Trying to Find More Hours in the Day

On Facebook last week, a fellow working mom posted the Business Week article Work-Life Balance: Late Nights at Home Now Common. I almost laughed out loud as I read the first paragraph because it fit me (and my husband) to a tee:

This productivity is great! But I feel so, so tired. Like I should be under the covers instead of checking off my endless to-do list. That’s because it’s bedtime, 11 p.m., and I’m home in my striped pajamas.

Flexible work schedules are great and with the continued technological advances, easier to come by. Just in the past week, a flexible work schedule and modern technology allowed me to respond to an urgent email while at the doctor’s office with my daughter, work from home on the virtual portal while waiting on a repairman, and dictate emails through my phone while sitting in traffic on the way to daycare. But with the ability to have this kind of flexibility, should it be expected that employees are constantly online?

Read More on Liberating Working Moms 

Llama Llama Guilt Trip Mama

Lila loves reading books and has begun coming home from day care retelling the tales from the books they read that day.  To help feed her love of books, we got her a library card last weekend.  She is pretty excited to be able to ask about a book and that we can find it at the library to read.  Earlier this week she asked for Llama Llama Red Pajama, which we’ll pick up this weekend.  As it happened, they read another Llama book this week at school – Llama Llama Misses Mama.

When Lila starting telling me about the book, she said that Llama went to day care and was sad because Mama left and he didn’t want to play with anything. My working mama ears prickled about the story. I talked to her teacher and she said the kids loved it and could relate to it, the mama comes at the end of the day and it rhymed! (Apparently all the important elements of a good early pre-school book.) I kept asking Lila more about the book – did Llama ever feel better? Did his mom come back? Did she ever get sad like Llama does at school (yes) but she knows that mama will come to pick her up, though it can be hard to wait for mama.  Still feeling unsure about this book, I found a “reading” of it on youtube.

Clearly this book was created by someone who thought working moms do not have enough guilt already. The pictures of Llama clutching his baby llama as he looks out the door while his mom walks away, his unwillingness to play and then the eventual sobbing breakdown because he misses his mama so much, it was really too much for me.  Even then line “Mama, you came back!” at the end of the book broke my heart – did Llama (or Lila) really think that Mama wouldn’t come back? That he/she had been abandoned? By the end of the book, I was crying.  Giant llama guilt trip.

I like my job. I like working.I do not think I am cut out to stay home full time.  I miss my kids every single day. It never gets easier to say good bye to them. I worry I am missing too much of their childhood and I worry about how they feel. I can talk a good game about how much they are learning (a metric ton of stuff), how social they are (extremely), the strengthening of their immune systems (allegedly), but I still worry that I’m making the right choice. I keep waiting for the moment when I know that it’s the right choice for both me and the kids (and A, of course), but it doesn’t seem to come. So really, Llama Llama? You aren’t helping things. You shake me to the core to think about how sad my kids can be and it destroys me to hear Lila talk about how sad she is when she has to “wait for mommy.”  Let’s focus on something more upbeat next time – perhaps Llama Llama Respects Mama and the Difficult Life Choice She Makes. Or you know, Llama Llama Loves Cupcakes.

Being Kind to Ourselves

As my absence on this blog may show, April has been pretty hectic around here.  Lucy started day care, I went back to work part time, we traveled to the Other Washington for a week and then returned to work full time (less than 12 hours after we returned to the Emerald City).  It has gone better than I thought it might, but it doesn’t mean it has been easy.

When we returned home at about 11pm on Tuesday night, I told A that we needed to just survive the rest of the week and we’d figure things out next week.  So that’s what we’ve been doing.  Disposables instead of cloth diapers to day care on Wednesday.  No suitcases unpacked, simply stuck in a corner of various rooms. Sometimes you just need to accept your limitations and know that it will get better tomorrow (or once the weekend gets here).

So as we continue to be kind to ourselves and slowly work back into a routine of two working parents, full time day care, pumping, laundry, the list goes on, just be kind to us too.  I’ll be back with tales of our trip back east, spring in the Emerald City and what being back to work with twice the children means to our family.

Overwhelmed by Life

I am having one of those weeks/months when trying to get it all done is proving to be too much.  LC’s been sick, A and I have had cold symptoms for weeks, generally making everything more difficult to complete.  A is headed out of town again next week, which required reshuffling schedules and making this week a lot busier than anticipated.  We’re having work done on the house that we’ve been putting off for months but really needs to be complete.  All of this results in my having “worked from home” (or planning to do so) 5 out of 12 days. 

