The first thing I did in France was to get a haircut. I needed a fresh start.
One of my goals for this trip was to “reboot” my brain. After a major lifestyle change—going from an office job to freelancing—, the nine months of pregnancy and then the first eight months with bébé, I was in survival mode. But trying to make it through the day, day after day, can only last so long. It’s not so bad: we have a pretty cool little boy, my freelance business is doing well and I still love living in Canada.
But I am exhausted.
I have never stopped working. I came back from the hospital 24 hours after Mark’s birth and I was doing some editing on my laptop with the baby hooked up to my breast. I completed assignments well past midnight, when he was finally asleep. I did housework early in the morning or late at night when I had both hands free to do so. I took endless walks around the neighborhood with my iPod in my pocket and a piece of bread in my hand, trying to both relax and eat something, anything. I skipped pretty much all meals during the day because I simply didn’t have time to grab something between Mark’s six daily bottles, work and other tasks, and what’s the point of eating standing in the kitchen with a crying baby beside you? I passed out in the couch only to wake up minutes later with a sense of urgency—work to do, people to call back, grocery shopping to do.
And it’s about the same for Feng. We are maxed out.
We have a routine at home. Well, it’s not really a set routine, more like a survival manual, a long list of task we need to accomplish daily, from work-related duties to housework chores. To become overwhelmed is just too easy—if we don’t do the dishes every day, I don’t think we would ever find the time to clean up a big pile in the sink.
I suck at asking for help. I love helping other people and I have always done so, maybe because I am the eldest in the family, maybe because I got used to be self-reliant when travelling or when I first came to Canada. It’s not a matter of pride, mind you, and I don’t think I do better than other people. I just like to do things by myself. It seems easier and quicker.
Problem is, sometimes you need help. And I am starting to realize I cannot do it all. Taking care of a baby is a full-time job, and I already have a full-time job… even if I don’t actually go to the office every morning, freelancing is demanding.
For the first few months, I did most of my work with Mark wrapped against my chest in the sling, the computer on my lap. This is no longer possible: he is a big boy now and he wants to move, to crawl and to play.
We need help. And it’s hard for me to admit since I always think I can do it all by myself. It’s a form of control in a way, and I think I need it, psychologically. I need to know that I “did my job” as a mother, as a woman and as a freelancer. But I am exhausted. Yet I cannot seem to “let it go.” What a dilemma!
I also need time for me. Time to eat at least two meals a day, time to work, time to relax once in a while too. I can’t rush all the time, every day. Some mornings—okay, most mornings—I am just counting the hours waiting for the day to end.
So this French trip was a good way for us to relax a bit and to break the routine.
There are plenty of people to play with Mark here: his great-grandparents, his grand-parents, his uncle and aunt. I help out at home but I don’t really have to cook or clean. I don’t have much work—this is my holidays—other than following up on assignments and keeping an eye on my emails. I have time to eat, to go shop alone, to read magazines and to take baths.
So how can we find a way to do that in Canada? We still don’t have a solution but we know we need help. That’s already a first step.