Thank you everyone for your support and kind words after my last post. It was a hard post for me. I think all new parents struggle with this self awareness that we aren’t always going to succeed in the same ways, and that the meaning of success is different for each parent. I’m learning this more and more each day. Thank you.
A big question I’ve been getting lately is “so, where have you been?” This is both referring to my blogging (well lack of blogging) and to life in general. I feel like I owe my readers, owe all of you, an apology for the silence. I did the one thing I said I wouldn’t do – stop writing. And not just in here, but in general. I have a journal where I write to Abby – things that happened to her, my current feelings, my thoughts at the time, balancing life. I imagine giving this to her later in life, and, as an adult her sitting quietly reading the highs and lows of my transition from me to mother. It was (and is) an important project for me. But, it has been collecting dust nearly as long as this blog has laid empty.
So, what happened you may ask? Well, after a week went by without blogging, I thought, I would be fine and simply recover, but then Abby had a fever and was home most of the week, so life became a series of snot sucking and fever checking. And just like that, another week went by and Halloween came and went. Then suddenly, we were on our way to my in-law’s house for Thanksgiving week, and the fear of driving over eight hours with a baby left me unable to think of a topic, let alone physically sit in front of my computer. Even now, the only reason I’m here is because I fell asleep on the couch at 8:30 and thought, I should find something to keep me awake for at least another 30 minutes so I don’t feel like I’m a total loser. And then we returned from our trip with a child who entered a new phase – not sleeping unless being held ALL NIGHT LONG. Then sleep training began, and now it’s been over two months and all I’ve done is make excuses, when in reality the actual answer has been in front of me all along. Here it is. The painstaking shocking truth …
Being a working mom is HARD. Basically, being a working mom is equivalent to swimming in open water with no land, raft, or safety net in sight. You spend each minute trying to stay above the water, and then finally your foot finds the sandy bottom and you’re, once again, full of hope that you’ll survive, and then a tidal wave comes crashing into you and your left searching for the surface once again. Then, when you emerge once more, stronger than the last, ready to take on any wave, a seagull craps on your shoulder, just to make sure you’re paying attention. Yep, that’s parenthood.
And, I’m going to assume that any parent (fathers, mothers, guardians of all shapes and sizes, stay at home parents, working parents, etc.) is having a tough time. I just don’t live those lives and I don’t want to write someone else’s story. I’m a working mom, and it’s hard. To all the working moms, I feel your pain. And to the stay at home parents, to the fathers, to those in other categories, despite whatever disagreements we might have, can we all just come together and agree – we have no idea what we are doing! I’m too tired to argue over who has it worse. I just want to nap, ALL THE TIME! And, let us not forget, I only have ONE child. I have no idea how people with multiple kids manage. I barely have the energy to brush my teeth some days. By the way – whatever type of parent you are, you are rocking it. Just thought you should hear that.
Repeat – You Rock!
So, as a working mom, here are a few things I’ve discovered about this new identity:
1. You live and die by daycare.
Drop off is at 8 AM. Pick up is at 6 PM. Have to be in early or stay late? Well, you better prearrange care – dad’s in charge that day or find another solution because anytime outside of that threshold costs extra. And remember, even if you’ve made the perfect plan, have EVERY arrangement set weeks in advance, ran through EVERY possible obstacle and backup plan, the world throws you that wonderful curveball of your child vomiting and needing emergency pickup. Which brings me to my next point…
2. Your child will be sick, ALL THE TIME.
People warned me. Daycare is a cesspool. Your child will always be sick. Did I believe them – nope. My child is indestructible, she will be too strong and too cute for any illness. Except that I forgot one little thing – babies are disgusting! Almost every day I see a child coughing and licking a toy, then handing it out to another kid who proceeds to suck on the toy and sneeze all of over it before handing it off to another child. Oh and yes, on multiple occasions, that original child was my own. Yep, Abby’s gross. I’ve seen her stick her own fingers in another child’s mouth, then another child’s mouth, and finally her own. What goes through the mind of a baby? Seriously?! “Oh, a mouth, I must put my fingers in there.” Anyway, in the short time Abby has been in daycare, I’ve been called three times for illness – one diarrhea, one fever, one vomit. I’m just waiting for the trifecta call in which all three are highlighted at once.
