It was time to cut off the baby curls. Surprisingly, Tim resisted as much as I did, but finally the hints from our parents and especially our nanny (who kept telling us that people at the playground thought he was a girl. I mean, who really cares, but still…) sunk in. After I took about a million pictures, we hit SuperCuts on Saturday morning. Just like Tom Brady, he went from shaggy to chic. And oh my god he looks like a LITTLE BOY.
A little scared…
Voila! My little guy, at 20 months.
Tags: first birthday
(For a comparison shot of his sister on her first birthday, click here.)
This baby boy makes me want to stop time.
Today he is one year old. At every stage of babyhood I think, “Now this is my favorite age,” and then as I get to know my child better the next phase becomes my favorite. So I trust that as he learns to walk and talk and his little personality emerges more and more, what comes next will be my favorite, too. (OK, so ages 2.5 – 3 were not my favorite, but we’re past that with one child and have a ways to go until the next gets there!) Still, this one-year anniversary is different: not only because they change and grow at a biologically astounding rate, but this kid is truly a joy right now.
When I walk in the door in the evenings he bounces up and down and claps his hands, or, if his nanny is holding him, he throws himself out of her arms (literally) and crawls over to me, lickety-split, for a hug and a big open-mouthed kiss on my cheek. In general, he can walk if he chooses to, but he gets so excited that he tries to run and then tends to topple forward.
Here’s what else he is up to on his birthday: He loves to be held in your arms while you dance around. He waves his hands up in the air like he’s in an eating club tap room circa 1995. He has recently developed a fondness for books. For a long time he had no interest in them other than eating them. Now he at least is engaged in turning the pages, but he seems to like them for this singular purpose. He doesn’t really like to sit still and let you actually, like, read them to him. Also, when I say he can sing I am not exaggerating with any false parental pride. Last week I noticed him yelling loudly in long, drawn-out syllables. After few days of this I noticed they had a tune: “Doe-a-deer” (which his sister and I often sing in the car). He yells, “A, a aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah” right on tune. Then, if you sing “Ray” he sings “AaaaaAhhhhh.” (It’s hilarious, and he does this all day long.) He can say a few words, sort of: ba-ba (for his bottle, but this can also mean “sippy cup of water”). “Hi!” he says very clearly, often while holding a toy plastic phone or even just his hand up to his ear (yikes, talk about imitation…). He waves bye-bye and says, “Buh!” and puts his hand to his mouth and says, “Mmmmmmm!” to blow you a kiss. He turns his palms up and says, “Aw uuuh” for “all done.” Otherwise, there is a lot of “Dada da da da da dadada da da” going on. He loves to point up at the sky, especially at airplanes.
But his favorite thing to do these days is climb and explore. He will crawl up on his sister’s Stokke chair (a wooden high chair that’s just like an elevated seat you pull right up to the table) and then crawl on to the table. It is impossible to get anything done in the kitchen, as you have to walk over and pull him off the table about every two minutes. Then he will crawl over to the stairs and crawl right up them and then slide down — really fast! — backwards. In the mornings he wakes up about a half hour before his sister, and his father and I like to bring him into our bed to snuggle. Except this kid doesn’t want to snuggle. He wants to jump into the pillows, or slide down off the bed and pull the cords on the shade, or pull things off our night stands (e.g., water glasses), or pull things out of the garbage can (the kitchen garbage can is also a favorite exploration area – ew). If he’s in our bathroom while we are getting ready for work he wants to stand up on the shower door and bang on it, or go pull some toilet paper off the roll. Now he can reach up on to the bathroom counter, and if we’re not careful we’ll find him with a tube of toothpaste in his mouth.
His other favorite thing to do is follow his sister. If he can catch her, he does one of two things: pats her with love smacks to the face, while trying to pull her hair, or go in for a hug. You know he is in hug mode because his thumb goes in his mouth and his head tries to snuggle on anything soft: a couch cushion, the (faux, Ikea) lamb-skin rug in his room, your shoulder.
