After spending 3 1/2 months home with C, with a heavy heart, I returned to work. I started back with a reduced schedule 5 weeks ago. Taking advantage of the flexibilty of my employer and generous maternity leave rules offered in the state of California, I’m spreading my out 6 weeks of bonding leave – taking 2 days of leave a week for 3 months (leaving me with 3 days of work per week).
When I left the work force 5 months prior, I really thought returning this way would be an ideal situation. It would give me a few days home with C each week – making the shift back to work easier and allowing me to catch up on “home life” things that would inevitably get neglected during the rest of the time we spent with C (evenings and weekends). Boy, did I underestimate just what it takes to watch an infant during the day. No wonder daycare is so expensive!
My hopes of a baby happily sleeping while I caught up on laundry/dishes/cleaning have been quickly dashed. Many days, I’m lucky to get a shower in before 10pm (yes, I said P.M.!). It’s not that I don’t have any opportunity during the day, it’s more that when an opportunity presents itself, I try to prioritize the things that need to be done – and sometimes the shower slips to a lower priority for that moment. Sometimes, its laundry. Sometimes a nap. Sometimes we have appointments to navigate around (and drive time and nap time overlap, so I lose out on that break at home altogether). Other times, I lose myself on facebook for an hour (and thoroughly enjoy the guilty pleasure of it!). Looking back over the past 6 weeks, I’ve only accomplished one of my goals consistently – taking care of C. All the rest of it gets done sporadically. By no means am I unhappy about it – I think I’ve made the right choice given my options during the day, but it gives me a whole new perspective on the “stay at home moms” of the world and what childcare truely entails.
First of all – you’re always on. I think this is true of being a mom in general, but even more so when you’re home with your baby all day. Ultimately, this little being relies solely on you for comfort, guidance, assistance, instruction and basic needs. You rush to meet their needs, help them navigate their world and, ultimately, help them learn to gain independence. This means they are priority numero uno, and all other tasks fall to a distant second.
Even at this age, C needs the proper stimulation and learning environment. So, despite my strong desire to turn on the tv and “check out” for a few hours (or all day!), I resist. Instead, we play on her activity mat, read books, play with puppets, sing songs, practice rolling over and sitting up, etc. The days are filled quite easily.
I once envisioned being able to carry C around in a sling all day long and get things done around the house. Unfortunately, when performing a task that doesn’t require a lot of movement, she only puts up with this for so long before becoming bored. Ben is much better at making this work than I am. He has mastered the art of balancing a baby in one arm while putting away dishes with the other. Maybe I’m just lacking the proper motivation to make it work, but it’s just not my favorite thing to do.
After getting up multiple times during the night with C, I am TIRED in the morning. Tired throughout the day. Tired until the evening. Then it all starts over again. I’ve tried the “sleeping when the baby sleeps” technique. It sometimes works. Most of the time, though, some random idea of what I could be doing during that time pops in to my head and I become so obsessed with accomplishing it that sleep is hopeless.
My thoughts are fleeting. Maybe it’s remnant “pregnancy brain”, or sleep deprivation or the start of “mommy brain”, but regardless, it takes more effort for me to complete a full thought pattern without losing my train of thought somewhere midway. If I do manage to put together a full thought, remembering it becomes a new goal worthy task, then executing it becomes another. What does all of this mean? Basically, it takes me a lot longer to get things done than it used to.
Have I lost focus? What was blog supposed to be about again? (scroll to top…) oh, yes. Now I remember.
So to make a long story short, I’ve gotten a little taste of being a stay-at-home mom, being a single mom (while Ben was travelling) and being a working mom. And all I can say is… I had no clue what it all really entailed, and have so much more respect for every woman out there who’s gone down the mom path, regardless of which path they chose. It’s a joy, but at the end of the day, your feet and back are tired, your brain hurts, and you still have the evening/night to get through. I relish the times I can bring C back in to bed with me to get a few more hours of sleep in. I know they won’t last long, so I’m enjoying them while they do. Hopefully sleeping through the night will replace some of her naps with mommy and it will all balance out.
To all the moms out there (my own included) – THANK YOU! You all do more than any non-mom could ever understand or imagine. Though your children may not express it as often as they should, know that you have one more woman on your side and praising your work. Tell your husband to read this post, then let him know you’re going out for a pedicure. You deserve it!