Back to Work

My first week back to work is behind me. It was a good week. Sunday night was hard as I was faced with the reality that I’d be leaving my sweet baby girl, who had not been away from me for more than just a few hours. I worried about how she’d feel and how well she’d eat (she’s been exclusively breastfed for the past few weeks and had a hard time with a bottle the last time she was given one). I knew I would miss her and the boys and all of our extra quality time. I knew my boys would miss me being home in the mornings and picking them up from school. I’d miss all the craziness and just being with them. But I also knew I’d be leaving them in good hands, and that for our family it’s the right thing to do, and so I decided to be at peace with it. And I was, and come Monday morning, there were no tears, just smiles.

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Working for me is both a necessity and a choice – at this point in our lives, I am needed to help support our family, but even if I wasn’t, I think I would still work. But there is a lot of judgement and guilt wrapped up in that truth. Just the other day I called our pediatrician to setup an appointment for Berkley’s 2 month checkup (and shots). As I was talking to the receptionist about the time that would be best, I began thinking out loud… “I work and so late afternoon would be best…” The lady replied, “You work?” Initially I thought she was inquiring what me working had to do with the time choice so I felt the need to elaborate. “I work and since she’s having shots, I want to make sure I’m home with her afterwards in case she doesn’t feel well.” To which she replied, “No, I just noticed that you have three really little ones.” The judgement in her tone was apparent. It sort of kicked me in the gut. I searched for a quick light-hearted response, but I was offended. I’m sure people think it all the time, but she said it and I heard it and it stung a little bit.

So why is it that I want to work? I’ve asked myself this question many times. I’ve felt selfish and guilty about it. The truth is that I’m not sure I have a really good answer. Nothing when you say it out loud seems a good enough excuse to not spend every possible moment with your children. But, whether it’s a good reason or not, I think it’s because I work best when my plate is really full. I need a lot of balls in the air. I function at my highest potential when things (to outsiders) seem to be busy beyond belief. In college, I earned my best grades when I had 2 jobs and 18 credit hours – straight A’s. At work, when I’ve got the most projects and biggest workload is when I find myself most efficient and productive. At home when I’ve got a to-do list a mile long I become energized and accomplished. And so when I look at my life and my different roles – wife, mother, employee, friend, home-cook/blogger/photographer, having all of those hats just feels right. I feel challenged and fulfilled in trying to be the best I can in each of them – and in that, I feel I am living as my best possible self. I really do. At this point in my life, I feel like being all of these things doesn’t take away from each role, but adds to them. Plainly put, I feel like I am a better mom to my kids because I work. This doesn’t mean that I don’t wish I spent more time with them or that there aren’t days I wish I didn’t have to go to work – I do. But I keep focused on the big picture and what I know about myself… and I know my decision to work is the best one for us.

Part of what makes it possible to be at peace with working is knowing my kids are well cared for in my absence. And they always have been. For years they were lovingly looked after by a lady named Elaine, who was tragically killed in a car accident last summer. Then we had Katie and Sarah who loved my boys and had so much fun with them too. We’re now so fortunate to have Blake’s cousin Jessica for the next few months, and we could not be happier!  We weren’t sure what our plan for childcare would be when I went back to work until just a few weeks ago. I had decided this time around I wasn’t going to stress about it – and instead I prayed. It’s amazing how God always has a plan and sometimes in letting go of the worry and trusting Him, some of the greatest things happen. Jessica seemed to have a had a good week with them all – only a few time-outs, and Berkley took her bottles well. She even ventured out of the house to an indoor playground with all three on Friday – hats off sister!  Oh, and my dishwasher was unloaded each day, which is like the best present you can give a gal – so thank you, thank you, Jess.

So what’s the first week really been like? Well first off, I’m tired. No other way to put it. Berkley was sleeping better, but not great. And even if she was sleeping great, waking up at 4:30am just sucks. I’m happy to report, however, that as I type this on a Saturday morning, I’m feeling refreshed because she slept for 6 hours straight last night! Fingers crossed that this one-day trend continues!

When I arrived at work Monday morning I was surprised by a decorated office complete with streamers, balloons and roses. I work with the greatest group of people who are not only my co-workers but my friends and they always make the hard times easier. I got to eat lunch (with adults) from some of my favorite spots – welcome back Chipotle Friday, oh how I missed you!  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that I also got to pee by myself all week! It’s the little things, people. I’m fortunate enough to have a locking, private office, so pumping was made pretty easy too.

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So yes, it’s been a good week. I’m looking forward to figuring out what our new normal is and then thriving in it. No doubt there will be bumps along the way, but I love my life and my sweet family and trust that things are as they should be. No worry here – just faith.

