After 365 days of salty and sleepy eyes, 2 torn up nipples, 756 loads of laundry and approximately 476 gummed mum-mum crackers, I bid a sweet adieu to maternity leave and went back to work full-time.
The first few weeks were a lesson in heartbreak.
Absolutely it was a sweet relief to be back in the Land of Adults, where I could loiter in the bathroom and eat a meal without defending it from groping hands. But when I left my daughter at daycare, I knew there were milestone moments that I would miss: bubbles blown, new words sounded out and kisses given away.
For the first few months I sat at my desk every day and wished with my whole heart that I was at home. The two of us snugly tucked under a wily blanket fort, where we would eat snacks that ruined our appetites, turn pages of thick board books and then drop down sleepily into our beds for a nap before the sky got a little purple and dinner had to be conjured.
We're now three years into this routine of me waving goodbye and then triumphantly returning eight hours later. I pick her up from daycare like an urban soldier, rumpled and tired, eager to squeeze her and try to smell the day she had on the back of her neck.
When I do the math, we don’t see each other very much at all. It’s a small sad number. I willingly send her off to visit Grandma every weekend while I attempt to do things that make adults feel alive, but the soft voice in my head, the one that whispers worst-case scenarios, sing-songs "are you enough?"
The light that leads me away from this dark bubbling doubt tells me this, "she was enough."
She is my Mama. She raised me and my brother by herself after my 9th birthday and a divorce. She worked hours that didn't let her see the sun, but we rotated around her like she was the sun. She wasn’t always there but we could always feel her warmth.
While she worked from 7am-7 pm, we attended a wonderful family daycare, where we ate real homemade cookie dough, played tag until our chests hurt, crushed hard on other working parent refugees, and marched to school together in small clots, crunching down our tangy vitamin C pills.
I was just 11, maybe 12 when I begged to leave daycare and be left in charge, to be trusted enough to stay home and care for myself and my 7 year old brother. It was a different time back then. Crazy shit like that was okay.
It was an hour walk, each way, from our tiny bungalow to school, and we trudged it each and every day. On particularly icy days I wished with every step that we could afford fur coats because surely they could keep us warm the best.
I learned quickly and eagerly how to cook, iron, make sturdy lunches, empty wet clots of laundry into the dryer, feed an angry cat a pill, rent videos, and pay a cab to take us to soccer practice.
When we were sick we would have the creaking house to ourselves, squat in front of the TV with 17 blankets, and rustle through cupboards for snacks. Wait and listen every night for the spray of gravel that indicated her return, arms laden with dripping hot 7-11 donairs and Archie comics.
As we grew up, we let her sleep in on weekends. She would take us to our favorite places and shadow us as we picked out items she paid too much for. We rolled our eyes and borrowed the car and borrowed $20 that we promised to pay back (and never did), and made fun of her and laughed at her Mom-isms because we were clearly so much cooler.
When I was in high school and home sick, I’d crawl into her unmade empty bed, with 5 pillows, 6 different blankets, and a heating pad still plugged in. Without fail, in that cocoon, I'd fall into the best sleep. It was her all around me. It was love.
I couldn't tell you a single time that we sat and did a craft, let ice cream run down our arms in mock panic, or read books in a fort. It didn’t matter then or now. Because I knew, like I knew my own name, that my Mom was always there, and always loved us best and always loved us the most.
And when I was in the thick of it, the dirty dark moments, when I needed her desperately, tearful and terrified, or exuberant and sloppily loud with celebration, she was always there.
She was, and still is, that voice that arcs just a little higher when I fall, "oh my girl."
So, I work, and I work on reminding myself that I am still a beat in my girl's heart even when I'm not beside her.
When we drive home together after daycare pick up, I snake my right hand back and touch the spot where her pants and sock don’t meet. I ask 76 questions about her day and she ignores most of them.
The sun hits the back of our heads and I turn many corners until we get home. I unpack our totes from the trunk, load myself up like a Sherpa and swing her up into my arms even though she should absolutely be walking these steps.
These moments I steal. These minutes are mine and hers. When she's older she won't be able to extract them from her memory but she will feel them, wear them like a cloak, and know them like a simple truth.
She is my girl and I was enough.
Guest post written by Brooke Takhar. Brooke is a Vancouver-based story-teller and Mama of one goon. She runs so she can eat ice cream and blogs so she can make fun of her parenting mistakes. If you need a pen pal, gluten free recipe or a meaningless celebrity gossip partner, she’s your gal. You can find all her exaggerations at missteenussr.com, her personal website for the past 65 years. Brooke’s stories have also been featured on Blunt Moms, Scary Mommy, In the Powder Room, Project Underblog and Review 2 a Kill. When she’s not writing, sleeping or dumping black coffee into her corneas, she is on Facebook or Twitter.