Here’s my favorite thing: when he wakes up in the morning he plays in his crib for awhile: singing, reading books, cuddling his animals. Then he decides he wants to get up and he yells for you, “Aaaaaaaaaa!” Like, “OK, come get me!” You walk in his room and he is standing up in the crib and he sees you and starts to jump. You bring him over to the changing table and he points at everything in the room: the lamp, the shade, “Da! Da! Da!” Then, after he’s changed and nice and dry, he gives you a big snuggle. That’s the kind of guy he is: he is an explorer (there is no crack or crevice in the house in which he has not tried to get his little hands — if there are Cheerios or other small things to put in his mouth, so much the better); a mover (crawling, climbing, scooting); an observer (the sky! the other cars on the road! the grocery cart!). But he is also a sweet, sweet soul who loves his sister and his grandparents and his aunts and cousins and his incredible nanny. We know this because his hugs and kisses are many and often — in the midst of an adventure under the kitchen table he’ll take a time out to crawl up your leg for a snuggle. After he’s had his fill, he’ll leap out of your arms to get back to work.
We, of course, cannot imagine our world with out him. Happy birthday, baby boy. You light up my life.
Yesterday morning, I drove the children to a suburb north of the city for a playdate. My friend has three children — a little girl just a week younger than Little Bug, and twin 17-month-old boys. She and I were classmates in college, and while we were friendly then, we didn’t know each other well. We reconnected a few years ago when our girls were infants — we lived just blocks from each other in the Back Bay and were both attorneys. Because she went right from college to law school, she is now a partner at her firm. Nevertheless, we have many of the same experiences being mothers and lawyers. Our girls play really well together, and Little O had fun chasing after the “big” boys. As the kids traipsed around her sunny playroom, we caught up in bits and snatches, and I found myself saying, “Now that we have such a great nanny, it’s really pretty doable.” And I believe that: with quality, reliable daycare, the working parent is free to pursue his or her career with much less anxiety. If the children are happy and well cared for, you can spend your days at work focusing on work, as opposed to worrying about what is going on at home. Our excellent nanny has made that possible for me.
But, then, there are the weekends. And holidays, such as today. When there is no nanny and, yet, because of the nature of our particular careers, we still have work to do. On weekends, Tim and I find ourselves in a seemingly never-ending negotiation about who gets to work when. Today, for example, he is going into the office from 10-3. He asked his mother to come over and help me out, which just means she and I will probably take the children to lunch at the local diner, and maybe she can stay with the baby while he naps and I can take Little Bug to the market with me or something. Fine — I’m grateful for the company and the ability to get some errands done. But I also have about three or four hours of work that I should do before tomorrow — two hours of which I absolutely have to do before tomorrow. When will I do mine? Before 10 or after 3, I suppose. When Tim works on weekends, I don’t begrudge him the time away from our family so much as I feel guilty that I should be working and I’m not. I don’t actually work all that often on weekends — but I always feel like I should be doing so (everyone else at my office seems to be) — and so when Tim steals away to put in a few hours himself, it reminds me that I’m probably slipping behind.
If I weren’t working at all, would these weekend tensions ease? Maybe not because I might feel like the weekends were family time or my time — a break, perhaps, from a long week spent taking care of the children. That would be a different negotiation between my husband and me. But I wouldn’t feel this constant sense of inferiority to my own colleagues, one that I fear manifests itself in my relationship with my hard-working spouse. In a two-career family, does one spouse’s career necessarily take priority over the other’s? And is that the career of the highest earner? It seems that things would shake themselves out this way, but I don’t feel like I’m in the type of job — junior associate at a big law firm — where my career can take second fiddle and maintain any sort of longetivity. Just as I’m starting to feel like maybe I am doing the right thing (and have the childcare to make it possible, at least during the week), I’m reminded that — while many of my colleagues are in the office on weekends and holidays — that will never be me, and I’ll probably never really measure up. This is frustrating, and I feel terrible that sometimes my family bears the brunt of this frustration.
Tags: New Year's resolutions 2011
You know I love New Year’s resolutions. Two years ago, my resolutions were clearly defined and yet highly unattainable. Last year, they centered around simply finding happiness (hot showers, more wine, more yoga…). I understand why people eschew resolutions in that they set unachievable expectations, leading to disappointment, etc. etc. Looking back over the past two years, it’s clear that I’m not one who makes resolutions and actually sticks to them, but I do get a lot of pleasure out of making them (in that I set up some sort of idealized vision of the future?). This year, I’m less able to articulate my New Year’s resolutions — I have some vague ideas about living more simply, lowering instead of raising my expectations, and trying to exist in some sort of more tempered universe. Of course, in the back of my head is a little voice saying, “Run more! More yoga! Spend less money!” but at the end of the year that included birth and death and health issues and lots and lots of sleepless nights — and somehow, in the midst of it all, a growing sense of contentment — I’m going to resist the urge (at least publicly) to enumerate my Resolutions.
