Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Working From Home

You can peruse any online parenting website or magazine and you will most likely find an article about stay at home moms versus working moms.    Most of the time it contains a "grass is greener" mentality debate on which mom has it worse.   One mom worries that she doesn't spend enough quality time with her children and people are judging her choice not to stay at home.   The other mom is always defending the fact that staying at home isn't a "cake job" and longs for just a few minutes to herself or the conversation of other adult co-workers.  One mom worries that she is putting her career before her family.   The other sometimes wonders if she gave up on her dreams for her family. 

What no one talks about is the work from home mom.   That is me.  Not the "I blog in the morning" or "I am building a home business making cookies" while I take care of the kids type of work from home mother.   I am the work from home mom that works for a major company from my spare bedroom while my child is in daycare.  Yes.  While my child is in daycare.

Maybe it is my imagination or just my own inner self-defeating thoughts, but every time I tell someone I work from home, I feel like I am being judged.   Judged worse than any office working or stay at home mom ever is.   When you tell people you work from home but do not keep your child at home with you, there is that slight silence afterwards.    It is probably only for a half a second, but it feels like hours to me.  In fact, I heard it when you read this.  

Why?

Maybe because not everyone takes working from home seriously.   I am often asked to meet people or do things spur of the moment just because I am at home.  Even my husband seems perplexed when I forget to take the chicken out to defrost or the laundry piles up.  Working from home must mean I am free to do whatever I please, including watching my son.    But the truth is, working from home is a privilege - not a right.   Babies crying in the background during conference calls are frowned upon.   Last minute requests cannot wait until after the baby goes down for a nap and you can finally concentrate.    "Sorry boss, I would love to do that for you, but my son is trying to climb out of his highchair.  As soon as I deal with that, I will get right on it.  Gotta Go!" doesn't fly.    If that happens enough times, working from home would no longer be an option.    And then what?

I would lose even more time with my son during the rush hour drive to and from work.   Bottles, laundry and floors would need to be cleaned after work (instead during quick breaks) leaving less time to focus on him at night.   My flexible schedule would fly out the window and doctor appointments or quick errands couldn't easily be accomplished just by finishing my work early the next morning or after he goes to bed that night.   So no, keeping my son at home is not an option.

And I feel guilty.   Maybe even more guilty that the office mom.    When things are slow, I wonder if I should pick up my son early and spend time with him.   Then that inner voice tells me my boss will probably pick that time to call me for the first time in weeks.    Many mornings I wonder if I should take him in a little late.   Then that voice reminds me that he needs to stay on a schedule and I really need to work on some report that is due.   Unlike a mom who goes into an office and knows there is no way possible she can watch her child, I always have that nagging feeling that maybe?....perhaps?.....but really no.

And then there is the guilt of not always feeling guilty.   After two weeks of staying at home with the family over the holidays, I was itching for everyone to leave.  Leave me alone in my home office.  I like those times when the house is quiet.   The boss isn't in yet.   Conference calls have not started and I postpone working on the latest task a little longer and just drink my coffee.  I feel at peace.   Until the guilt sets in that I am not feeling guilty that I just sent my child off to daycare so I could sit at home and drink coffee while watching the Today Show.

I often feel like I have to explain to people that I still work so I can actively contribute to our family's income, which only benefits all of our futures.   I feel the need to explain that it would be silly for me to quit.   I get paid well to do laundry, wash bottles, clean the toilet, etc -- all while managing corporate projects simultaneously. 

I then start to babble that it is probably good that he is in daycare.  It ensures my son gets daily interaction with other babies.  He is with daycare workers that are a lot more patient and entertaining than I could be all day. It builds his immune system and helps him reach his milestones quicker. You know, they say it takes a village!

And as I ramble on and on with excuse after excuse, trying to defend my decisions, I feel like I am being judged even more....

So when someone tells you that they work from home but their child is in daycare, don't pause with judgement or wonderment.   All mothers already have enough self doubt and guilt without other people's two cents. Just tell them that it must be nice to be that fortunate.   Because I am fortunate.


Monday, January 14, 2013

What I didn't know before having a baby

I am an only child.  I never had brothers or sisters to experiment on.  I was the youngest of all my cousins, so I had no infants to observe growing up.   I never really baby sat when I was a teen.  Most of the kids in the neighborhood had siblings for that.  The majority of my friends were also childless, professional women so I was never exposed to endless stories of babies where I could have possibly learned something through osmosis.   I don't recall ever changing a diaper before my son was born.  So, here are a few things I had no idea about...

