Category Archives: work

The Breastfeeding Posts: Reflections on Self-Judgement and Forgiveness

The most difficult part of writing about my breastfeeding experiences was silencing my defensiveness and self-judgement about my first go-around. How could someone like me, who has been studying and has been an active member of the “women and children” health community in some way since I was 19 years old be so blindsided, so unprepared, so sideswiped? I mean, I read all the motherfucking books. I have a master’s degree. Shouldn’t I have known better?

Maybe. But I didn’t. I had no experience. I had no new-mom friends to be like “Hey! Sometimes things go wrong.”

I had to revise these posts many times to remove defensiveness about my choices. Who was I defending myself against? Nobody but myself, and my own sanctimonious self-talk about formula, and bonding, and how I “wasn’t mom enough.” What that voice really covers up is a deep sadness about the days, weeks, months of my life I spent enshrouded under the shadow of post-partum depression. Time with my first child I will never, ever get back. A time I’ve tried to write about many times and I’m still not ready to reference as more than an aside.

I am still working on forgiving myself. I’ll get there.

My tiny formula-fed preemie is three now, and is healthy, smart, huge, and beautiful (of course I think so. I am her mother.) A recent study comparing siblings where one was breast fed and one was formula fed has found that the home environment appears to be a stronger indicator of child health and intelligence than infant feeding methods. A free full-text link to the study itself isn’t available that I can find, but for those of you motivated to access the study the abstract and citation is here.

It has helped with my forgiveness process.

Breastfeeding is hard, even when, like with my second baby, the “mechanics” come together easily. It’s a sometimes crushing responsibility to be another person’s food source. It’s exhausting. It’s emotionally taxing. If I had had to go back to work full-time, if my baby had food allergies or reflux, if, despite my planning, I relapsed into depression and anxiety…If I had decided that disliking breastfeeding was affecting my ability to care for my baby. Any of these would have brought about a different ending. I was truly privileged to have the opportunity and the support to organize my life this past year around my children and their needs. Too many moms never have that chance.

Also thank you. To all of you who reached out to me, for being encouraging, supportive, loving. You rule.

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Free Play: The Working Parent’s Conundrum

This summer appears to be overloaded with articles about how kids need a rest from structure and need to just play. From this blog on Scary Mommy to this article in The Atlantic, parents are being cajoled into dropping camp, swimming lessons, and Russian Math this summer and letting their kids roam free.

But here’s the catch: who is watching these kids roam free? Last I checked, most kids have one or two parents/caregivers that work at least some, if not most, of the time, outside the home.

I see this as yet another way to heap guilt on the working parent.

I want nothing more than my kids to have unstructured playtime outside. Or inside. As I am barely working this summer, and my kids go to Nonna-care (read: my mom) as opposed to daycare, my kids will have loads of time to “just play.”

In other words, in order to have this, someone has to be HOME. While many daycare centers and camps have “free time,” and “free play,” it is simply not the culture in mainstream childcare to drop your kids off and pay money to people who simply make sure your child checks in regularly and eats something. When a nanny or a babysitter is hired, free play may happen more often, but even then, the culture is to demand something of the caretaker of your children. As in, most people I know would be BENT if their nanny told their charges “go play outside,” and then watched General Hospital. If you’re going to shell out for childcare, generally you want that person to DO something for your kids.

Hence where the guilt comes in. We are supposed to give our kids unstructured free time, but leaving children home alone to roam when they are young is also not a possibility for the working person. The solution? Camps. Classes. Daycare. Why? While helicopter parenting and a zillion classes aren’t the answer, leaving, say, a five and seven year old home alone to “go play” while their grown-ups work 40+ hours per week is also not a possibility.

As my own kids grow older, and my (and their father’s) need to work more or less changes with time, I’m going to have to struggle with this as well. This summer, since I’m around, I’ll simply fight the urge to go retro on them and smoke some Pall Malls, slather myself in baby oil and tan while they go play.

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I’ll do the dishes, Dear. Go chase the children.

A fellow working mom posted this article in one of my Facebook mommy groups. Published in The Wall Street Journal, the article discusses how even though men and women now spend equal time in the workforce, their time spent on home tasks is still divided pretty unevenly. One mom echoed my sentiments exactly:

She didn’t really care that her husband did the dishes after dinner. Sure, it was swell of him, and she had friends whose husbands did less. But what she really wanted, at that point in her day, was for her husband to volunteer to put the kids to bed.

Until my second baby girl was born six months ago, my husband and I did split the hours worked in a week fairly evenly. My job, however, had much higher stress levels, a greater level of responsibility, and a (slightly) higher pay scale.

However, due to our hours, 4 weekdays a week out of 5, my workday ended with picking my daughter up and driving her home. It also started with dropping her off 2 days per week as well.