Instead, my friend Lindsey had a fun and introspective little survey/questionnaire on her blog this morning, which I’m going to adopt. I’m answering these less thoughtfully than I otherwise might (blogging, as I am today, in the short window of Little O’s nap!) But maybe that will make my answers more honest.
What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before? I spent seven months as a stay-at-home mom. I took a weekend trip to Florida with my college girlfriends. I participated in a competitive blogging challenge. I went three (almost four — since September 1, basically) months without running. This last one sounds like a crazy thing to list, but it actually imparted to me an important lesson. I used to think I needed to exercise for weight-maintenance. Eleven months of nursing, however, took care of that for me, and I realized that running in fact gave me much more than the ability to wear skinny jeans. If I have any resolutions at all for 2011, it is to remember that running keeps me sane, not thin.
Did you keep your new year’s resolutions and will you make more for 2011? Of course not. And of course — albeit with a more measured approach, I hope.
Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes! I did! But also my sister. And several close friends and seemingly half the tax department at my firm (literally — nine women in my relatively small department had babies this year!).
Did anyone close to you die? My great-uncle. And, just last week, a close family friend.
What countries did you visit? None. Sigh. Again, if I do have a resolution for 2011, it is to “remember Italy” (a metaphor and theme in a striking book I read recently, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is by Laura Munson — see Lindsey’s interview with her, here) — although in my case, it would “Remember Paris.” More on this in another post.
What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010? Patience. Acceptance. Faith. Confidence.
What was your biggest achievement in 2010? Having a healthy baby would have to be it. But I’m also proud of myself for going back to my job. It wasn’t clear I was going to, but I do think it was the right choice, and perhaps the first time in my life I’ve done something truly rational, career-wise.
What was your biggest failure? A few work-related ones come to mind. But mostly I regret the times I’ve been short-tempered with Little Bug and a less-than-present daughter, sister, friend, and wife. I didn’t put down my iPhone/work email enough to stay focused on my family.
Did you suffer illness or injury? I feel like I’ve been sick a lot this year — an immune system no doubt compromised by severe sleep deprivation and preschool germs.
What is the best thing you bought? My iPhone and Pilates. (Am I a yuppie or what?)
Where did most of your money go? Starbucks and J. Crew. Ha ha, just kidding. Sort of.
What did you get really excited about? My girls’ weekend in Florida. My husband would tell me that I’m being all “Joy Luck Club,” but oh, god, there was something so refreshing and invigorating and inspiring about spending three days with the women who were with me when I became the woman I am, the women who have been there for me for the biggest hardships and greatest joys in my life, the women with whom I speak an abbreviated shorthand language and who can finish my sentences. And now, at this stage of our lives, the women with whom I can discuss my career, daycare, siblings, husbands and parents. Even though they may not be part of my day-to-day life, the are a part of the foundation of my life.
What song will always remind you of 2010? Have I listened to so little music that I can’t answer this? Probably, however, something country (since that is all Tim and I seem to listen to these days). I really like that song Welcome to the Future by Brad Paisley, though I suspect that was not released in 2010. OK, so, maybe I’ll make another resolution: listen to more music. It makes me happy — just as Glee made me so so happy this year.
Compared to this time last year, are you:
— happier or sadder? Happier
— thinner or fatter? Well, as I was eight months pregnant, this isn’t really a fair question!
— richer or poorer? It’s probably not a good thing that I can’t really answer this literally, but I imagine that since we spent most of 2010 paying two mortgages, poorer!
What do you wish you’d done more of? I wish I’d written more — here on this blog and elsewhere. I have a great idea for another blog, but I can’t seem to find the time to make it happen. I wish I could let myself go with my children — really play with them, focus on them wholly, without thinking about what’s next (be it cleaning up lunch, or what’s for dinner, or how much work I have, or even who has posted what on Facebook).
What do you wish you’d done less of? I wish I had spent less time agonizing over my job — both preemptively before I went back and then also on a daily basis once I was back. I think it affected my relationships with my family. It’s just a job. It’s not the greatest, most important job in the world, it’s not the end of the world, and I’m not a victim. I have to remember this.
How did you spend Christmas? As we do every year, in New Jersey, with my whole big crazy family. We snuggled in during a blizzard and took Little Bug in to New York City to the Museum of Natural History the day after the blizzard — rather ill-advised when it took us 4.5 hours and four different trains to get home!