Babies are time consuming.   OK.  I am not a moron.   I knew I would have to do everything for my son.  He wasn't going to do it himself.   I just didn't realized there was always something to be done.  I had grand plans for my maternity leave! I was going to clean all the closets. Reorganize the kitchen cabinets. I bought all the seasons of Dexter to watch. None of which got done.  How did this little, new creature suck the hours out of my day so quickly?   One moment it was 6am and after endless bottles, diaper changes, burping, bathing, rocking, washing things (rinse and repeat) it was 6pm at night. I was exhausted and the little critter was still going.  The days of quickly and spontaneously running out the door were gone.  Forget it.  There is nothing quick or spontaneous about going somewhere with a baby.   You have to plan it after a feeding or risk a melt down in the store (or have to stop in the middle of your errands to feed him).  You have to change them before leaving and make sure you have everything in the diaper bag for later (just in case).   By the time you do that and get yourself looking presentable (because you will always see someone you know if you look like hell), it is time to feed or change or put them down for a nap again.  What used to take minutes to get out the door, now takes an hour.

Some babies go through an ugly stage.   I know every parent says this, but it is really true in my case! My son is the cutest kid ever.  Like model cute.  Even strangers stop me and tell me I have a beautiful child.   But he wasn't always like this.   When he was about 4 weeks old, he lost all his hair and developed baby acne.   I panicked.   I didn't want one of those babies that people say "oh my, isn't he precious".   We all know that means your baby is tore up but no self respecting polite Southern person would ever tell you that.  So they use the word "precious".   My baby looked like a cross between an old man and a puberty-ridden teen.   It was bad.   Then he got cradle cap and looked like a leper.   Cradle cap is another thing I never knew about.  Anyhow, I was a wreck.  As embarrassing as it is to admit, my self-esteem couldn't handle it.   He was from my loins after all.  Fortunately, that stage passed and I went back to being just a mildly neurotic mom.

Burp cloths and swaddle blankets are a waste of money.   For me anyways.  The two things I have a lot of but never used.   My baby would not burb over my shoulder.   Even if he had, the thing was always missing.  Wherever I was, the burp cloth was always 20 feet away.  Never failed.   And spitting up?  My child did it whenever, wherever.  It was rarely right after the bottle.  It was often 30 minutes or more after.   Was I supposed to hold him over my shoulder until it happened?  Those burp cloths now make good dust rags.    And swaddle blankets?   I watched numerous videos on the perfect swaddle and never made a burrito baby.  I was lucky if he looked like a lettuce wrap.   So I decided to screw the DIY swaddle blankets and bought Halo sacks.  The answer to any impatient, swaddle challenged mommy!   Three seconds and he was snugly wrapped and fast asleep.   Granted, the Velcro stuck to everything and I still managed to mess it up a few times but it was 100% better than before.

According the the Internet, every symptom COULD result in death.  Being new to the whole baby thing, I found myself looking up every moan, groan, and movement my baby made on the Internet.  What did it mean?  Was he OK?   Word of caution.   DO NOT DO THIS.   Inevitably, every search leads to death.   For every normal response to put you at ease, there are two stories that will scare the shit out of you.   And there is always one story of a friend of a friend in which the baby died, leaving you wondering if you should call the doctor or just stare at your kid for the next 24 hours.  Even the reputable websites leave on a last note to call your doctor if you are concerned because it could be more serious....and lead to death.   I learned to just listen to my instinct and breathe.   If I was really worried, I called the doctor and asked a few questions over the phone.  Fortunately for me, even if she thought I was a total loon bird, she didn't show it.

I would learn all about poop.  I grew up thinking poop was pretty standard.  It all looked the same.  If you were sick, it may come out a little faster and soupier, but pretty much the same.   Then I learned there was newborn poop, breastfeeding poop, formula poop, brown poop, black poop, orange poop, green poop (all of which are somewhat normal), red poop and white poop (which is not).  I found myself studying my baby's poop the first month to make sure it was progressing like the hospital pamphlet I was given.   I found myself counting the number of diapers to make sure my baby was healthy.  While I knew I would be changing poopy diapers, I did not realize how much it would take over my thoughts.  Because of the Internet (see above) I now knew that if it was not normal, my baby could die.

I really didn't understand what sleep deprived meant.   Everyone told me to sleep before the baby comes because I will miss it once he is born.   What the hell?  Like I can store it up and use it for later?   Everyone explained how tired I would be, but it is hard to really understand until you live it.  By the time I had the baby I was getting up every two hours to pee at night.  I thought that was sleep deprivation and I was doing A-OK.   Nothing prepared me for feeding every two hours, then the additional 30 minutes to get him back to sleep; only to lay down for an hour and do it all over again.   On top of that, if the baby did not wake up every two hours, I still did.  My body clock said to feed him and my anxiety said that if he wasn't awake yet he must not be breathing   It must be SIDS.  Only to get up to check and find out he was fine.   If I got too close I would scare the shit out of him and we would both be crying.  And the advice to sleep when the baby sleeps?  Well that is just dumb.  Oh, it sounds good on paper and worked for his first nap of the morning.  But unless you have a maid, those bottles aren't going to wash themselves.  Neither is the laundry.  Last time I looked, I wasn't living in a Disney movie where the pots and pans cooked dinner.

I have so much more to talk about....but I will save it for another post.   We will be spending a lot of time together.