Last week, I became an auntie again. My sister gave birth to a gorgeous little boy (her first) and I was (and am) absolutely thrilled for her, my brother-in-law, and our whole family. Over the past seven days, I’ve experienced a range of emotions surrounding his birth. Most of them were to be expected. There was pride, in the way she handled the labour and delivery. Awe, in seeing how easily and naturally she adapted to the role of motherhood. Compassion, in hearing her struggles with sleep deprivation and postpartum mood swings. Joy, in holding the warm, snuggly bundle while he slept. Happiness (obviously). And love. So much love.
But there was one emotion that crept in which I wasn’t expecting to feel at all. And it surprised me. And to be completely honest, embarrassed me.
I was envious.
Not overwhelmingly so, but it was there. A little twinge of envy, at knowing what my sister will experience during her maternity leave. It’s true, there will be stress. And sleeplessness. And fear. And loneliness. The list of new parenthood challenges is seemingly endless.
But when I look back at that first year that I had with my daughter, I can honestly say that it was one of the best times of my life.
It was just the two of us, getting to know each other. Bonding. Figuring each other out. There were days when I spent hours just staring at her while she slept. I crawled under the dining room table with her. I read to her. We went to the park, and to yoga, and on playdates with new mommy friends. We walked my son to school every day. There was no job to go to, no commuting, no real schedule. It was stressful and exhausting but it wasn’t anything like the stress that ensued once I returned to work. It was simple.
And I will never experience it again.
I have no regrets about the way I spent that time my daughter. And I know that I am extremely lucky that I was able to have an entire year off with her, as many moms don’t have that luxury. It’s because I had such a great experience that I feel envious of my sister today, which is a good thing (the experience, not the envy, of course).
It’s just that sometimes I yearn for the days when things were simpler. My life today is anything but, and I can imagine it will only get more complicated as my kids get older, and my career evolves. Balancing work, kids, activities, a marriage, friends, and still trying to find time for myself isn’t easy. Sometimes I feel like I’m just going through the motions as life whips by at lightning speed. There are days that go by where I feel like I didn’t get to spend any time at all with my kids, and the time I do spend with them is filled with “must do’s” like eating, and baths, and tidying. I miss having the time to walk my son to school. I miss the freedom of spending an hour in the middle of the day just lying in the grass with my kid. I miss the excitement that came with seeing my daughter learn something new every day.
I think it’s hard to understand the value of something when you’re so close to it. I tried my best to appreciate each and every moment of that first year, but it’s like they say…you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone. I can only hope that my sister has the same experience that I did, and one day, we can both look back with joy (and maybe a little twinge of envy) at the first years of our babies’ lives.