Some days, I am haunted by another mother who follows me around all day. She is there as I struggle to get my daughter’s pants on in the morning. She is there when we’re late for daycare—again. She is there when I see the other mothers in management positions, when I pack my daughter’s lunch and wonder whether my chopped carrots, peanut butter sandwich and Babybell cheese will make her feel as loved as the other kids’ seven-course Yumbox meal with kiwi fruit cut into stars.
She is there when I go to the bathroom and notice the indent on my stomach from my too-tight Lulus. She is there when I forget to bring snacks to the playground. She is there when I thought I had a change of clothing in the diaper bag. She is there when we’re at a restaurant without a colouring book, when my daughter kicks at the plexiglass dividers at the restaurant while the couple next to us enjoy their Roti Chanai. She is there when I look at my cluttered living room and cower in defeat.
She is the mom at baby-and-me yoga who could maintain a squat while breastfeeding her baby. She is my friend who describes her meal plan of dahl, vegetarian lasagna and squash and barley chili. She is the woman with the UPPAbaby stroller and contoured cheeks I pass at lunch break. She is my colleague who said her body “just knew what to do” when she was pregnant. She is the mom who offered to hold my baby while she cried at mom group because she knew a trick. She is the mom at music class in designer jeans and a leotard that doesn’t need to stretch at all. She is the YouTuber who described breastfeeding in three easy steps while her other children played contentedly in the background. She is the therapist with 7,000 Instagram followers who has “hacks” for mastering maternity leave. She’s all the other moms who were ready to have another child already while I was drowning.
All the women who have come before me haunt me on my bad days. A never-ending narration of Alyssa’s Christmas tree is already up, Mariam works out every day before work, Would Elizabeth ’s living room ever look like this? Kristin’s daughter can spell her name already. Isabel would never have logged onto Oak Bay Rec’s online registration 15 minutes late and doomed her daughter to six months without swimming lessons.
Then other days, my daughter sings while we make pancakes with plenty of time before ballet class. She hugs me and says “I like you and I love you.” She never asks for a sibling. She tells me she likes my “cookie earrings” and could I please wear my “tutu” and dance with her. I put on my flowy skirt, she puts on her purple polka dot tutu and we have a dance party before bath time. Other days, she asks me to read Sasha and the Sloth over and over again and I pat myself on the back that my daughter gets so many books read to her. And how she’s learning math already. Most days, she tells me that the loves me to the moon. Other days she loves me to White Spot. Other days to “the great big city of Canada.”
It is these times—the times when things are going well and I am truly in it with my daughter—that all the other ghosts of the mom I’ll never be disappear. I remember that my daughter doesn’t care if I can hold plank for two minutes or where I am on the career ladder. She doesn’t remember our breastfeeding struggles and the permanent scowl she wore until she was six-months old. She likes peanut butter sandwiches and considers their daily occurrence a treat not a failure. Our living room is messy because she has so many toys and because I’d rather cuddle with her than stress over cleaning up. She is healthy. When she jumps on the rainbow sheets on her bed, I smile to myself and marvel at how I never thought I’d have such a fun daughter with such a nice bedroom and I never knew how elated I’d feel when she jumps off the bed and into my arms.
Most days before bed, after a bath and two books and setting the Gro clock, we list three “good things” that happened during the day. I say I enjoyed having dinner together, that I enjoyed our dance party and I’m thankful for a job that lets me work from home. My husband says he liked signing Radio Gaga on the way back from daycare and that he liked talking to his “work friends.” My daughter just says, “I had good feelings today.” She asks me to lie with her till the sun comes up and with that, I put my ghosts to sleep.