Push & Pull (Essay)
Words by Tania Peralta. Photography by Sean Leon.
Like clockwork, my daughter wakes up crying everyday at 3 AM. She wants some chi chi and she wants it right away. I can’t get myself to stop nursing her, so off I go. Half asleep, half naked, fully aware I should start weaning her off if I ever want to sleep through the night again. As I lay her back down, I kiss her three times on the right side of her face. From her forehead down to her chin, I can feel it in her skin, and in the rhythm of her moving soother, that she’s already back into a deep sleep. I envy her. And this is how it happens. Every night.
She’ll wake up again at some point between then and 7 AM for another quick drink. Sometimes when I crawl back into bed, I end up falling asleep with an unfinished prayer, begging God that she’ll sleep longer today. But, she doesn’t. By 7:30 that same morning, I’m in the kitchen fighting with her about how she doesn’t need a butter knife to eat her avena or why she can’t wear my shoes to school. We get louder and louder until Daddy has to come in and save the both of us from each other. We’ll make up later with chocolate chip cookies behind his back. I love being a mom.
When Daddy gets on the floor to do his morning push-ups, she’ll get down with him too, taking deep breaths in as if she’s really feeling the burn. This gives me an idea for a piece; I can see it already. Maybe it’s a one-minute spoken word short, or a piece for Buzzfeed (How To Get Your Kids To Exercise At A Young Age), or even a play, where the script is composed of a bunch of monologues from young coloured families living in Toronto, sharing their morning routines. Such small moments, but the inspiration reveals itself to be endless. I love being a writer.
By 8:30 AM I have to decide what kind of work day I’m about to have. I rationalize in my head, over and over again, about things all work-from-home moms worry about. I count in my head, over and over again, how many hours she’ll have to be at daycare for, in order for me to get all the work done on today’s to-do list. I speak to my guilt, telling it, ‘No, I wouldn’t be able to get all of this done if I just kept her home’ and ‘no, she doesn’t feel abandoned’ and ‘yes, she is having a lot of fun while she’s there.’ I hate having to justify to myself why it’s okay to go back to work full-time.
My 9-5 doesn’t look like one. My stay-at-home mom life doesn’t look like one. I’m somewhere in between, being pushed and pulled back and forth from one to the other.
Staying at home while my daughter is in daycare down the street means doing my work before she gets picked up. It means going from writing scripts on dark matter to finding a new craft to do with her later that day. It means sometimes the dishes don’t get done until 3:45 PM, and I’m running around to make sure she has a clean home to come back to. It means sometimes I don’t look at my emails until it’s 2 PM because I’ve been cleaning all morning. It means accepting what had to suffer today to appreciate and recognize what didn’t, but most importantly it’s getting up the next day and having another go at it with passion and enthusiasm.