I am in Edmonton for a few days while Olive visits her dad, and after a bit of a rough start this morning I filled this first child-free day with books and silence, and I plan to ride this wave of words into the wee hours.
There is a decided lack of this in motherhood – this silence stretching out indefinitely. Mental space. Once your child begins speaking – and perhaps even before – the balance tips and you spend an inordinate amount of time living out. Speaking, narrating, answering, instructing, describing….you are the lens through which your child makes sense of the world, and so, you are called on to interpret it for them every minute that they are conscious.
It is at once the best and the most stifling part of motherhood for me right now. The conversations I have with Olive are easily one of my favourite things. I feel so lucky that I get to ramble around the city while she chatters at me, and the way she sees the world, the questions she asks, the way she pieces things together – it is endlessly fascinating.
It’s also tinged with a sweet sense of loss. A small daily sacrifice that sometimes seems like it’s adding up to be bigger than I’d bargained for. In order to foster Olive’s discovery, this insatiable language of learning, I end up putting the most sacred parts of me back on the shelf. Up high and out of reach.
In this endless stream of back-and-forth speech there’s little room for introspection or reflection, my thoughts don’t get to sit and stir, gel and coalesce. I sometimes re-read the of archives of this blog and feel like my writing has never been the same since I had a baby. Parts of it have deepened, it’s true, but sometimes it seems like the posts have gotten sloppier, shorter, fewer.
There have been so many threads of thought that have simply slipped through my fingers because I didn’t have the silence to let them speak. Not the end of the world, certainly. But I feel their absence nonetheless.
There’s a monotony, too, isn’t there? I’m not sure we are supposed to acknowledge this, us mothers. Yet my sister-in-law and I did just that in a conversation last night. It is, we agreed, impossible to deny.
The days are much the same – in many ways they have to be – and sometimes they just run together in an endless stream without differentiation. The framework can’t change much. The waking up and potty breaks and breakfasts, the clean-ups and playground visits and taking them in and out of car seats and high chairs and strollers – endlessly buckling and unbuckling their pliable little bodies.
The activities each day revolve and shift and change, but the skeleton of the days stay inert. The meals, the diapers, the naps or the no naps, the stories and the kisses and the soothing and the tantrums and the hugs. The moments where you stand in the kitchen, head against the cool cupboards, wishing for quiet.
It’s a small trade, I think, and an indisputably worthy one. I wouldn’t change it for anything. And, I remind myself, at 7:30 each night I get the silence back again. I usually pad over to my couch and stretch the length of it, noticing my breath for the first time in hours, and the way the leaves rustle outside my living room window.
I feel endlessly lucky to have this life.
And in days like these, where Olive’s absence is palpable, I try to make the best of it. I try to focus on the benefits rather than the sense of sad, aimless, daughter-less space. I try to turn towards the silence and meet it again. Try to sink into it instead of filling it. So I read, and I write, and I let thoughts sit and stir, gel and coalesce.
It is sweet. And it, too, feels like a loss.
Until the balance tips again.