99 Problems

Published on February 10th, 2015 | by Ruxandra Guidi

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“You Will Be the Center of Her World”: RUXANDRA GUIDI on Jealousy

I stood over the stove, making dinner, while my husband entertained our two year-old daughter.

“I’ll take a picture of you taking a picture of me!” he said, directing her to stand with her back to the white wall in our kitchen, while Camila awkwardly carried the clunky Fisher-Price camera in her right hand. He held his camera to his face and Camila mimicked him, then played the art director by suggesting another backdrop for the photo, wailing with excitement. Bear, a documentary photographer, has been taking pictures of Camila religiously since the day she was born. She’s his muse now.

They are the little tribe I’d always wished for. As I watched them, I also I fought back jealousy. This sentiment is one that’s hard to accurately describe: The love I feel for my husband is profound, rooted in our history together and our shared dreams. But Camila’s the one who gets me going every morning (literally). She’s a reflection of my younger self. Camila is my inspiration, and her presence — curious, innocent, and thoughtful beyond her two years — is the reason why I now truly believe in the goodness of humankind and in forgiveness.

“From the time she is born, she will look up to you,” I remember a former colleague telling me, when I first told her I was pregnant. “You will be the center of her world.”

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The thought had scared me to death. How could I alone provide all the emotional grounding and support my daughter would need through life? But as the date of her arrival grew closer, I also anxiously fantasized about our special mother-daughter bond. I’d get to show the world, and myself, that indeed I was ready for this all-important role.

The signs were there, as they should be, from the moment of birth: We were drawn to each other’s warm bodies. My instinct to nurture her kicked in and grew with each passing moment, and she, of course, was immediately comforted by my breastmilk. Yet her first smile, at about three months, was given to Bear alone. They make each other laugh with a single wordless glance. Bear is a hands-on, doting father. Lately, when she wakes up in the morning, Camila first asks for him. She prefers to be fed by him. She asks for Bear repeatedly while he’s in the shower or away on an assignment. And when we walk her to daycare, she often demands to be in his arms.

“Don’t take it personally!” said my former colleague, when I jokingly mentioned her failed prediction. “It’s just a phase. She’ll come back around, and you’ll be the favorite parent before you know it.”

Being the favorite parent has never been my aim, and neither is it Bear’s. It’s just that things weren’t supposed to play out this way. Even before Camila was born, we agreed on a shared parenting philosophy so that we would both love, discipline, and engage her with the world around her as she grew up. We promised to share equally in the grunt work and the fun times. But these past few months, I am increasingly left out. Quite simply, I am not the parent she reaches out to — unless she’s hurt herself, is feeling sick, or she’s tired and ready for sleep. I am that all too common stereotype of a comforting mother; Bear is her buddy, the fun one.

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This is not what I expected. During those nine long months before her arrival, I had vivid dreams of a relationship that was seamlessly and effortlessly lighthearted and nurturing. Parenting would not only come naturally to me, I thought, but it would make me a better person — a more accepting, loving, and patient person. I reveled in trying to convince Bear about this; in calming his anxiety about becoming a father by telling him the role would suit him well. Yes, our lives would change irrevocably, but our love for Camila (and for each other) would make up for everything else.

I can’t blame a two year-old for playing favorites. We must try harder to keep the love flowing equally in all three directions, I keep telling myself, to find that balance between the couple we were and the parents we aim to be. Perhaps my jealousy is, deep down, a longing for the bond I always wished I’d had with my own father — a moody man who wouldn’t stick around much but who was infinitely more fun than my mom. Or maybe it’s the recognition that becoming a parent has turned my feelings raw, intimately and irrevocably bonding me to the people I love the most. I’d like to think I’ve stopped trying to figure out why this is happening. The parenting blogs tell me I really should.

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Photos by Bear Guerra

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About the Author

Ruxandra Guidi

Ruxandra Guidi has over twelve years of experience working in public radio, magazines, and multimedia, and has reported throughout the United States, the Caribbean, South and Central America, as well as Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico border region. She collaborates often with her husband, Bear Guerra, under the name Fonografia Collective (http://fonografiacollective.com/). She’s originally from Venezuela, and is currently living in Quito, Ecuador



One Response to “You Will Be the Center of Her World”: RUXANDRA GUIDI on Jealousy

  1. jb. says:

    Beautifully said. Such a gift to witness the reality that the strongest feelings so often come along with their opposites and that we can feel them both, respect each side of the polarity, even as we long for the needle to point just one way.

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