There is nothing like coming home at the end of the day, ripping your coat off, throwing your hair into a quick bun so no small hands can tear it out, rushing to where your babies have congregated in the living room and crying, “My babies!” only to have them glance at you in disdain and go back to eating their feet.
Being a working mother is tough. Being a stay-at-home mom is harder, but at least every butt you wipe and bottle you feed is bringing the two of you closer together. When you’re away for nine hours a day and there is another person doing all the nurturing, you kind of feel like an interloper. There have been times when I am bending over backwards to entertain my children and they are staring back at me blankly, only to break into toothless smiles when our au pair, Eva, walks in. I mean, what the heck! I am not strutting back and forth to “Blurred Lines” for my own dang health. As overjoyed as I am that they love Eva—we all love Eva—it feels like a kick in the boobs when she gets the smiles.
There was one day when I was receiving the third degree from the boys and Matt, sensing my defeat, came in to be my hype man. “Look guys, it’s your mama!” he cheered. “Yay!” Upon seeing Matt, the boys erupted into love volcanoes. Smiles, shrieks of delight, legs flopping in the air in ecstasy. This caused me to erupt into a sadness volcano. Tears, sobs, shoulders heaving in self pity. The stress of trying to pack a day’s worth of bonding into the hour and half before bedtime was getting to me. I was running into the house like a Robin Williams, babbling at them rapid-fire and freaking all of us out. Other times I would stand in front of them paralyzed, not knowing what to do. Should I read a book? Play music? Wrestle them? Work on sitting up? Teach them sign language? I would spend too much time trying to find a good clip of “The Lion King” on YouTube or scanning my iTunes library for the perfect track and too little time just being with them.
As I hemmed and hawed over what to do, they would lie there, staring at me expectantly and I would think, “Oh my God, they know. They can smell my fear. They think I am a loser. Oh God, I am a loser. WHY DO I SUCK SO BAD?” Then Matt would saunter in with his daddy swagger, fake yell at them in a Jersey accent and they would bubble over with joy. He made it look so effortless. Missing them all day and wanting to make the most out of my limited time with them was resulting in me having an existential crisis every evening. I needed to calm down.
Months later, I’m still not what you would call a cool customer. I still fly into the house like a witch and swirl around my babies, cackling at them until I get a reaction. The thing that’s changed is that they’ve changed. They’re aware. They remember. The other night at bedtime I let Jem just hang out with me after he finished his bottle. He was lying on his stomach on my chest, playing with my hair, shoving his clammy hands in my mouth and talking his happy baby talk. At one point he looked at me and I looked at him and I felt it. The connection. It may not have been the first time that secret electrical current passed between us, but it was the first time I was aware. It’s the first one I can remember.
It turns out that all the worry and stress over bonding is pointless. Love has its own gravitational pull. In time, we all come together.
And if it feels like it’s taking too long, just yell at them in a Jersey accent. They’ll love you forever.