When Boy was hovering on one side or the other of the baby/toddler threshold, I explained to a colleague what it felt like to work outside the home. It's similar to stepping off a plane after a long flight: it feels like you're still moving. When I went to work, I felt an absence, an empty heaviness on my right hip where he should have been sitting, on my right shoulder where he should have been resting his head.
At some point, probably as he rounded the bend to two, that weighty absence dissipated a bit. Partly because he was growing up and needed the stimulation he was getting with other kids, and partly because his behavior was becoming so challenging that I looked forward to the break of going to work. That might make me a bad person, but I'd venture to say I'm not alone. The image of the stay-at-home-parent who can be on duty 24 hours a day and stay smiley, patient, and bathed is a fallacy, I'm convinced. Parenting is a hard job.
There have been times in the past year when I've wanted nothing else than to walk out the door and into my pre-baby life for a week. In one moment of supreme consternation, I told Husband that I couldn't Do It Anymore and that it would have to be on him. He rightfully told me to get the hell over it and man up.
Lately, that weighty absence has returned, and I felt it acutely all day at work today. It wasn't a slow day. Far from it, in fact. I had plenty to do. But still I felt that ache, as if something unnatural were happening. I was separated from my baby, and I didn't want to be.
She stood up unaided yesterday for a brief moment. This morning she said "ball" and held on to me and screamed when her otherwise beloved nanny tried to take her so I could get out the door. Nanny and I later compared notes, and realized that we each thought we must have been mistaken when we heard her say "yellow," but it happened twice. Genius baby. In the span of a week, she's become clingy, mobile, and increasingly verbal. She sleeps on her side now. She's more and more like a little kid with every passing moment, and I see her babyness slipping a way, one unlearned skill at a time. She'll never not know how to crawl again, never not know how to say "ball."
She's always asleep by the time I get home, so on a workday I get maybe one waking hour with her. Two if I'm lucky. Thank God she has just the teeniest sliver of a tooth. If a gummy grin ends up being her last vestige of infancy, I'll take it.