Let me tell you, there is nothing better after a stressful day than spending 45 minutes in the car with a screaming baby/ toddler.

I would then get home, feed, bathe, and get my daughter ready for bed. My husband would waltz in, play, and then she would go to sleep.

Now, my husband is more childcare oriented than many fathers. We trade night waking, he changes diapers, and my girls have “Daddy Day” each week when I work and Daddy is home. He even spent an evening in the NICU with my first feeding her expressed breast milk so I could recover for an evening.

But we have had these same breaks in labor as well. Sunday would come, our only family day, and my husband would want to rake the yard, or run errands. Alone.

I finally was able to communicate to him that no, shampooing all the rugs was not what I needed from him on the weekends. I need him to take care of the kid-now kids.

We really struggled with this. But now, things are different most of the time. Here is why: I went on vacation alone prior to the birth of my second child. And by vacation, I mean five days.

I recommend this.

Instead of coming home to dinner and a bathed and fed child, Daddy was it. He did both ends of pick up and drop off, worked a full day, had to come home and just keep on keepin’ on. You know. Like I did, every day.

Nothing can beat experiential learning for spouses. He finally “got” it.

Also shocking about the vacation experience-the number of people-and not just random people, people who know us-who asked me, “What will he DO while you are gone with your daughter?”

Ummm, you know, be her parent.

There are still times he defaults to old ways. Expectations are still often lopsided. Also, I do make sure he gets down time. Especially now that I am home with the kids 75% of the time, he now understands when I say, “I’ll scrub the bathtub. Chase the children.”

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Take Your Baby to Work Day

It happened. I brought my baby-and wore her-for two whole days of training.

It went really well.

First of all, I want it to go on the record that I have been blessed with unbelievably mellow, nice babies. Two of them. I feel this is arranged by the universe to give me time to recover between pregnancy (a bad scene for me) and toddlerhood (my first talked very early and her sister seems to be following suit. This makes the “terrible twos” extra exciting.)

But back to the whole “working while literally wearing a baby” thing-

I was very anxious. Anxious my baby would choose this one day to have an epic meltdown. Anxious I’d look unprofessional. Anxious the trainers really didn’t mean it when they said I could bring the baby. Anxious other parents would judge me. Anxious I wouldn’t learn anything because I’d be too distracted. Anxious people would think I was some weirdo breastfeeding militant. Anxious people would freak out about me nursing in public.

I should not have worried.

First of all, the other participants and the trainers LOVED the baby. I mean, most people like babies, but everyone thought it was great I brought her! Something different, I guess. People came to talk to me about their children and babies. Moms shared their nursing stories. People held her and played with her.

Secondly, she was a champ. I wore her in a ring sling almost the entire time (it was two eight hour days). I paced the back of the room with her, nursed her, gave her teethers. She nursed, slept, and looked at things. No crying. No fussing. I think she was pleased to just be with me without her sister smacking her on the head- I mean, “petting” her-while she was nursing.

Also, she listened to the training, so she is super smart now.

It was easy to pay attention with the baby because at this point, multiple distractions are my norm. Having only one distraction was peaceful. Also, I always get bored at trainings. With my companion, I wasn’t bored at all.

I have become fairly good at nursing in public. I am able to nurse my baby in the ring sling, which is useful to support her body without a nursing pillow. I wear nursing tanks and loose shirts, so my skin is covered. I pull the top shirt up, and the tank covers my stomach. I shove my nipple in her mouth and pull the shirt down so my breast is 99.9% covered. This level of access and modesty is what is comfortable for me. I do not use a nursing cover because I actually feel it calls MORE attention to the whole ordeal. Also, I like to travel light. I’ve had people actually peer into my baby’s face before they have figured out she is latched on and nursing. Also, I’ve covered her face while nursing for various non-modesty reasons (sun, wind, noise) and she hates it. Apparently, I didn’t offend anyone, and if I did, no one said anything.

There were a few downsides.

It was exhausting. The only thing more exhausting than being a working mom, I’ve decided, is working and mom-ing simultaneously.

My baby is not fantastic in the car, and screamed the entire way home the first day, and BOTH ways the second day. Stopping to feed, change, and soothe her did not help. This training was an emotionally and mentally challenging and depressing topic. My commute was an hour each way. The screaming almost unhinged me.

Lastly, I felt somewhat resentful. This is hard for me to admit, but I want to be honest here. I adore my baby, but I exclusively breastfeed her, and bed share. “Me time” is a sacrifice I willingly make as a parent. Giving up the time to soley focus on my career for a few hours was difficult. I had to “mom it up” while everyone else could just absorb knowledge and eat lunch and pee alone. It made me resentful at times throughout the two days.

