One of my favorite memories of from my first maternity leave is walking around the mall with J and two of my girlfriends who also had new babies. J was born at the end of May, and the summer was sweltering. I tried to take him to the pool, but couldn’t stand the judgmental looks I’d receive from other parents—taking a newborn to the public pool, my word! So when my friend A suggested we walk in the mall, where it was air-conditioned and the babies could sleep in their strollers, I immediately said yes.
I have no idea what we talked about on our walks. We would circle the mall, breeze by the stores, walking fast, trying to get the babies to sleep (and once they were asleep, to stay asleep). We would stop at Baby Gap to look at the clearance clothes; we’d eat in the food court and sip on smoothies, which were my coffee during that time of intense breastfeeding. But most of the time, we’d walk. While I broke in my new Crocs, J would sleep, and when he was older, would look around at the people, or up at the many skylights that glittered in the mall ceiling.
I lost all of my baby weight that summer, without even trying.
So many times as I’ve trudged through the day-to-day of stay-at-home-motherhood, I’ve thought of that summer and our walks. I took S to the mall once, by myself, when he was a few weeks old. Like me, my friends both have two children now, and were busy with them, or with work, and couldn’t join me. And if I’m honest, a five-year-old won’t sit in a stroller for an hour while you gossip with your friends. The mall was good: I people-watched, I got a coffee (smoothies be damned!), but it wasn’t the same.
J started kindergarten last week. Such a big word for such a small person. It’s so strange having him gone during the day, after a summer of intense togetherness. It feels like a treat almost—J’s away for six hours, it’s not costing me an arm and a leg, and I’m home essentially picking my ass. Sure, I have to take care of S, but he still naps twice a day and my mommy guilt is less intense with my second child to the point where I don’t feel like I have to be playing with him every minute of every day.
Last week, A and I were talking and she said, “Now that the big kids are in school, we’ll be able to walk the mall again.” My heart lifted. The little kids would sit in a stroller. The little kids would nap, or be enthralled by the sunlight streaming from the skylights down to the tiled mall floor. We would talk, catch up, drink coffee, and browse the stores.
We will walk, and step by step, maybe I’ll start to feel like myself again.