Favorite TV program? Glee and The Good Wife.
Favorite books? I actually had a lot of time to read and finished more books than I have in years, both fiction and nonfiction. In the former category, the three books that stand out are: Dear Money by Martha McPhee, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. They weren’t earthshaking, but I just loved each one. In the nonfiction realm I really liked No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin (the Roosevelts on the home front in WWII) and The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison.
Favorite films? I only saw one movie in the theater this year — Eat, Pray, Love. (But I loved it. Sue me for my questionable taste!) Recently, I’ve seen The Town and The Kids are Alright on OnDemand, and, surprisingly, liked both (as you know, my taste in movies runs towards the saccharine, e.g., Eat Pray Love…)
What did you do on your birthday and how old were you? I can’t even really remember my 36th birthday! Luckily, I blogged about it. It was spring, and I was still home on maternity leave, and Tim took me to a local Italian joint for dinner because I was craving a real Bolognese.
What one thing would have made your year more satisfying? Just knowing from the start that I was going to go back to my job and that it would all be OK.
How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010? I have to divide this in to two parts: January – September and September – December. In the former, it was black yoga pants and spit-up stained black t-shirts. In the latter, it was black Theory pants or skirt and cashmere cardigans or blazers.
What kept you sane? Red wine. For reals. And phone calls with my mother. Daily, sometimes twice a day. Also, emails and texts from my hilarious friends.
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010? You are not your job. In fact, I suspect that nobody really cares what you do except for you. You’re not a victim of some amorphous FIRM that is out to get you (a la John Grisham?) — you’ve made your choice and you can unmake it at any time. You’re not trapped. Also, even though you may get frustrated that your husband doesn’t like to hash out the nuances of your day, he is listening. More important: baby boys may not sleep and pre-school girls may whine, but it’s all doable. You can be much happier being grateful for what you have than wanting more, more, always more — this easier said than done, of course, especially for me, but slowly, slowly I feel like I’m on the verge of grasping this. I haven’t actually grasped it yet, but at least its a tangible concept now, something I can turn over in my mind, rather than something completely inaccessible.
Tags: household manager, nanny vs. daycare
Sometimes I am convinced I am working to afford a wife.
After Little Bug was born, we hired a nanny. Janet was a shy, 40-something mother from the Caribbean who was an unassuming balance to Tim’s and my rather type-A, talkative personalities. Leaving a new baby for the first time with a stranger is terrifying. Janet came highly recommended by a friend of a friend, and all I wanted was for her was to love and keep my baby safe. Which she did — I couldn’t have asked for more.
But also: I didn’t know to ask for more. For the first year JJ worked for us I was still in law school, and she only worked part-time. When I started at my firm, we upped her hours, but never discussed her doing anything other than what she had already been doing so well: strolling Buggy around the Back Bay in the Bugaboo, swinging her on the swing, reading her stories, cooking her spicy chicken curries.
Then we moved to the suburbs and had another baby. For a variety of reasons — most of which had to do with my fear of other people driving my children around — I decided not to hire another nanny when my maternity leave ended (JJ didn’t stay with us through my long, seven-month leave). Little O went to a wonderful family-based daycare where the majority of the working moms I knew in town (and, granted, I don’t know that many people yet!) sent their children. For Little Bug, I took advantage of her preschool’s full-day option.
I went back to work September 1. By October 15 we had to make a change. Trying to pick up two kids in two different spots by that hard, 5:30 deadline was difficult even when the Expressway didn’t have one of its usual afternoon fender benders. Then we’d get home and I’d throw together some dinner (which my exhausted toddler usually didn’t want). The kids were melting down, they were dirty, they were tired. And so was I.
A very senior associate — a friend and mentor whose career and family-life choices I admire more than perhaps anyone else at my firm — had a come-to-Jesus talk with me. “You have to hire a nanny,” she said. “Like, now. And you have to hire more than a nanny — you need a household manager.”
Two weeks later, it was done. I pulled Little O out of daycare and scaled Little Buggy back to mornings-only at preschool. Gail showed up at 7:30 a.m. in her fleece (spit-up friendly!) sweatshirt with a steaming travel mug of coffee, and all of our lives changed for the better. Now she oversees the end of the children’s much more leisurely breakfast — Little O still in his pajamas — while I finish getting ready. Tim or I still drop off Little Bug at school. Gail spends all morning with Little O (one-on-one attention this poor second child rarely gets!), and then picks up Buggy at 1 p.m. In the afternoons she takes them on outings — the library, the Children’s Museum, the playground. They make crafts (which you know I wouldn’t do!). She cooks them dinner and gives them a bath. And I come home and get to play with my well-napped, wet-haired, pajama-clad kids.
