Perils of a Working Mother
It’s been 2.5 weeks since I resumed my role as a working mother.
My immersion back into the working world, despite returning to an entirely new role in an entirely new organization, has been relatively seamless. I feel like I’ve always been doing this work and have always been a part of this team.
What won me over to accepting this position was work/life balance. That juggle is always tenuous and as much as bosses and organizations exalt its importance, it’s not something you often see put into actual practice in the not-for-profit sector. We’re often martyrs for our causes and sacrifice a significant portion of ourselves in our quest to help others.
I don’t think my relationship to work this time is different because I now have a baby. I don’t think I’ve put the Doodle first and have re-aligned my priorities. I actually think my place of work and the culture of this office is so genuinely different that I may actually be able to achieve the fabled work/life balance.
With the return to work however, an additional 40 hours of time has been wedged into my weekly calendar. And with that insertion, the things that I used to do in the 40 hours a week that were not occupied by working while I was on mat leave, now have to happen at some other to be determined other time.
The laundry is getting done. We’re all eating dinner together. The house only got cleaned last week because Bella had a PD day and the need to earn some cash. Lunches are getting packed and we’re all still bathing regularly. Exercise, sleep and fun seem to be on a bit of a hiatus.
With 40 fewer hours a week to invest in my kids and running our household, I feel out of touch. I feel like I’m captaining a ship, but with my back turned to the wheel, and hoping that my first captain and the rest of the crew will tell me when I need to steer right or left, or when I’m about to head into a big black hole of a storm.
There’s not much time for me. There’s not much time to be a couple.
All of this is further compounded by the Doodle’s frequent waking between the hours of 7-10pm. The only 3 hours of the day that I would get to spend on me, spend with my wife, or spend with my big kids. I’m spending 1 hour of this running around prepping for the following day so that our mornings run entirely smooth, and the next 2 hours I’m spending pinned under a baby who will only stay asleep if she’s pressed up against me with my boob in her mouth.
She’s needy right now. She’s clingy. These changes in her daily life, in a world that used to be just about the two of us, have been humongous for her. And she’s been slowly getting her molars in over the past month.
The Doodle is thriving in day care at this early juncture, much to our amazement. She quickly bonded to one of the caregivers, and other than a few waterworks here and there, she really seems to enjoy her days in the land of lots of toys, planned activities and the company of other kids and adults. She never had the inconsolable, hysterical crying fits that we feared. She’s so into the day care groove that she naps in her crib after putting herself to sleep in her crib. Whose kid is this? Certainly not mine!
On the third week, day care wanted to see what would happen if they put her in her crib at nap time. For the first few weeks, she would just fall asleep in someone’s arms or pass out on a pile of pillows on the floor. All of the toddlers (right now she’s the youngest) head off into their cribs in the napping room at the designated time. Apparently they all chat with one another for 5 minutes or so, and then gradually one by one they doze off. Maybe it’s because all the other kids are doing it, or maybe it’s simply because there is proximity to another human being, but the Doodle apparently is very happy to put herself to sleep in her crib at day care which she pretty much flat-out refuses to do at home.
We also got our first progress report from day care and have our very first parent-teacher interview for the Doodle on Friday. They let us know about her progress in a variety of areas, and this is where you begin to question how well you know your baby or begin to wonder if she is already competent enough to show different sides of her personality to different audiences.
It took my kid less than 24 hours to figure out how to crawl under the baby gate so that she could climb the stairs, yet day care says that she hasn’t yet demonstrated the ability to maneuver her body around objects. Day care reports that she’ll sometimes scribble with crayons or markers, yet last time we handed her bath crayons she proceeded to eat them and had a blue mouth for three days.
Everything I know about my kid will be learned by reading these papers and reports that we’re handed. I spend such little time with her these days, and more and more of that time, is folding her into the things that need to be done in the adult world to make a household run smoothly.
I don’t regret choosing to work. I don’t think I’m cut out to be a full-time parent. But I miss it. I miss my newborn. I miss having the time to linger. I miss having the time to invest more in other aspects of my life. But with due time, this will all slowly shift again.
For now my days are regulated by start and end times, by day care drop off and pick ups, and the daily to-dos. It’s an irregular but comforting rhythm. It’s an uneven, yet oddly balanced, ebb and flow. I’m floating and drifting lightly for now.