THIS TIME LAST YEAR – GOING BACK TO WORK
I started this blog about my precious baby when he was six months old. Since I had lots of pregnancy and newborn stories to share, I’ve been “catching up” by sharing a current story followed by one from a year ago. Since both the current and prior year stories center around working outside the home, I’m going to start with last year’s this time, when it all began.
Just about the time I started enjoying staying home, it was time to go back to work. It was mid-June last year and is hardest thing I’ve ever done. It set woman’s lib back years in my brain, renewing the concept of a woman’s place being in the home. The problem, as I see it, is that our society has painted that image negatively. My greatest desire now is to stay home with my child, a place I envision as challenging and rewarding. I’m still all for a woman’s right to work, but wish we had not somehow lost our right not to. Had society not painted a negative picture, I might not have dismissed the idea of staying home until it was too late to do so.
He was nearly 3 months old – beginning to smile and develop a personality. He was still a bit colicky, but for the most part he had settled into mild grumpiness. I got into a daily routine of going to bed getting up around the same time, going for walks and the occasional outing, and spending time away at the gym a couple of days. The baby love bug bit, and suddenly I couldn’t look at him without brimming with pride and adoration. I got about two weeks of this before I was run over by a giant freight train called employment.
My husband quite his part-time job to take over childcare.
I was set to return on a Thursday, which I recommend to avoid talking the first whole week all at once. However, my sister had the audacity to graduate out-of-town that weekend, so I pushed my return date until Monday. I decided not to take my pump with me on the trip, thinking this would get my production in line with what he ate.
It was during this trip I realized the impact of all the extra pumping I’d been doing to freeze for later – I became extremely engorged and uncomfortable all weekend. We returned late Sunday night, and when I tried to pump Monday morning, I was dismayed at the reduced supply. I called the Lactation Consultant who gave me all sorts of tips to build my supply back – take the herb Fenugreek, pump more often, keep pumping 5 minutes after the milk stops. It worked. However, I soon learned it was unnecessary because my baby was not drinking half the bottles I was pumping. I freaked. Not only did I think my production was down, but I thought he wasn’t eating normally. Turns out he just didn’t drink that much. All that wasted pumping! Supply was not going to be a problem.
Time was a problem though. Once back at work, it became painfully clear how short evenings are. My second day back I put my gym membership on hold. After using all my breaks and then some pumping 4 times at work (which I later weaned down to twice once I realized I’d been pumping too much), I’d rush home and try to fit in a few toning exercises before it was time to nurse the baby. The first week I tried cooking dinner - my husband was a little more overwhelmed being home than anticipated and wasn’t doing the cooking and cleaning yet. That weekend I cooked for the whole week on Sunday.
Adding to my exhaustion, I still got up at night to feed him too, not wanting to relinquish this feeding to hubby now that I was away so much. I missed my baby terribly. I remember sobbing on the shoulder of my coworker, saying I felt like I was failing my baby.
She reassured me that all the moms went through the same feelings. She told me I wasn’t failing him because he needs a roof over his head and a financial future, which my employment provides. The only thing that got me through was reminding myself it would get easier as time went on. Every woman is different – many enjoy working outside the home. It kills me to have to work. But I sure do cherish the time I do have with the little one and am proud I kept up the breastfeeding along with work.
THE FUN CONTINUES
It’s been a year, and though things are easier than in the beginning, they’re not easy. The hardest part of being a mom continues to be working outside the home. I know, I know all the stay-at-home moms want to work, and maybe the grass is always greener on the other side. But I KNOW I would like it. I have so many things I want to do with my child while I am stuck in an office all day. I think about play groups and homemade meals, trips to the park and fun craft projects.
I suppose I should feel lucky that he’s home with his dad and not in daycare. That saves me stress over other working moms – I don’t have to get him ready to go in the mornings and dad relieves some of the housework responsibilities. But no matter how hard dad tries, he’s not me. He will never want to get our son out of the house much because he’s a homebody himself. He will never cook wonderful homemade meals because he doesn’t love it like I do. I went back to work because I made substantially more money. Even if there was a way to trade, my husband doesn’t want to.
As good as my husband is with our son, no one can replace Mom. I thought it would get easier after breastfeeding, and it did, but there’s still so much I want to do at home. At 14 months, I feel like it is time for our son to start playing with other children regularly. But as a working mom, I can’t go to the Mommy-and-Me groups at 10m on Wednesdays. We’ve looked for Dad groups and can’t find them; maybe all the other stay-home dads are homebodies too. I’m almost to the point of sticking him in daycare one day a week just to get him socialized. I think competition with other children would help his motor skills too.
The advantage over daycare of dad being home is dad can do his motor skill therapy with him. It’s better to have a parent who attends the meetings with the therapist do them than trying to explain them to a daycare person who has other children to take care of. The therapist’s prescription is short exercise session at least 5 times throughout the day. She says to think in seconds not minutes for each activity, don’t push past 5 minutes at one time, and make it fun!
This month’s assignment is bending knees and bearing weight on shoulders. Translation to keep it fun is to get him to play with his toys on tummy time over a parent’s leg. That way he has to hold himself up with an arm. Or while he’s sitting to play, bend his knees Indian-style. She said to keep doing the exercise from the class where I put him on all fours, but to ditch the pulling up help and practice walking.
“Go ahead and do it for fun,” she said. “But it’s not going to help him walk.” She explained that he is missing some “links” for walking that date back to his lack of rolling before crawling and other factors. Skipping ahead to more complex therapy will not fill those gaps. The first goal is to build up his shoulder and core strength and get him used to bending his knees. She put him at about 8 months in the gross motor category.
She explained that the skill categories don’t always develop at the same pace. She observed his fine motor skills, labeling them advanced. When I told her how much he talks, she said “He’s probably brilliant.”
Brilliant! That’s encouraging in contrast to watching him trail in size and walking to his peers. And she thinks if we’re consistent with the therapy, we can have him caught up in six sessions. The tough part for me is trusting my husband to do it right without seeing for myself. I just wish it was me home! OK, so maybe I am just a bit of a control freak, but it’s hard not to be. Would it be wrong to nanny-cam my own husband?