She also takes care of me. A good friend once told me she thought her nanny was the only person who had her, my friend’s, back. When Gail started, I immediately felt the same way. Gail makes sure I have my own travel mug of coffee when I walk out the door. Before she started, the house always felt like a disorganized disaster, the laundry never done, and we were always running out of something essential — orange juice, Cheerios, diapers. I now come home to a calm, straightened up, orderly house where the laundry is folded and — get this — dinner is plated and tented with tin foil, waiting for me to heat up after I put the kids down.
She’s a better “mom” than I would be were I home. I mean it. Ok, well, she’s a better “housewife” at any rate. A repair person can come if we need it, library books are returned before we’re fined, and she can run to the market for milk. Of course, the obvious flip side is that I have to work my crazy job to afford a professional like Gail — and she is a true professional. She is former preschool teacher and a mother who considers nurturing children her calling.
But she also sees it as her job to make our home run smoothly. Every time I have an idealistic (or even realistic) urge to chuck it all and stay home with the children I think, “I wouldn’t have Gail!” Being a household manager-type isn’t my natural affinity to begin with, so it was increasingly stressful for me to try to be both lawyer and house manager (i.e., housewife). Am I working, then, to be able to hire someone to — apart from caring for my children — do what I would do were I not working? I might just be. And I’m a bit unsettled as to whether I’m actually OK with that…
Tags: croup, terrible threes, working mom
Remember how last week I wrote this really upbeat post about how I loved my job and how great it was, in essence, to be a fabulous working mom? Just kidding.
Today: Monday morning. More work than I can possibly get done in my “reduced time” 8:30-4:30 day. I left a croup-y baby at home, clutching his right ear and rasping out a barking, snotty cough-cry hybrid (while making a mental note of course to call the pediatrician while on drive into work so the nanny can take him in…). My three-year-old screamed from the second she woke up until somehow we got her out the door (breakfast: baggie of goldfish and a sippy cup of apple juice for the car. Mmmm, healthy…). She wanted to wear this no not this that, no not those underpants, I can’t go to the potty I’m too cold (OK, let’s get dressed), no I can’t get dressed until I go to the potty. A friend refers to them as “threenagers” – ha. Perfect. It’s like being two-and-a-half again, yet more articulate and thus able to throw ever more spectacular tantrums. Anyway, my husband comes in to help and the shrieks grow louder, “NO I WANT MOOOOMYYYYYYYY!!!”
I get in the car late already and, already, defeated. Both of my children need me this morning. And all I can think about is how I’m going to get x, y, and z emails out before 9 a.m. I may be wearing nice clothes, but I have bags under my eyes from being up in the night with the croupy baby. I can’t fool anyone. Am I fooling myself?
My baby boy is 10 months old today. Here is what he likes to do:
Crawl up stairs and try to crawl down them, backwards
Eat rice crackers (Baby Mum Mums)
Steal his sister’s ellie
Pull his sister’s hair
Talk and coo
Yell in his highchair
Take things in and out of containers, such as baskets
In the middle of playing, crawl up to you and try to climb up your leg for a snuggle
Then, immediately after a quick hug, dive for the floor so he is free again
Wake up at 10:30 p.m. for one final feed (we seemed to have solved the sleeplessness!)
Wake up WIDE AWAKE at 5:30 a.m.
Stick his hand in the toilet
Pull all the toilet paper off the roll
Stick his fingers in sockets
Open bureau drawers and then shut his fingers in them
Dance in his mother’s arms
Put small things in his mouth
Bang his favorite toy, the remote control, on his sister’s head or other nearby surface
When we found out we were having a boy, I cried a little bit. Not because I didn’t want a boy. (Of course, I just wanted a healthy baby, of course.) I cried because I just didn’t know I wanted a boy because I didn’t know about boys. I am one of three girls. As my husband points out often when I can’t take his ribbing, I grew up without a great deal of male influence. (My childhood home was full of floral prints and art supplies and girls’ lacrosse sticks and was short on dirt and trucks and baseball bats.) Now I have a daughter. My entire frame of reference for loving a child was loving a girl — and, oh, how I loved her. How could I ever love another baby as much as Little Bug? What if I couldn’t? What if I had that little baby boy and I looked at him in the hospital and didn’t love him as much? At the time I told myself that, were this the case, it might be because he was a boy and not because this was probably a very common feeling before having a second child. “As soon as this baby is born he is going to own you,” my husband promised me. My friend Rebecca, whose first child was a girl and second a boy, understood in a way to which I could relate a little more immediately. “If you’re bummed about the pink clothes and dresses,” she assured me, “just think: you can dress him like a cross between Prince William and John-John.”
