July 6, 2006

I have just set my 8-month-old son down for a nap, and I feel giddy knowing that I have a few moments to myself. So what if I have to pay bills and clean up the house a bit before I get to really relax? This window of free time is often very slim and getting work done now means less for me to do later in the day.

I’m sitting here at the impromptu office tucked in a corner of our living room, looking at a photo of me when I was six and wondering how I ever became the woman I am now. At 28, I am a proud mother, a stepmother in training, a would-be wife and a “home-maker.” That last part has taken me the most by surprise. Up until the birth of Diego, I was charging forward in a career as a newspaper journalist. I even have a master’s degree to show for it. Now my days are spent juggling stroller rides, visits to grandma’s house, concocting new combinations of strained foods, doing dishes, laundry, dusting and playing with Diego, sometimes in that order.

From what I’ve read in Newsweek and the New York Times recently, women are in the midst of a full-fledged “mommy war.” The battle pits stay-at-home moms with women who jumped into their careers soon after giving birth. I always thought I would go back to work after having Diego. My mom even volunteered to watch him until he could walk and talk and then we would send him to a day care center.

But as I struggled to pump enough breast milk to feed Diego while I was at work, the reality of my mother raising Diego so I could bring home some money began to settle in. Never has the value of being present for my son’s infancy seemed more valuable than any money I could have earned than as I squeezed out milk to seal in special freezer bags.  I knew I didn’t want him to get on formula yet. And just as easily I knew I didn’t want anyone else to be with him during the day than me.

It has been a challenge, financially and emotionally, but here we are. Carlos came home from work long enough today to have lunch with us. I was able to pick up his 11-year-old daughter from junior lifeguard training, and now she is lounging in her room.  And my work as a full-time mom is infinitely more challenging and physically demanding than the work I did as a journalist. I never worked up a sweat writing news stories (except maybe covering the occasional brush fire). I’ve dropped more pounds than I put on during my pregnancy and I have buff “mommy arms” from lugging around my 20-pound baby. Besides that, Diego has turned out to be a ball of never-ending energy. My mom told me recently she would have never been able to care for him full time. And with day care costing $1,000 a month, going back to work would have been an unrealistic choice anyway.

And from the bedroom comes my son’s familiar cry. A mother’s work is never done.


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