3. Your days are much longer than you ever expected, but never long enough to fold the laundry on the same day it is washed.
On a good day, Abby wakes us up at 5 am (more like 4:40 but on days you have those extra 20 minutes, it’s glorious). Then one of us gets coffee ready while the other tends to poop and tears. Then, breakfast for Abby, followed by an epic cleanup because now she chooses to feed herself, which means she ends up with banana in her hair. And now that Abby is mobile and in EVERYTHING, someone has to play guard duty while the other gets ready for work. Meanwhile, you still have to prep everything for daycare (bottles, clothes, sheets, etc.) as well as take care of the animals (if you’re like us). And, before you know it, it’s 7:45 am, and it’s time to get on the road. You’re wearing mascara on only one eye, and you have no idea if you applied deodorant or not, but it doesn’t matter, it’s time to start wrestling a 10 month into a jacket and hat because you chose to live in a place where the high one day can be 4 degrees Fahrenheit. After drop-off, you deal with your terrible commute, work all day, arrive home by 6 PM (if lucky) and start on the nighttime routines of dinner, story time, goodnight kisses, and prayers that she’ll fall asleep instantly so you can complete every task you couldn’t finish last night – laundry, dishes, that book you keep meaning to read. And then, 9:15 comes around and you’re sleeping on the couch. Yep, you’re a true party animal.
4. Someone will eventually tell you that you’re being selfish for letting someone else raise your child.
Ironically, my mom friends who stay-at-home hear the reverse of this: You’re selfish for staying at home all day and not contributing to the household. People are ridiculously opinionated about both sides of the spectrum – working full time or staying home. I’ve even heard from moms who work part-time who have been put down for their selfishness to only partially contribute or partially raise their kids. Why is it always selfish to choose what makes the most sense for your family? I work full time for a variety of reasons, and yes, money is one of them. We do need the income. But, I also enjoy working. And, my career is important to me. AND being a stay-at-home mom seems like something I would hate because I don’t think I’d be any good at it. Honestly, I think I would end up screwing Abby up more than I already do.
5. And finally, you will cherish the limited amount of time you have with your child.
On a typical weekday, I’ll see and interact with Abby for about four, maybe five hours. That’s it. In the morning she’s awake starting at 5 AM, then dropped at daycare by 8 AM. I get home a little after 6 PM and she’s in bed by 8 PM. And in those morning windows, we’re tag teaming getting ourselves ready, with getting her prepared. So, in that small window of time, I enjoy every minute. I tend to stop looking on my phone, watching television, or writing a blog post. I’m soaking in that little time I have with her – teaching her what I can, watching what she’s learned, getting amazed at what she’s discovered, and sneaking in as many snuggles as I can.
This working mom thing is probably never going to be easy. Schedules are constantly changing to adapt to the new skills Abby is developing. Soon she’ll be walking, and getting into even more items and troubles. Bottles will end in less than two months, but then we’ll need to meal plan her days even more carefully. It really is an incredible and terrifying adventure. And I truly love it, all of it (well, maybe not the vomit, and the boogers, but I guess that’s a small price to pay to see that smile).
So last week was a week of many firsts. It started with a call from daycare and ended with me in bed with a fever.