My husband was right, of course. The end of Little O’s birth was quick and slightly dramatic, and from the second I knew he was going to be fine, he did own me. I would like not to play to stereotypes of gender and birth order, but this kid is easy-going, rough-and-tumble, and unbearably sweet. He is trying to take his first steps and of course I am already nostalgic for his ever-too-quick babyhood. But I also cannot wait to see where he’ll take off running and what he’ll say when those coos and babbles turn to words.
It’s too easy to simply rattle off a list of that for which I’m thankful. There is the obvious: that I’m employed in a shaky economy and that we don’t want for anything material. That I have healthy children. That I have a supportive, healthy husband.
I’d like to think I’m unconsciously thankful all the time, not just on this one day where we’re sort of forced to think about and articulate gratitude. Yet I’ll admit that I can be a glass-half-empty, grass-is-always-greener type of person (I think this stems from a life-long struggle to be “perfect” rather than inherent negativity in my personality). Articulation of my gratitude, then, while it might feel forced at Thanksgiving, is never a bad thing. And this year, especially, my “thanks” extends to some not-so-obvious things. So I’ll do so here, in this quasi-public forum, if only so that by sending my feelings of peace and gratitude out into the ether, I can solidify them in my heart.
Little O, surrounded by some of his “big” cousins
I’m thankful for my brand new baby nephew. I have 14 nieces and nephews on my husband’s side of the family whom I’ve gotten to know over the past four years — from the youngest, a shy six-year-old, dark-eyed beauty; to a tall, blonde, imaginative 12-year-old; to my Irish nieces who spent the summer with us; to the strapping Columbia University football star; to the oldest, my 27-year-old “nephew” (I have trouble thinking of him in that somewhat diminutive term!) an intelligent charmer and fellow English major whom I wish we saw more. They have enriched my life and I love them each. But this year, just one month ago, after years of wait and hope and determination, my sister had a baby. He is perfect, of course. To witness your sister have a child of her own, and become a mother, and then, also, to love a child who is not your own but yet is your blood — well, that has been more overwhelming that I would have known. I’m grateful that my sister and her husband were open to all avenues that would get them their baby. I’m in awe that my sister kept her spirits up as her friends, one by one, had babies of their own. I’m amazed by modern science. As I watch my baby boy crawl around the feet of his cousin (safely snuggled in a bouncy seat), I imagine them growing up the best of friends. And I’m so, so grateful.
And, then, there is Health, with a big capital “H”. My father died 11 years ago after having cancer for more than two years, and so of course I understand that health is not something to be taken for granted. But in those 11 years we healed and recovered and we all stayed healthy and, once again, I started to take it for granted. This fall, in the course of a month, both my mother and beloved stepdad were in the hospital for heart issues. A strange coincidence, but it was a month of uncertainty and, yes, fear. When you lose a parent, the health of your remaining parent becomes paramount. The anxiety I felt during my dad’s illness began to creep back into my life, especially as my mother was in the hospital for 7, 8, 9, 10 days without an answer. We have an answer now, we think, and both my mom and stepdad seem to be doing fine. Medicated and a bit shaken, but fine. In that crazy month, too, a dear family friend was diagnosed with a horrific form of lung cancer. He will be dead by the end of the year, most likely. So we’re all feeling a bit vulnerable this holiday season, but, as a result, hopefully more aware of our health and our family and the time we have together. Mom and Hank have themselves adopted a kind of “carpe diem” mentality. This is not a bad way to live, and it has mitigated some of general life anxiety I often feel.
To Health, then, and babies, and family, and the present moment. Eat well and drive safely today. Thank you for reading, whoever you are. You keep me writing and connected and thoughtful. A wonderful gift.
