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Is Daycare a New Chapter in Motherhood?

Goofing on IKEA beds, Ottawa, November 2014
Goofing on IKEA beds, Ottawa, November 2014

With Mark at school, I should be able to resume a normal 9-5 routine. Except I don’t have one.

For the past ten years, life has been a series of chapters written around events, big or small.

From 2004 to 2005, I focused on gaining work (and life) experience and preparing my permanent residence application before the end of my one-year work visa.

From 2005 to 2009, Feng and I worked a lot. I was teaching French as a second language and adapting to life in Canada.

From 2009 to 2012, more confident than ever and finally Canadian enough, I tried to fit into the corporate world. First, I worked on Parliament Hill and felt important and useful with my black pants and my BlackBerry. Then I quit, and almost right away I was hired by a Crown corporation for another demanding position that required me to attend meetings, manage people and answer calls long after the end of the workday.

This wasn’t the life I wanted. So I quit (at this stage, I called myself the “serial quitter”) and decided to start freelancing. I was going to take a break and try to figure life out.

I never got the chance to, since a few weeks later, I learned I was pregnant—another chapter started, again. The nine-month baby-baking period was strange: I was freelancing, doing yoga, and going out, yet I wasn’t really free or alone since there was a mini-Mark inside me.

When he came out, life got even crazier.

This is another chapter, divided into smaller sections. There was newborn Mark, where I could barely function: each time I was stepping out of the madhouse for a few minutes, I was shocked to see the world was still spinning. Then baby Mark, where we took tentative steps to, you know, resume life. I was working on my laptop with him in the sling, and it seemed that we were constantly either feeding him, or putting him to sleep (or at least trying to). Then he learned to walk and decided that “sleeping like a baby” was overrated, so my days became long hours where I had to keep him busy and entertained, dragging him from the playground to the mall, from Chapters to Starbucks because, hell, I needed coffee to keep up. Earlier this year, we finally started to send him to Feng’s parents once in a while, for a day or two every week. I’d cram whatever I couldn’t do when he was around into this precious free time—cleaning, working, waxing legs, vacuuming, laundry, more work and then it was time to pick him up again and figure out where to go, where to hang out with him.

And now, school. My baby boy is no longer a baby, and he has a life away from us—for a few hours a day, anyway.

When we were in Wuhan, there was a kindergarten close to our hotel. We walked by every day and there were always dozens of parents waiting at the door for hours before the kids were let out. “Why do they even bother putting the kids at school?” I asked Feng, puzzled. “Helicopter parenting at its finest!” we laughed.

I kind of get it now. It’s not that easy to let it go.

I was the one assuring everyone that Mark would adapt to school and get over separation anxiety. “Being at school is way better for him than pacing the mall with me,” I claimed.

Mark is fine. For the past few days, he has been waving “bye bye!” as soon as he sees his classroom, and he insists on carrying his red backpack. I drop him off, and I leave, alone.

But what now? According to Feng, I should relax more. According to my mother-in-law, I should get baby number two on the way (strangely enough, she doesn’t pressure Feng as much, even though it kind of takes two people…). According to my bank account statements, I should work.

My work ebbs and flows. Assignments come or they don’t, and there isn’t much I can do about it.

I want to tackle bigger projects, personal stuff I’ve been putting off because I didn’t have time or the energy to accomplish anything.

Should I go for it? I’m almost afraid to jinx everything.

Maybe I’m just afraid to fail…

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