On being needed

“I want mama!” That is what I hear on repeat all day right now. Sometimes, I even hear it while I’m actually holding my child in my arms. As if I’m not holding her tight enough or with enough attention. As if it’s possible to give any more of my heart than I already am. But, she asks regardless. She asks when I’m un-caffeinated, un-showered, have a bladder that’s about to explode, haven’t slept in days, haven’t had another set of adult hands around to help me in weeks, haven’t touched the laundry or dishes or eaten a meal. She asks when I’m on the verge of my own tears. “Mama? I want you to hold me. I want you to cuddle me. Mamaaaaaaa!”

This isn’t supposed to be happening, I tell myself. She’s supposed to need me less right now. But, I know that’s not true. I know that growing up is not a linear event. I know she’s going to push for space and then pull me in closer as we navigate her childhood together. I know that we are inextricably linked in a way that is unparalleled in its beauty and power, but, at times, frustrating for both of us. She needs me more when she’s going through something difficult, and then I give and give until I’m cranky and it’s difficult for me to give at all, which makes her feel more nervous and more clingy, and then I feel like I’m going to scream and then she starts sleeping on top of me all night and then I actually do scream and she gets scared. And. And. Help us both.

So, we’re both going through something right now. I have never seen Emerson in this much pain or discomfort. Her new two-year molars are currently pushing every tooth in her mouth into a new position. Not to mention the laundry list of things that may be making her nervous right now on account of us trying to sell our house and start a new life. So, she’s been needing me like crazy lately.

That “need” is something I’m sure every mother understands. There is just no replacement for a mother. Her love and attention and comfort are vitally important. That is an honor and something I’m absolutely humbled by. I spend the vast majority of my life trying to respect that very fact.

But, there is no way around how overwhelming being needed is when you’re going through a rough patch. Instead of lifting me up with joy, I sometimes feel suffocated by it. I find myself daydreaming about moving back to California, to my quiet, empty, immaculately clean apartment. I walk down the city streets of my neighborhood at sunrise (in my mind, of course) to my yoga studio. I drive across the Golden Gate bridge for my favorite lunch on the water. I walk aimlessly through the park. I shop for frivolous, extravagant items at the outdoor mall, because there is money in my bank account. I watch the sun set on the beach as the weird hippies with didgeridoos and bongos show up to thank the earth for another day. I watch movies all night and sleep by myself. And no one asks me for anything.

I can’t help but want to run away from being needed. I want the time to actually take care of my own needs, for a change. I want to feel sane in a way I’m fairly certain I never will again now that I am a mother. To sleep in a way I’m fairly certain I never will again now that I am a mother.

Yet, somehow, as I fight to exist on my own, I know that deep down I really want to recharge so that I have more to give. Because, I cannot exist without giving anymore, as difficult as it sometimes feels. I cannot feel life’s purpose without that little face on my pillow asking me “are you happy, mama? Are you having fun? Did you have a good day? Can we talk, mama?” as I beg her to just fall asleep. And so, I take a deep breathe, brush the back of my hand across her angel soft cheek and say “yes, I’m happy. I’m having fun. We can talk for a few minutes…because I love you.” And that love is everything. That love is exactly why I have to stay right here.

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