Let’s start off by saying, when daycare calls, they are not calling to just chat, or tell you how amazing your daughter is at sucking her toes (which she is excellent at by the way) or ask you if you have finished binge watching “Defenders” yet on Netflix (Yes, Yes I have in fact. And, by the way, if you haven’t, go watch it, it’s amazing. Jessica Jones is basically Veronica Mars meets Superman mixed with a TV-MA rating. And if you haven’t watched Veronica Mars, then really, what are you doing with your life? Go, watch, now. I’ll wait.) Anyway, so if Daycare calls, it’s typically because something bad has happened – someone’s hurt, someone’s sick, there is a zombie outbreak, the children have tied up all of the teachers and are demanding a ransom of pacifiers. In our case, Abby had the magic number of diarrheas. I know what you are thinking – “there’s a magic number?” Yes, yes there is and that magic number is three. Yep, she had three diarrheas, which means, she needs to be picked up and needs to remain out of Daycare for 48 hours once the symptoms clear up. I completely understand the rules and have no problem agreeing to them, but you have to understand, I JUST started working again. John used most of his vacation time for paternity leave. If I took off more time, it would be at less pay. It’s a little heartbreaking to realize that. And, of course I was worried about my baby all at the same time. But I know her poop. She normally has “runny poop.” Luckily, her teacher knows our daughter (and her poop) too. She hadn’t noticed any changes in her mood – Abby was smiles as usual. So, we got a warning – phew. We basically spent the next two days trying anything to ensure she didn’t have three diarrheas in one day. Daycare is Monday through Wednesday, and my mom watches her Thursdays and Fridays. We just had to make it to Thursday. And then it was my mom’s problem (ha! – love you mom!)
Now that I have spent an entire paragraph discussing poop, let’s move on to Wednesday. So, we did it! We were in the clear. Wednesday, I dropped her off. She had no issues all of Tuesday and she was in bright spirits on Wednesday. Then, of course, I notice one of the other babies has a cold. And in a matter of seconds, Abby was, of course, chewing on a toy this girl had just finished chewing on. Thursday morning she wakes up with boogers down her nose and super congested. However, she was still smiling as Abby always does. I seriously wish I could smile through that much congestion. So Thursday and Friday she spent the days at my mom’s house, and spent the nights with us, sucking snot out of her nose. Seriously, how does something so small create so many boogers! This also meant she had difficulty sleeping, then, in turn, so did we.
So, Saturday comes, she’s still smiles and is reaching the end of the sickness. THANKFULLY! Then, of course, out of nowhere, it hits me. That afternoon, I’m achy, snotty, and basically every sickness related word that ends with a “y.” Thermometer reads 101.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Super! So I spent Saturday and Sunday basically lying on the couch, recovering. And in true the world hates you fashion, it was the nicest weekend I had seen in weeks. Now, I’ve had my fair share of sickness in my life. But this was probably the hardest because of Abby. I couldn’t comfort her when she needed me. She was hungry and usually one of us can soothe her while the other makes a bottle, but I could barely stand up. Plus, I didn’t want to expose her to even more illness. Then, on Sunday, John went out and we decided to have my mom watch her so I could recuperate. And I missed her ALL day. But I just had to sit there, and get better, knowing I couldn’t be with my baby. I wanted to be selfish because I wanted her to cuddle with me and soothe me and make me feel better. I didn’t even get to say good morning or goodbye to her that day. It was hard. I’m thankful that John took care of me and her while I was sick, and my mom watched her while I recuperated, but I missed her. Sometimes I just want to be selfish. I don’t get her that much during the week so the weekends I soak in as much time as possible, and I felt like I missed the entire weekend. And then of course, I feel terrible because if she had remained home, I risked infecting her more. No answer seemed correct.
But, when she came home, she smiled at me and let me hold her without squirming to roll around, as she normally does now. I think she somehow knew I needed it.
Here’s hoping this week is a little less exciting. Or, at least, involves less boogers and less poop.
So it is official. We survived my first week back at work. I’m not going to lie, this has been a really hard week on me. Abigail – not so much. It’s pretty ridiculous that the first day I dropped her off at daycare, with tears in my eyes and a forced smile, I pleaded with her to have a good time, while all along her response was to giggle at a ball across the room. Seriously, not even the smallest lip quiver? She couldn’t even give me that? Though, to be honest, if she had, I probably would have scooped her right up and promised to never leave her. I guess it is better that she’s braver than me.
Being a working mom is hard. I spent each night prepping all of her things as well as mine. Then each morning we have to prepare her bottles for the day and her lunch. And, of course, making sure she’s awake, clean, fed and ready for the day by 7:30 am. All while making sure that I as well am all of those things. Almost every single day I showed up to work with some sort of spit, food, or other substance (just use your imagination) on some part of my wardrobe. Thank you to the inventor of cardigans. These are definitely a working parent’s best friend.
