When I first went back to work, my wise friend Ari gave me some advice: Once a month, take a vacation day for yourself. Take Leo to daycare, and give yourself a day off.
Thankfully, I’ve had the luxury of vacation days to take, and for three months in a row, I planned to do just that.
But sweet Leo caught on.
In June, he needed to be picked up early from daycare due to inconsolable teething pain. In August, he developed a rash at daycare and I spent my vacation day waiting with him at the doctor’s office. I scheduled another vacation day for the end of the month, and on the eve of my coveted day off, Leo threw up all over the floor at daycare. KinderCare call me to pick him up with the direction that he’d have to be symptom-free for 24 hours before he could go back.
The day I had planned to be full of yoga and coffee and writing and reading would now be my stay-at-home-mom day.
September came around and with it, me and Kyle’s planned overnight trip to Vegas to meet our friends from Des Moines. Leo followed suit with RSV – parents aren’t going anywhere.
I tend to overthink how I spend every hour of my day. I overanalyze, trying to make the best use of it by whatever standard I’ve gotten myself on at the moment. If I’m planning a day off to myself, I plot it out by the minute – will I go to yoga or Orangetheory? Will I go to my favorite coffee shop or try a new one? What book will I read? What writing project will I work on? Can I fit in a massage? Should I try to clean the house, too? Do laundry? Meal prep?
Leo is helping me think differently.
Part of me grits my teeth and cringes inside at the loss of my work-free, baby-free Michelle day, but something I also appreciate about motherhood is knowing exactly what my priorities are and surrendering to them. If Leo’s sick, I know he needs his momma. I know I’m spending my day with a sick, potentially crabby boy and I am there and ready for it. Mom-mode activated!
I like that he takes some decision-making away from me because it frees me up to commit to being there for him in the moment. He gives more purpose to my vacation day without me having to seek it.
What I’m learning most in Leo’s first year of life is to drop all expectations. I thought this only pertained to his sleep or behavior or feeding, but it pertains to even how I expect my own time to go. Drop any expectations to how you’ll spend your free time because as a parent you’re on call 24/7. If I get pissed off or resentful about that call from daycare, it’s likely because I set these precious expectations of how that time was supposed to go. But if I let go of that certainty that everything will go my way, I’ll find I have a lot more patience when that call comes.
Because it will!
Leo and I made the most of that SAHM day in August. We went to a Fit4Mom stroller-stride class, and Leo loved laughing and watching Mommy squat while he lounged in his jogger. We visited Dad at work and met his co-workers. We all got lunch together and walked around Tempe, enjoying the 110-degree day. Leo fell asleep in the car on the way home, so I got a coffee, drove around, and listened to my audiobook.
The reading, exercise, and coffee still happened – all adapted to fit mom-and-baby life.