I’m very lucky to have a flexible job that allows me to work from home when I have a sick kid or have to supervise home repairs.  But being the one with the “flexible job” means you are the one who leaves in the middle of conference calls to pick up the baby from day care when she has a fever, the one who meets the contractor at home and who works from home almost 50% of the month of May. 

I feel pulled in many directions – to be a good mom and taking care of my daughter when she is sick, to be a good wife and pick up the slack when my husband’s career doesn’t allow him the same flexibility (or he forgets to mention an upcoming business trip), to be a good homemaker and manage the home repairs, dog walker, grocery shopping and lawn care.  But it is a lot.  And it is overwhelming. 

The big picture is by next Wednesday many of these distractions from our regular life will be done and we’ll be preparing to get away for a long weekend.  So for now I will focus on the short term-ness of this current stress, focus on climbing the hill in front of us and hope that the downhill on the other side is easy and relaxing.  And if climbing the hill currently in front of me requires a triple chocolate cupcake from Trophy Cupcakes, so be it.

Be Here Now

Recently I’ve been having difficulty finding balance between work and home.  I feel that I am unable to give the time and attention I want/need to at work because of the demands at home.  More than anything, I want to be with LC and enjoy her as she grow up everyday. On Thursday I felt guilty for coming into work late because of taking LC to a doctor’s appointment, but then cried as I watched her toddle into the playground at day care holding the hand of her teacher.  She was so happy to be headed to the playground and I felt terrible that I wasn’t my hand that she was holding and that I wouldn’t be the one there to watch her climb up and down the slide, enjoying her day. 

I’m trying to work on being “in the now” a little bit more – trying to use the time I am away from LC for as much work as possible and then not thinking about work in the precious hours I get to spend with LC each day.  But it’s hard.  There are urgent emails received at 8:30 at night or things that simply just must done before the next day.  Just as some days I sit at my desk and watch videos of LC on my phone or press refresh 15 times on my email hoping the daily update from day care appears.

I like working.  I like my job and our lifestyle does not support having me stay at home.  But I miss LC.  I’m happy she’s happy at daycare, but I wish I were the one making her happy and planting strawberries on the playground with her.  In a perfect world I’d work 3 or 4 days and have the rest to spend with LC each week.  Maybe one day I’ll need to adjust my schedule to make more time as our family grows.  But for now, I will continue trying to work on being present in each moment, working in the office and snuggling with my little bear whenever I can.

My Trip was Just Peachy

I made it – I survived the trip without LC.  By the last day I was ready to leave Atlanta and get home but I made the best of it.  I even threw some education in on the last day and traveled to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.  (I was *this* close to the Nobel Peace Prize.  Which was kinda awesome.)

A few reflections on Atlanta:

– It is warm.  It was 80 degrees when I landed.  On March 28.  While that was nice, to be outside and have sun and such so early in the year, I imagine come July it is much more than 80.

– You can have too much of a good thing.  I do not think I ate too much in Atlanta, it is more what I ate.  The food was so rich and involved many types of pork.  Delicious?  Yes.  Did it make my belly crave something not made with bacon grease?  Also yes.  But I must say, I may have to re-write my burger post after experiencing Flip Burger.  I wish I could have tried every burger on the menu.  (I had the chorizo with sweet potato tots).  I also wish I had been told that the shakes may be advertised as single serve but that you will live to regret that choice. (Krispy Kreme shake.  A-MAZ-ING.  It was like drinking a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts.)

– Being on the East Coast from the West Coast is a difficult transition.  Everything starts early (one day began with a working breakfast at 7:30am and did not end until 6pm), but you can’t sleep before midnight.  Also, when you end your conference day at 6pm, it is only 3pm back at your office so there is lots of people waiting for you to respond to email.

– Watching tv without a DVR is just uncivilized.  Do people really watch commercials? It makes Idol soooo long.

– It was nice having the time to myself – for about 24 hours.  I traveled, I read, I had dinner by myself, I had a massage. . . and then I was ready to go home.  I missed my family and being in the hotel room was lonely. 

– Every hotel should have a Ham Bar.

Sunday Nights

I think it is well accepted that Sunday nights are no fun – the weekend is winding down, many chores are left for the last minute and many things need to be done before the start of work week. 