Wiped Out

I got to play stay-at-home mom today and boy, am I wiped out.  I’m not sure what was different about today than some weekends when I have the boys solo, but it was exhausting!  I think some days the kids decide they want to be amicable and sweet.  And then there are some days that they strategize about how to push every one of your buttons. Today would be the latter.

Sometimes kids can just wear you down and knock you off your game.  Today would be that day too.  Apparently I was a little loose with my language, because when Blake got home Brogan told him, “Look Daddy, I got all of your crap out of the shed!” Blake and I looked at each other and chuckled a bit.  But then it continued. “Look at all this crap!” [said in a really happy and excited tone] Blake and I started exchanging slightly more serious looks.  Blake thought on his feet and said, “Buddy, mommy made that word up, it’s all just stuff.”  That sufficed, and the word crap was not mentioned the rest of the night.  I’m sure he’s just saving it for school or the pediatrician’s office, though.

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No surprise here, but Beckett was a screamer today.  The kid loves his swing outside, but it is impossible to swing him constantly.  So if I wasn’t swinging him, or walking with him out to be swung, he was pissed.  I could sidetrack him occasionally with a broom or a random tool, but it always went back to the swing.  I even tried using the trampoline as a playpen, and that went over well!

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I swindled my neighbor into entertaining the screamer so I could finish dinner (she thought she was just returning a sewing machine!). Little did she know she was entering kiddy hell.  Being much more on top of things than I after the punishing day, she immediately noticed the boys were playing with a very sharp paddle bit.  Great, that would have gone real nicely I somebody’s neck. And it was rusty, even better! Thank you, Chantelle for the 15 minutes!

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And at 7:22pm, the hubs came home form work, hallelujah.  I think I’ve made previous remarks about my reverence for stay-at-home moms – reaffirmed.  You guys do have the hardest job in the world.  I will be going back to work tomorrow, to my quiet and peaceful office where I will get to interact with humans who are guided by logic, with whom you can have a reasonable conversation and who do not use screaming as a primary method of communication.  Yes, I will miss the sweet boys that my boys are on days other than today.  And I hope it is those sweet little boys who I am greeted by when I walk in at 4:40 tomorrow afternoon.  But for now, goodnight, I’m freaking exhausted.

Why Being a Working Mom Works for Me

When I was pregnant with my first, I had many people ask me, presumably I think, if I would be staying home to raise my son.  I would answer no, and I think for those who chose that path, it was hard to understand.  Ever since I was young, I had a very strong drive to be an independent, working woman. Yes, I always wanted a family, a big family in fact, but I had a dual desire to pursue a career.  I worked hard to get into college, moved to Atlanta for opportunity, found a great job, went back to school for my MBA and as soon as I graduated, I had my son (like 2 weeks to spare between my graduation date and due date).

When my son was born I took eight weeks off work. I cherished each day, but when it was time to go back, part of me was ready. Yes, it was hard and I cried. I didn’t like the thought of leaving my sweet baby with someone else all day. I felt guilty too. But I was ready for some consistent adult interaction.  I had started to go stir-crazy.  I realized during that time that while my initial decision to keep working was based on career aspirations, what made it the right decision for my family is that I am a better mother because I work.  Having that daily outlet gives me the break I need to recharge – be less stressed, more patient, and better appreciate my time with them.  My favorite part of each day, hands down, is when I walk through the door at the babysitter’s and they are smiling ear to ear happy to see me.  It melts my heart.  No decision comes without its sacrifice, no matter what side you land.  Sure, I miss things, I miss them, as Brogan is getting older he tells me he doesn’t want me to go to work.  But I know in my heart of hearts that I am not cut out to be a stay-at-home-mom.  Some people are, and they are saints in my opinion!  I have the utmost respect for moms who have sacrificed their careers to stay home with their children.  When some of my stay-at-home-mom friends ask how I do it, my response is how do you do it? I get a break all day – you don’t!

There are a couple of reasons my decision works – we are blessed to have a caregiver who loves my boys to death and they love her.  I have a great job that I enjoy going to each day, that keeps me challenged and rewarded and has been flexible enough to let me leave at 4pm each day.  I think it is best for my marriage – I’m afraid I’d have resentment toward my husband if I carried so much of the kid load by myself.  Financially, we’d be living a much different lifestyle too.  I know what it’s like to be poor and want to make sure we can always provide for our family.

So while it’s not the right call for everyone, being a working mom works for me.  It works for my boys and for my husband.  It’s not always the easy decision, but for us, it is definitely the right one.

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