Each morning we were out the door by 7:30 am for drop off – whether at daycare or my mother’s house. And she’s all smiles during drop off. John picks her up and by the time I get home, she’s exhausted. I do applaud daycare and my mother for being able to get her to nap and complete a variety of activities with her throughout the day (well and of course for ensuring her well-being). But it’s hard because I walk in the door at 6 PM, which means I have 2 hours (possibly 2 and half) before bedtime and she’s already exhausted from an exciting day. So each night I’m shoving an entire day of bonding between dinner and bath time. And now John and I have to share that time, when in the past I’d hand her off to him when he walked through the door as I had her all day and he wanted some quality time.
Everyone keeps telling me it will get better over time. And while I appreciate that, just know that I’ll be wallowing in guilt and sadness until then. I miss her all day and have put photos of her throughout my office. I find myself just staring at them during the day, wondering she’s rolling around, napping, or eating. And how many times today she has smiled, and how many times I have missed it. But, I do have to say, being away from her, having the ability to miss her, has actually been much better for our relationship. I loved being able to spend so much time with her during my leave, but it did wear on me. Between the feelings of isolation from talking with someone who can’t respond and the feelings of failure from an inability to calm a cranky baby, I was on edge at points. And I do think I need to be able to miss her so I can really enjoy our time together.
So I’m trying to look on the bright side through all of this. And when that doesn’t work, John ensures there is always a glass of wine with my name on it.
PS – On Sunday, we welcomed Abby’s newest cousin to the world. Honestly, that was the best way I could end my maternity leave. I’m so excited for the days when they can run around together – except that I’m terrified that Abby will be running around any day now. Time is going by WAY TOO FAST! Anyway – Welcome Baby Henry!
I apologize for being MIA for the past week. It’s been a tough week on me emotionally. This is my last week of Maternity Leave, which means on Monday morning, Abby heads off to daycare and I go back to my office after spending 20 weeks with just my baby girl.
First off, let me say how lucky I am that I was able to take so much time to spend with Abby. Secondly, how dare it make me feel “lucky” to get such a small amount of time with her. And thus, the constant battle of Maternity Leave in this Country.
So the end to Maternity Leave. I’m honestly heartbroken that it’s over. I spent most of the week soaking in as much time with Abby as I could, breaking into tears at random moments, and telling myself that it was all for the best. And every time I soothed her during hysterical cries, I would battle visions of her at daycare, unable to be calmed by teachers. How could they understand that her long cries indicated hunger but her short cries just needed cuddles? Would they cuddle her, or would they be too distracted? And in the next instance, I’d remember that they are professionals, and her teachers handle this situation everyday. And immediately, while she would still be crying in my arms as I rocked her, I’d feel defeat believing that her teachers would be able to sooth her better than I could, thus making me feel like a failure as her mom. I hate that I can’t stay with her longer, especially as she has just entered this incredible exploration stage. Her gaze follows our pup around the room, she reaches for everything possible, and she’s trying with all of her might to transition to crawling. It’s going to happen before we know it. And of course now I’m terrified that I’m going to miss that moment when she finally pulls her self up and coordinates her limbs to move across the floor.
I know it is for the best. We talked about the benefits of her going to daycare and the importance of me continuing to work – electricity, food, and a roof over our head is important. But, I just didn’t expect it to be this hard. Everyone tells me she’ll be fine, she won’t even notice, and that makes me feel even worse. I hate that she won’t even notice that I’m gone. If she doesn’t notice that I’m gone, will she even notice when I return? I’m going to miss her so much. Just the thought of leaving her is breaking my heart, and she won’t even notice that I’m not there to comfort her when she wakes up in a foreign crib, or when she is fed by a complete stranger, or when her pup isn’t there to lick her feet as she attempts to crawl.
Baby girl, you’re growing so fast. I’m sorry I have to leave you when you’re not even five months, but I’m leaving you in amazing hands. Three days a week, you’ll be at daycare with teachers and other children. Two days a week, you’ll be spoiled by Grandma. And every night, I’ll rush home to see you smile, give you diner, and read you a story before bed. Please do not worry that I won’t be there during the day. But please do not forget me either. Mommy loves you baby girl.