Tags: return from maternity leave
Trapped in the playpen
I’m currently on a reduced-time schedule at work. (They call it “part-time”, which makes me cringe, since I work more than 40 hours a week.) My firm, in addition to its very generous maternity leave policy, has a return-from-leave policy by which, for your first six months back from leave, you can work almost any schedule you want, down to 50% time. As many families know, ramping back up from maternity leave is difficult: if your baby is anything like mine, you’re still not sleeping very well; perhaps you’re trying to pump; perhaps you’re still sorting out daycare. I think that, prior to this policy, many women came back to the firm and immediately quit under the pressure, or perhaps they didn’t return at all. (And, yes, I do realize how great this policy is. Sounds almost socialist, no?)
I’m currently working 75% time, meaning I work Monday-Thursday, 9-5. Of course, as any attorney will tell you, reduced time is not really reduced time unless you are quite strict about saying “no” to work. I am still so junior that I find this almost impossible to do. Therefore, probably three nights a week, after I get home at 6 p.m. and put the children to bed, I work until 10 p.m. or later on my laptop. But what this policy does let me do is walk out the door at 5 p.m. without any guilt (kind of). And it give me Fridays. Though I have ended up billing two or three or sometimes four hours almost every Friday since I have been back, I do so while O is napping, sitting in my home office or at the kitchen table, clad in yoga pants and drinking coffee.
And then the rest of the day is mine. The entire day, in fact, has the air of a surprise holiday, like a snow day. We don’t rush in the morning. I let Little Bug sleep as late as she likes. I make her breakfast, NPR on the radio in the kitchen. Little O and I drop her off at school, usually at least a half-hour later than her normal drop-off time. Then Little O and I hit Starbucks and maybe the grocery store. We play before his nap (these days, playing consists of him trying to crawl up the stairs and me pulling him down). During his nap I work, or clean up the house. When he wakes up we do errands or just play before picking up Buggy at 1. While he takes his afternoon nap, she and I read books or maybe even watch a show for “quiet time.” Once he’s awake, we walk to the library or have a playdate. Then it’s dinner, bath, bed.
Of course, I’m checking my work email (on my laptop, on my iPhone) all day long, and dashing off a response here and there. Most people at work now remember that I’m not in the office on Fridays. I have to be available, but I don’t have to actually work.
But I love these days. I feel as if the weight of the world is off my shoulders. I am on the floor with the children, we sing and dance. I catch up on my favorite blogs. My People and US Weekly arrive in the mailbox. I have the whole weekend head of me.
And I ask myself: would I feel this anxiety-free, this happy, were every day like this? Meaning, of course, were I not working and home with the children. And, of course, every day wouldn’t be like this. Or would it? If I let it? I’m dreading March 1, when my six-month post-parental leave period is over and, more likely than not, I will be expected to work full-time again. (One argument in favor of going back full time is that I’m pretty much working full-time hours anyway, so why not get paid for it — but I cherish these Fridays so much that I wonder if it’s not worth the pay cut.)
Sigh. I’m a grass-is-greener kind of person — if I could change one thing about the way I am wired, it might be this restless tendency to wonder “what if?”.
Tags: do it yourself mitten clips, mitten clips, Three Clever Sisters
I am the least craft-sy person on earth. I was, however, proud of myself for this little project. Look — I made mitten-“clips” for the children. We were going to a tailgate this past Saturday, and it would be cold. The children would be wearing mittens, and I knew that the entire time, in the back of my mind, I’d be wondering if their mittens would be falling off. So I cut some pretty ribbon and stitched each end around safety pins. One end pinned to the mitten, and one to the jacket. Voila!
Of course, were I truly craft-sy I would have used material that was more elastic or hardy, and I would have used a more durable stitch. About once a year, for whatever reason (an undone hem, the strange urge to whip up a curtain panel), I wish I had a sewing machine. (Of course, if I actually had one, more likely than not I would never motivate to read the directions and it would sit forever untouched, much like the external hard drive for my computer that I bought 14 months ago.)
I wish I could say that the motivation behind this project were thrift, but really it was instant gratification. The children’s store in the lobby of my office building didn’t carry mitten-clips; if I ordered them from Amazon it would take at least three days for them to arrive and I wanted them before Saturday. Well, anyway, it made me feel like a good mom.
I do, however, admire people who are truly creative and skilled with sewing projects, e.g., my friend Sara who, with her sisters, has a fantastic blog in which they write about all their scrumptuous baking and enviable sewing and knitting and quilting. For some real talent, then, check out Three Clever Sisters. It makes you feel very cozy.