Back to Work

This week, after twelve quick weeks, I returned to work. In America, my friends congratulate me on being eligible and able to take advantage of the full twelve week leave. The men I know all say, “Wow, that’s a long time.” My friends in other countries think it is ridiculous that twelve weeks is considered ample time to recover and return to work. As someone who hasn’t slept a full night in months, I’m inclined to agree.

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I know there are so many benefits to being working parent. I drink my caffeine hot and enjoy adult conversations on a daily basis. I use my brain and solve problems that make me feel accomplished, even if just for the workday. I have a career, a boss, a field that I enjoy. Oh and the biggest advantage- dual income!

But I will never stop feeling that I am missing it. Not just missing out but truly missing “it.” Missing the best parts of the day with my boys. Missing them grow before my eyes. Missing everything. Our time together is mostly sleepy breakfasts, wrestling in and out of pajamas, perilous dinners (Will he throw a tantrum because we dared offer him food?), nursing in the wee hours, and reading a quick bed time book to one while the other protests, ready to be rocked to sleep. It is not nothing but it is also not enough. Would anything be?

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Even though I like most things about my job and my life, going back to work also makes me feel like I am running back into a hamster wheel. Thirteen hours of each day will be spent at full speed. Up at 6 so we can all get dressed, get fed, get out the door. Work hard to leave the office by 5 to get home, to get everyone fed, dressed, in bed around 7 before sweet tiredness turns into angry tears. Clean up, prep for tomorrow, take a shower in the hopes that there will be a few quiet, relaxing moments before nursing the baby again and lights out at ten.

There is no perfect balance. No parent doesn’t wish to be home, long to be at work, can’t wait for the kids to go to bed, and joyfully wake them up. Our situation will find its normal but for a few days at least I am giving myself the space to feel all the feelings as they are.

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There is something extra sad about going back to work this time knowing we will not be doing this again. We’ve decided our family feels just right as a foursome so there will be no more pregnancies, no more newborns, no more back to works. All of which is the right choice for us but it is hard not to feel wistful about the end of this chapter.

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5 Unexpected Perks of Maternity Leave

  1. Not feeling guilty for all the TV you watch. Okay, sometimes maybe I should feel guilty because it’s gotten a bit out of control but what you can do? Sometimes that’s parenting. I highly recommend checking out Juana Ines (Netflix), American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson (Netflix), Hell on Wheels (Netflix, violent – proceed with caution), America Divided (Amazon Prime), The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime), A Chef’s Life (PBS) and obviously, Fixer Upper (Netflix/HGTV). I DO NOT RECOMMEND This is Us. I’ve really enjoyed but you will cry during every episode which is too much for someone who is already chock o’ block full of hormones.thisisus
  2. Going outside whenever you damn well please. Perhaps your job already gets you outside regularly. If so, you are much smarter than me. I have an office job where I have to ask others what the weather is like because I cannot see the outside world. At least on maternity leave, I could take walks when I felt like it. Getting to walk my crazy dog when everyone isn’t also out is also convenient.img_2761
  3. Doing errands while everyone else is at work. There aren’t many perks to running errands with infants. A lot more people open doors for you which is convenient because as a first time parent who carry way too much stuff with you at all times. At the very least though you don’t have to be at Target on Saturday with everyone else. You can go on a Monday at 10 am without having brushed your hair because no one you know is there.

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    This is my hair on maternity leave. No exceptions.This is also me sending pictures to my husband just to say hello. 

