It Feels Like A Burden Having To Watch My Own Child

by Joni Banks Hess
Originally Published: 
A mother holding her baby daughter on her lap while sitting on a swing
miodrag ignjatovic/Getty

I stare at my beautiful 17-month-old daughter, as she stares at the TV screen. Her eyes are fixated on the 3D animations that bring repetitive old-timey nursery rhymes to life. I wonder how long Dave and Ava Learn and Play can keep her entertained because I’m lost on what to do next once her attention turns back to me.

This morning I jumped up at 8 a.m. ready to run my child to daycare so Mommy can attempt to have a productive day off from work. She barely opened her eyes while cranking out high pitched whines. Her body was warm to the touch and she was super snotty. When I realized there was no way she could make it to daycare, I grudgingly yanked off the clothes I threw on and hopped back into bed with her.

An hour later, I stare and relish in my daughter’s excitement when “Happy and You Know It” plays. I think about how I am her primary source for friendship and comfort right now. How important it is for us to bond whenever we have the time. We moms place so much pressure on ourselves to fit whatever mom description we’ve created in our minds. But the irritation I feel when I have to watch my own child all day alone fits nowhere in that description.

Today, my body feels anxious and restless as usual. Currently, a quarter life crisis is underway, depleting me of important mental and spiritual resources. Every day is a struggle to maintain my mind’s equilibrium. I work in a position that’s high stress, low paying, and useless to the client population I’m supposed to serve. Every day is a new challenge to carve a time block for myself where I can work on my next move in life.

Obviously, transitioning from one career path to the next takes time and a certain amount of mental efficiency. But when you have a toddler, a full-time job, and a partner who works late hours, the time that does fall into your lap easily gets eaten away by other things. Time is conceptually money: precious, essential to get things done, and disappears before you can blink twice.

When I’m alone with my daughter for a long period of time, I feel trapped, irritable, impatient and resentful towards my husband. Why this resentment? Because he goes to work early and comes home late. He isn’t responsible for daycare drop-off and pick-up. He can zone out and play video games while watching her. When he’s home, he can lock himself in the office and do whatever it is he does in there without a tinge of guilt. The few times I’ve tried to lock myself up somewhere in the house, my daughter bangs on the door calling for Mommy. Moms tend to be unable to ignore those calls and if they can, guilt is sitting in the corner shaking its head at you.

Yes, it’s an honor to be the favorite parent. It’s an honor to be a nurturer and a blessing to have children. Even though sheer disgust for my job exists, I know how lucky I am to be able to pick up my child for 3 p.m. I realize how valuable the time I get to spend with her is yet only 50% of me is present. The other 50% is agonizing over where my life is going and what I could be doing at this moment to get

there instead of singing songs with her.

“If only I could get there,” I tell myself, I’d be less depressed and have more of myself to give. More to teach her. More of the world to show her. I’d be a better example of perseverance and success.

This is where I am when I’m alone with my toddler. One foot in the future. One in the present. I’m a firm believer it does take a village to raise a child. Right now I am that village. I’ve just began practicing the art of mindfulness at the encouragement of my therapist. I’m optimistic this will allow me to devote 100% of myself to my family while on this journey. Only once will they be this young and we should strive to cherish every minute of it.

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