Sunday, January 4, 2015

Working Mom (of baby) Survival Guide

Here is the guide:  Do whatever you have to do to survive the day and enjoy every moment with your child.

That's a wrap.

Everything appearing below is just my own musings, but it can all be summed up in the above.

Over the holidays I had a few conversations with friends (also moms with children 2 or under who work full time and whose spouses work full time) about silly comments people made to us about parenting or life in general.  People who don't have a clue about our lives but who, in most cases, have the best intentions.  Now, I can write about it all I want, but people will continue to make silly comments and you just have to figure out how to let them go.  Sometimes I think I have this totally down, other times not so much.  I am writing about it today because if you are in the same boat as me and a few of my girlfriends, I want you to know that you are not alone.  There are lots of us just like you.  Lots.  And by "just like you" I mean a mom with a demanding job, a husband who works very long hours, a young baby at home who is still breastfeeding and not sleeping through the night, and little to no help coming from outside of whatever you can pay other people to do.

Let me just take a moment to say something to my stay at home mom readers - this is in no way meant to put you down or devalue what you do.  I completely and totally admire stay at home moms.  I think you are smart, capable, strong women who are blessed to be able to be with your children full time.  If I could figure out a way to stay at home with my son that did not involve wracking up a whole bunch of debt I would do it.  Having said that, when stay at home moms (the majority of my friends with kids) make comments to me about how to do a load of laundry every day, force my son to stop breastfeeding, alphabetize my canned goods, etc. I do my best to let all advice go in one ear and out the other.  Because they don't get it.  They just don't.  Friends, you might think you get it, but unless you have actually gone back to work full time with a young baby, sorry - you don't.  Yes, you know all about the midnight wakeups, the diapers, the cooking, the cleaning, the exhaustion.  But you do not know what it is like to get up at 4:30am so you can spend 30 minutes with your son before you drop him off at daycare, then rush to work where you sometimes literally run around all day like a crazy person, leave work to go to daycare, pick up your son and then spend 25 minutes sitting in the back of your car so he can breastfeed and cuddle because he needs that from you at this point in his life, drive home and quickly eat dinner, and then immediately get your son ready for bed.   Repeat x 5 and then spend your weekend racing around running errands, cooking food for the week, doing life, going to church.  I love you stay at home moms, but you have no idea what this is like so please think twice before you make comments like "I can't believe you lay down with him to go to sleep" or "you never call me to talk anymore" or "what do you mean you don't have time."  Actually, just think twice and keep the comments to yourself.  Please.

I digress.

When you have little to no time you are very much forced to figure out what your priorities are.  What works in our house is we have a "Must Do" list posted on our fridge.  This is the list of tasks that absolutely must get done every night no matter what or the next day we will not be able to function.  Every weekend I spend a fair amount of time cooking large meals that can get us at least until Wednesday night or Thursday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Everything else becomes a juggle.  The decision making process usually goes along the lines of, "Do I want to spend 15 minutes with my son before he goes to bed or do I want to fold laundry before the weekend?"  or "If I call person A right now will it mean giving up the only 10 minutes I have to organize my to do list for work tomorrow?"  Things always get pushed aside and you know what - that is alright.  Are we functioning?  Yes.  The house is not dirty (although it isn't always super tidy which is not the same thing), we are eating homemade food and taking our lunches to work, we are not collapsing from complete exhaustion.  This works.  What is important to us is that the little time we do have to spend with our son during the week is actually spent with him.  Not on the phone or checking emails while we try to make sure he doesn't hurt himself playing in our living room.

One of my closest girlfriends told me a few things her and her husband have resorted to in order to make sure they can get some decent sleep.  Nothing they are doing is dangerous.  Nothing they are doing would hurt their child emotionally or physically, in fact quite the opposite.  And yet she is getting criticism and what I call not so silent judgement from family members.  While discussing this, she concurred that in order to make their household "work" she does what is needed to get them through one day at a time.  And this sums up our life - taking things one day at a time.  I do not want to be so stressed out trying to (insert parenting "milestones" here - sleep train, wean, make scrapbook, cut off night feeding, etc. etc.) that I cannot enjoy the time that I have to spend with my child.  (Note:  this is not the same as not disciplining your child, which is an entirely different issue.)

And so, to my fellow working moms I say this: there is no secret.  There is no formula.  No patented schedule that will make your life a breeze.  Being a parent is hard (whether you work or stay at home).  It demands your all.  You have to be selfless with your child and strong enough to put your foot down when others are overstepping boundaries.  You can do it.  We all do it and millions of mothers did it before us.  One diaper, one nap, one MumMum, one bath, one sleepless night, one tooth, one snuggle at a time.

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