands-free experience.
Work pauses when he wants to babble because he deserves my full attention. I've muted my side of a call with a client when he's gotten fussy and dealt with a diaper blow out while on speaker phone.
One-handed typing while rubbing his back is second nature now, and leaving work undone until after Adrian's bedtime is no longer a difficult decision.
I just push forward.
In the nursery, there are stacks of baby milestone and sleeping books alongside books about creativity and tips for freelance writing. Ever the organized scheduler, I've spent the last three months rearranging routines based on my son's habits, desperately welding a marriage between my aspirations and my motherhood duties.
My husband left for a six-month deployment last week. On top of the heartache of missing him, I miss having someone to hand Adrian to at the end of the day. There's no one to tag in when I just have to finish this one email or write one last paragraph.
My friends offer to help, but those are special occasions: mini-interruptions into their lives, a glorious hour-long break for me. They'll go home thinking of the cute baby they got to play with, and I'll still be typing away furiously during nap time or while Adrian happily plays.
My life has become a series of time blocks stacked precariously between nap times.
I keep pushing forward.
I've always thought of myself as ambitious. I graduated from a demanding university and worked in a demanding career managing the operation of busy Air Force airfields before taking on freelancing. I never knew my ambition had yet to be tested until I became a working mother.
Ambition means not letting motherhood consume me as a person.
Yes, I am a mother, but I'm also a wife, a writer, a person who likes being fit, a friend who likes to give undivided attention, a sister, and soon-to-be aunt.
Indescribable love is the reason I knew from the beginning that I could care for this tiny person, but ambition is why I know this tiny person won't deter my goals. Everything will work out, I'll make sure of that.
When my husband is not deployed, most days when he comes home he immediately nuzzles our son and says, "Babe you're so lucky you get to hang out with Adrian all day." I know am lucky. I know .
I'm luckier than other working moms, because it's tough dropping your baby off at daycare or worrying he might mistake the nanny for his mom.
I'm luckier than many people who find themselves stuck in meaningless jobs, counting down the days until the weekend. I have a meaningful career that I enjoy doing.
I'm lucky to be my son's mother. I owe it to him to be a good example of problem-solving and pushing forward to achieve my dreams.
Even when all I've managed to do is email a client and write a couple hundred words, I did something other than the repetitive diaper changes, laundry, and dishes that fill the hours outside of my home office.
My son doesn't know I work right now. He knows when I'm not giving him undivided attention—his displeasure materialized in cries, kicks, and waving arms. He coos when I gently explain what I'm writing, and offers a quizzical look when I ask him an editing question.
Eventually, he'll grow up and understand that mommy works from home, but I hope he learns the more important lesson of discovering a passion and doing whatever it takes to cultivate it. I hope when he's ready to give up, he summons that tiny voice inside that persuades him to just keep pushing forward, you got this.