My favorite time of the weekend is Friday night, after I’ve picked up LC and A and we are all in the car headed home for the weekend.  At this moment, we have the most weekend we will have until the next Friday.  We can choose to take out, eat out, have leftovers, whatever we’d like to eat.  We can watch a movie, clear the DVR, or (more likely than not) go to bed early and know that we just may get 11 hours of sleep. 

I love waking up on Saturday morning, bringing LC into bed with us to cuddle and nurse.  She loves to climb all over A and me, play with the remote control or try to grab B-Cat.  Long, lazy mornings lead into music class and babies who like to play percussion instruments. 

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Saturdays leads into Sundays and I love the moment we pull back into the driveway after church.  Most of the “must dos” and out of the house errands have been completed and we can do whatever we want to do.  Some days that’s a long nap, some days its house cleaning.  Today it was the dog park and Williams Sonoma.  (Woo hoo new frying pans.)

And all of that brings us back to Sunday night.  We stay up too late to try to get to all the chores and to do lists that were ignored the rest of the weekend.  We’ve had a successful evening so far – I organized my closet, A took care of some wireless network housecleaning.  I’m sad to see the weekend end and already miss LC cuddles, but I know we have next weekend to look forward to, one that is already filling up fast with to dos, cuddles and hopefully 11 hours of sleep.

Getting Back to the Grind

After snow days, three day weekends and a business trip to the East Coast, we jumped back into the routine today.  I didn’t have that high an expectation for how today would go.  Almost two weeks of telecommuting and traveling, we were all tired and knew what large inboxes would await us. (LC wasn’t too worried about her inbox, she had good people covering the Infant One office while she was gone.)  All of this was true, we were tired, our inboxes were out of control. But it was one of those days where the fun just kept coming.  Work things kept popping up.  Then a phone call from the day care letting us know about a “suspicious rash”.**  Any parent with a child in day care knows what follows from those sort of calls.  A quick conference between parents to determine who can blow off their schedule when and then where can we exchange the baby and her items.  I ran to a meeting on campus while A picked up and watched LC in the coffee show in his building.  Then I came back and picked up LC, who “helped” me write memos in my office while A went a meeting at his office. Needless to say, I was glad that I had lower expectations of how today went, since they were so quickly meant.

** If you are a grandmother of LC’s please do not call us in a panic.  Doctor’s have been consulted and no one is concerned.

A Scene from a Snow Day

We had a snow day today and everyone was home, snug in the house as Snowmaggedon attacked Seattle.  A and I spent nap time lounging in the bedroom, furiously trying to get some work done before LC woke up again.

Me:  So how do I insert more cells into a table in Word?
A: Hmm, sorry?  Let me finish this.
Me:  What are you doing?
A: What?
Me:  Are you cutting and pasting someone’s face onto the body of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine?
A:  I think it is pretty obvious what I am doing.

And scene.

That my friends, is how we roll on snow days around here.

Progression, or perhaps regression

I pump approximately three times a day.  Once before work and twice at work.  When I first returned to work after maternity leave, I was going to be productive during those two pumping sessions.  I would bring in items to approve, review contracts – no one would even know I was missing from my office.  This was hard at the start because I was really, really tired.  Forget writing contracts.  I was lucky to not sleep through the entire time I was in the lactation room.  (Or the Lactation Station as I like to refer to it.) 

Shortly after that, I decided that working while pumping was not necessary – I should just get in, pump and then get out.  At the time my supply was enough that I could get in and out in fifteen minutes with at least 5 ounces.  As my supply dwindled, so did my motivation to be too in and out.  After all, if I were a smoker, I’d be allowed to take breaks to smoke.  So why not use my full time to relax.

So I started reading books.  Watching shows on Hulu+ (Up All Night.  Watch it, it is hilarious.) and HBOGo (Hung.  Amusing.  I can watch a full episode in a pumping session.)  As I tweeted, our Lactation Station was moved to another building and our office now has a phone.  I try to use the time to make phone calls or catch up on personal to dos (including online Christmas shopping). 

As the holidays get closer, I realize my Christmas knitting list is not getting shorter and I need to find more time in the day to knit and cross things off my list.  And so today, I started using my pumping breaks to knit Christmas presents. I don’t know if I have progressed in my use of this time, or simply regressed into taking 2 half hour breaks a day in my work day.  I do know, however, that my holiday knit list just became a lot more manageable.