A couple of weeks ago I started an evening course as a step on my journey back into the workforce. It’s only two evenings a week for a few hours but it’s the longest time I have ever been away from Little P.
I know, I know. I can almost hear the eye rolling from here and believe me I’ve seen plenty of it from family and friends. A small child being left for a few hours a week with her Dad??!! A real tear jerker. Practically a remake of ‘Who Will Love My Children’! But it’s not so much the fact that I’m leaving her now for a few hours that’s causing me upset. It’s the fact that this is just the first step in a process. The first ‘letting go’, whether it happens at two months or two years, is always going to be a heart breaker because it will end in the ultimate letting go when child disappears into adult.
I remember when she was a tiny newborn and a combination of breastfeeding plus co-sleeping made me feel, at times, like the umbilical cord hadn’t really been cut. A trip to the shops without her felt so odd, as though I had left an arm behind. Many times I’ve read articles or heard friends speak about the importance of me time, time spent away from being a parent. But, although I understand and appreciate how important it is for many, the concept has always felt alien to me. I can honestly say that I’ve never felt the need to be apart from my daughter. The rare occasions I do get out on my own are spent mostly looking forward to getting back to her.
But admitting this is difficult. I feel people will think I’m some kind of hyper judgmental Supermum or a martyr to motherhood or, worst of all, a bit odd! Maybe I am a bit odd, a bit over invested in being a Mum, holding onto my daughter a bit too tightly and losing sight of myself in the process. It certainly doesn’t feel that way. It feels like our relationship is a very organic one, happening at our own pace. I feel completely happy, possibly the happiest I’ve ever felt. My daughter (and her Dad) appear to be pretty happy too!
Perhaps it’s just taken me a little bit longer than others to begin the letting go process. Every Mum is different but, unfortunately, every Mum is similarly exposed to judgment. Leave your baby too soon and you’re uncaring or neglectful, don’t leave them soon enough and you’re suffocating or over indulgent.
So the process of letting go has begun and the sky hasn’t fallen in. But my partner, who knows me too well, left a poem stuck to the fridge door. A subtle message perhaps. The poem? ‘Walking Away’ by Cecil Day Lewis and I feel that the final lines are those most apt for me.
I have had worse partings but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show –
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go. (16-20)