  4. I was very surprised as to how much reading I was able to do while on maternity leave. The key is e-books. It is extremely difficult to hold an actual book while also holding a baby but you can read a Kindle (or other e-book device) or read on your phone using an app. (Everyone at my book club thinks I’m insane for reading on my phone but it has never bothered me. If you’re stuck in line at the post office or wherever, just pull out your phone and read.) Breastfeeding, especially in the early days, takes forever. You feed, get up to go the bathroom and eat a snack and then it’s basically time to do it again. Once I got the hang of it and didn’t need to concentrate, I was able to read instead. It really helped me stay awake for night feedings as well. Since going on leave I’ve finished Girl in a Band: The Memoir, A Thin Bright Line, Margaret the First: A Novel, The Underground Railroad, and The Rosie Project. Out of these I would only highly recommend The Underground Railroad. The others helped to pass the time but weren’t particularly moving or exciting. I’ve started but haven’t yet finished The Sympathizer and In the Darkroom, both of which have been fascinating thus far. My mother-in-law also gave me a subscription to The Sun Magazine which I keep next to my chair for some good nursing reads.

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    The danger of reading an actual book is that sometimes a fussy baby will physically block you from that book. 

  5. I gained a much better sense of what makes me feel like me. When I first came home from the hospital I was in a fog of fatigue and it took me a couple weeks to start to feel human and even a little longer to feel like myself. My husband would come home from work and try to give me time away but I just drove around town aimlessly. Over time and with better planning, I know what I need to feel whole. I need to be able to anticipate my day. I need a plan even if my day doesn’t require it. I have to get outside and feel the sunshine. I have to talk to adults on a regular basis about something other than poopy diapers and childcare woes. I need time to write and think by myself. Add a beer, a snack and the occasional hot bath and I’m good to go. Oh, and this. I need a lot of this. img_2964

Maternity Leave: A Welcome Change that I’m Completely Freaking Out About

My maternity leave ends next week. I feel completely and totally torn about it. There are many things I’m looking forward to. They include:

  • Using both hands to eat my food (rather than holding a baby in one arm and dripping a sandwich onto myself with another).
  • Talking to adults on a regular basis. Every day I feel eagerly await Tyler coming home only to have very little to say when he gets home. “What did you do today?” “Um, took a walk. Did some laundry. Changed some diapers. Didn’t lose my mind?” Communicating takes practice.
  • Using my brain! I will have actual work to do. I will have to write emails that make sense, solve problems and advise others.
  • Exercising. We have a gym at work that also offers lunchtime classes. I’ll easily be able to run, take a class or use the workout equipment without cutting into my family time.
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To cuddle or not to cuddle? To cuddle. 

There are also many things I am freaking about.

  • For 40 hours a week our itty, bitty baby is going to be with someone else. Someone who seems very nice but who I don’t actually know. When he fusses will she comfort him? Will she talk or sing to him like I do? Will he get all that needs (which admittedly is very little because he’s an itty, bitty baby)?
  • After 12 weeks of struggling in the absence of any structure, I will be moving back into a fairly rigid environment. Baby must be dropped off by whenever in order to get to work on time and must be picked up by this time in order not to pay a fee. I will have to put on clothes, brush my teeth and generally look appropriate. IN THE MORNING! This seems impossible.
  • What if my brain doesn’t work? I wrote a letter recently that included the sentence “Pregnancy and a newborn kills my smarts.” I didn’t write it to be funny. That’s just the way it came out. Now I’m going to have to write at work? Oh good. This should go well.
  • I truly lucked out being on maternity leave during this particular winter. It was filled with 70F days. We’ve taken many walks and explored a lot of our area. Even though I like my job I don’t look forward to going back to a windowless office that used to be a closet.
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Don’t get me started on all the smiles I will be missing! 

Of course, I was lucky to be able to even take maternity leave as so many mothers can’t. I work for a business that is large enough to have to offer FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) and we are able to afford to take the time. At times the lack of income was stressful (then again, I tend to freak out about money all the time) but we were generously helped by our families and friends who brought meals, helped with groceries and generally offered their support. While I wish moms in the US had the options that many other countries have regarding leave, I recognize that the 12 weeks I was able to take, though short, was still a gift.

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Haines and I have been spending these days with a lot of cuddles, long walks and an upcoming visit from his Nana this weekend. I’ve also been making a playlist for the munchkin as I try to improve my bedtime song repertoire. I welcome suggestions if you have any! (I know it needs more ladies. I’m working on it!)