There were times I felt bitter toward you, especially when you were a medical student, and I was transitioning to being a stay-at-home mom. You didn’t understand my struggle. I ate, slept, and breathed our child, and felt consumed and alone.
You had a life outside of parenthood to continue, and while I stopped mine, I accommodated yours. For a period of time, we moved often and lived out of suitcases. Once, we even resided in a single bedroom of a Staten Island basement. For years, I manned the night wakings and offered my breasts around the clock as the only consistent comfort amidst constant upheaval.
Whenever you were off from work, I took our toddler out the minute he woke up so you (and our roommate) could sleep, but not always without resentment. I remember one morning, as I walked to our local bakery yet again, killing time with our little guy attached, I muttered, “I can do all this by myself.”
Because of life’s inherent uncertainty, I’ve actually considered the truth of that statement. I’ve now been a stay-at-home mom for five years and have wondered if I could actually survive on my own. Emotional well-being aside, would I even be able to provide food and shelter? I never thought I’d ask myself that question, being the self-sufficient woman I thought myself to be, but the honest answer is yes, I’d be fine. After all, I’m a go-getter, and that’s the reason all this staying home has been hard in the first place.
I’d make it, although there’d be details to figure out. You’re the dreamer, and you build our lives on the fantasies you manifest. Your doctor job is the one that would allow us to live a life of freedom and adventure in Costa Rica. I don’t have a vision for life without you, and the only notion of home I have is wherever we are. But I certainly wouldn’t head for the jungle on my own, and I wouldn’t do New Jersey either. Even though my sister lives there and I miss her when a single day goes by without conversation, I’ve been in Florida too long and have grown accustomed to bare feet and outdoor play all year long.
You’re in your residency now, and because you sometimes work 26 days a month, and 27 hours a day, I know that technically I can do this by myself. I pack bags and load babies like a boss. I clean toilets and play hide-and-seek simultaneously. I disguise trips to the grocery store as outings for cookies and have prepared many a meal with one hand. But despite my capability, I count down the time for you to come home, not because I so desperately need you to change the next diaper or fill the next sippy cup, but because I want you.
I don’t necessarily need you to carry scooters and tell the boys when it’s time to find a new climbing tree while out on family walks. I need you to hold my hand and talk to me.
I can put all the dishes away and find the missing shoe by myself, but with you, farts are funny, and coffee tastes better.
I can certainly walk the kids to sleep by myself, but when we stroll together, the full moon looks fuller, and I’m inclined to admire it longer.
I can take our son to karate by myself, but when that cute little girl beelines to be Javin’s partner, and another boy helps him perfect his jump kicks, I notice the sweetness, but I don’t giggle like I would with you.
I don’t need you to share parenting responsibilities with me out of fairness or survival, but for the joy of doing so. With you, the funny moments are funnier, the cute moments are cuter, and contrary to the pattern, the terrible moments are less so. Life is simply better with you.
We don’t only co-parent, we co-experience life.
We create and reflect on the same reality, and that somehow deepens the meaning of it all. When I see a beautiful sunset, and you say, “Look at that!” you validate what I see, and all of a sudden the colors become even brighter and more captivating.
I don’t necessarily need you for practical or worldly reasons, but I need you to know me. When I laugh, you’re aware of exactly why. And when I don’t say anything at all, you read my mind. You love my insecurities as you do my strengths, and your understanding gives me confirmation of myself. We’re like two beings from the same source, who get to witness more of themselves through each other.
It’s true that I don’t need you to survive. I need you for so much more.