My Lily Needs Me

As we face Lily’s 2nd year of life, it has come to my attention on more than one occasion that parenting is a wild ride. Yes, you’ve heard it from me, folks: parenting is hard, confusing, emotional, revelating, and everything in between. I know, I know, it’s not exactly rocket science that I just discovered this, but well, this is my first time doing it and while I know that there have been countless others who have done this before me, it doesn’t exactly make it easier for me.

I struggle on a daily basis with being a parent. Everyday I have questions about whether or not I’m being the best mom I can be. Everyday, I think about how I can be better for her — more loving, more patient, more there for her. During the first year of her life, it was difficult, to say the least. Transitioning from being a two-person family to being a three-person family was hard for us, though enjoyable and beautiful at the same time. Every step of the way, I had questions all long the path. Questions about what to feed her, when to burp her, when to stop breastfeeding, how long I should breastfeed, when her naps are, when I should go back to work. If it were up to me, I would still be at home, on a full time basis, with both Lily and her daddy.

But alas, like 99% of the world out there, we can’t just dedicate our complete attention to raising our child(ren), unfortunately. I know I don’t talk about it a lot, but when I went back to work when Lily was only 6 months old, I struggled with a lot of emotions. The guilt, the shame, the idea that I was letting her down. The fear that she would lose that connection with me, or she would forget me, or she would not attach as much to me. I feared that I wouldn’t be as big a part of her life as she is in mine, and I feared that I would miss out on all the little daily milestones she had.

And for some parts, I was right: I missed out on a lot of the daily stuff, but I’m grateful that her daddy could be there when I was not. I still struggle with this all the time. I want to be the best mom I can be, and sometimes I feel like I fall just short of this. Where I felt my mother had failed in her parenting me, I want to correct those mistakes the second time around, in my own parenting with Lily. I want to not only be completely physically there, I also want to be completely emotionally there. There have been sacrifices that I have openly and honestly and happily made for my Lily, because the decision to have her was a miracle decision, and one well planned through and well thought out. She was a planned baby. We wanted to create her. We wanted her here to make this world — our world — a better place. And sometimes I feel that by not being there all the time, I am letting her down.

I was the eldest child. Naturally, or maybe not so naturally, I am used to being the caretaker. When my family isn’t doing well, it is a reflection of me. I take a lot of inner responsibility for how happy my family is. When we struggle, it is because of my failure, not anyone else’s. Because of this ingrained characteristic in me, sometimes I feel that I am letting my family fail because of my own failure.. by not being there enough for them.

It wasn’t Lily’s decision to be born, and it wasn’t her decision to exist in this hard world. We try to give her everything she is worthy of, and more. Not just all the Christmas presents or the Birthday wishes. Not just all the toys and the games and the awesome singing and videos we let her watch. Not just all of that, but also the many things in life that she should have merely because she exists. The constant love, the constant attention, the constant play therapy that she should be getting. The lessons in life that she should grow up with — knowing that she is special, that she is loved, that she should be confident in her very existence because she is meant to be here, because she is meant to exist, because she is meant to be alive. The lessons that we try to instill in her, ingrain in her, that she is one of a kind, and she can be proud of who she is and where she comes from. We want her to be constantly, at least while we can control it, be filled with love around her. We want her entire world to be filled with love. We want love to encompass her every breath, her very existence, her every environment and setting that we put her in.

Because I am a daughter of a mother myself, I realize how important the relationship is between a mother and a daughter. The daughter takes away with her everything from her relationship with her mother. The good, the bad, the neutral. Everything from that relationship helps shape who she is, who she becomes, who she will become, and what she is capable of becoming. I’ve witnessed both damaging and beautiful relationships between mothers and daughters. I have firsthand experience on what the relationship between a mother and daughter can do to a soul. I have firsthand struggles out of this relationship, and I’ve grown up wishing my mother could have done things differently. While I have come to forgive my mother for the many unintentional mistakes she made, and even have come to love her for them, I fear of making similar mistakes — or even overcompensating for them — on my little Lily.

It took me close to 30 years to forgive and love my mother for everything that she is, and everything that she is not. And still, I have my bad days where I regret the life I grew up in. I don’t want my Lily to spend 30 years of her life in that same journey. And sometimes — well, I should be honest: MOST of the time — I wonder if my life experience has come to haunt me in my new journey as a mother. I don’t want to be the highly anxious, hyper-vigilant mother so that I can over-compensate for my mother’s own journey. But I don’t want to make the same mistakes. The cycle has to end somewhere.

Everyday I struggle with this. Everyday I am painfully aware of what kind of mother I want to be, and what kind of mother I don’t want to be. Everyday I have moments where I think I am doing her more harm than good. Everyday I have moments that I have failed my family. Everyday I struggle with this. Everyday I struggle with not being there for my family, for my baby, for my husband. Everyday I struggle with not being a good mother, or a good wife. Everyday, I struggle with this. This is not easy, and this does not come easy.

And so when I go off to work, I count down the hours to when I will be finished, so I can go home to my family, so I can just be there. I count down the minutes when I can be good to my family, when I can be better for my family. I wonder if I have been gone too long. I wonder if she would resent me for going back to work (and yet, there was no other choice in the matter). I wonder if I am doing her a disservice by not giving her a mother for so many hours out of the day. I wonder if I’m not being a good wife by being away from my husband. I wonder if I’m not doing enough for my family. My beautiful family who I live and breathe for.

And then, I look at my Lily, who greets me every morning with kisses and hugs, and a big smile on her face. Who runs to the top of the stairs when she hears me open the door every evening, and exclaims, “MOMMY!!! MOMMY!!!!!” Who excitedly tells me to “SIT!! SIT!!” as soon as she sees me after work, so that we can instantly play, or spend time together, or sing and dance, even before I can get out of my work clothes and into my pajamas, even before I can take off my jacket, even before I can put down my bag. Who starts babbling about what she did that day and who she saw, and what she ate for lunch. Who almost always starts singing a favorite song to me that she’s been singing with Daddy all day long.

My sweet husband, the father of my Lily, always tells me what she is doing everyday while I am away. Sometimes I even get pictures and videos of their day together. Their dances, their games, the new things she’s learned to do. And I feel like I haven’t missed so much after all, being a voyeuristic fly on their wall while they spend their days together. And I feel less guilty, but shamed that I wasn’t part of their life during the day. I feel proud that they have such fun, great days together, where he can dedicate his entire being to her existence, and pick up where I have left off. Yet at the same time, I feel ashamed that I can’t also do that. I feel proud that he is helping me raise her and be there for her. I feel proud that he is the Daddy who had an integral part in teaching her to read. The Daddy who sings and dances with her. The Daddy who taught her the alphabets and how to sing the ABCs’. And yet, sometimes, I feel like they are growing right in front of me, and I am missing the beats entirely to their song. Sometimes, I feel a little left out.

I often wonder if this is just me, or if all parents who work feel like this. I wonder if fathers who work outside the home feel like this. I wonder if this is my intense struggle alone, or if others feel like this.

I look at how happy my Lily is, how healthy my Lily is, how cheerful, sensitive, kind and compassionate my Lily is. I look at what a firecracker of a personality she has. I look at her strong sense of self and her proud confidence of who she is and who she belongs to. I look at how she is so sure of her presence and existence in this world, where others have fallen short even after so many years of living. And I think… I must be doing something right, if she is this happy, this healthy, this confident in her world.

I must be doing something right, even if I’m not doing everything I want to be doing. And I must learn to feel solace in this. Because my Lily needs me to be happy, and my Lily needs me to take care of myself, and my Lily needs me to be happy for her.

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It’s been awhile since I came to read here…. I just want to say that I am proud of you. Your daughter is beautiful, and smart and amazing. I can only hope to be half as lucky.


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