Overall, however, it was very positive! I believe more women should ask about bringing their babies-nursing or not-to work related events if the event and baby’s temperament appear to be a possible match. I’m glad my day worked out for me, and to expand the idea of “working mom” a little bit further in people’s minds.

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One Giant Leap for Womenkind: I’m Bringing My Baby to Work

The story begins with An Opportunity and A Problem.

I was asked if I’d like to participate in an intensive training in through my job for a new, marketable skill. I said yes, enthusiastically.

I received the info and realized that including the commute to childcare and the training, I’d be away from my baby from 7:30 AM-6 PM, minimally. For two days.

The problem: my baby STILL won’t take a bottle. She will spoon-feed a milk/cereal combo, but it doesn’t fulfill her need to suck and she still gets very grouchy. She also rejects pacifiers. We haven’t pushed the issue because I’ve been able to accommodate her “addiction to the nip” as I call it. In one more month she can start solids and a sippy cup, and we will be in a better spot.

Also, one of my theories about kids is that they have their whole lives ahead of them to have schedules forced on them, to cry themselves to sleep, etc. Why start all that at 5 months?

I talked to my husband. We discussed options: risk epic meltdown of the baby, me not going, him bringing her to me the day he will be taking care of our daughters.

Or-

“What if I brought her?”

My husband encouraged me to call and ask.

So I did.

I left the craziest voicemail, explaining my problem, and that “I’m not a crazy mom who doesn’t believe in babysitters but I have this issue and can’t be away for eleven hours.”

I probably could have left this out.

I got the sweetest, nicest call back. That it was great that I had asked and proposed this. That it would be fun. That they had to check with the lead trainer, who was a mom with a baby, who would probably say yes.

And she did.

So, next week l am going to wear my baby to work and breastfeed her. She is mellow, so I’m thinking it will go well.

I was terrified to ask for this accommodation. I was afraid of looking like some nutty woman who couldn’t be separated from her baby. Which, while I certainly miss my children at times, isn’t me. Or like some wuss who couldn’t make her baby “do” something. But I was able, with support, to put these fears aside and just ASK. I mean, what was the worst that could happen-someone I’d never met would say “no.” Who CARES what she (or anyone) thinks of me? It’s what I need-and want-for my work/life balance right now.

Lesson learned: ask for what you need in the workplace, as a woman, as a mom, and as a breastfeeding mom, and you just might get it.

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Listening to the Universe

Sometimes, you just can’t force things.

While many mothers open up about their struggles with nursing-and just so you know, I’ve been there-I’ve been struggling with the opposite issue.

Despite starting early with her, and lots of practice, one day my daughter up and decided she would not drink from a bottle. And that was it. I’d go to work, and she’d wait and cry until I came back.

We tried many things. None of them worked.

As you can imagine, this is not a way to make friends with babysitters. Even if that babysitter is not actually a babysitter but your breast-less spouse.

And many mothers struggle with the work-life balance. As an until-recently full-time working mom, I’ve been there too.

In the midst of this feeding struggle, our regular childcare, aka “Nonna-care” got sick.

Frustration set in. How was I going to work? I had already gone part-time. “Part-time” is a generous description to describe how much I was working. Plus, my main caretaker was out for the count, for awhile, and my baby wouldn’t eat for her anyway, so now what?

After getting really angry (which, btw, solved a lot) I decided that the universe was sending me a message, and maybe I should listen to it.

This is a departure from my usual pragmatism. And a big hit to my need to “contribute” financially to my family.

Apparently, I needed to contribute to my family by spending a lot of time with my children. And by arranging an already flexible work schedule around my daughter’s feedings. And by strengthening a new friendship and sharing childcare for when each of us work. And learning, from this relationship, that this balance is tough but doable-and that I’m not the only one who struggles with self-worth, feminism, financial realities, and family.

Once I stopped raging against these situations, solutions slowly have-and continue to-emerge.

I’m learning to just go with it.

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Working From Home Part 2: Sticking to a Schedule and Maintaining Boundaries

In my profession, there is a certain climate of urgency that has to be constantly navigated. The trick is honoring and managing the sense of urgency with two factors in mind: 1. Very little of the urgency is actually necessary, and if it is an urgent matter, there are emergency services and 2. Working part time means exactly that: part time. As in I will call you when I am working.

Most of this, quite frankly, is on me, and my ability to “de-program” from the crisis mode I have operated under for the last several years of my working life.

My current goal is to put down the phone when I am not working, and resist the need to answer work demands immediately when I am not working. My kids deserve a mother who is fully with them; my clients deserve the same attention.

Here’s to putting boundaries on my brain and releasing feelings of obligation.

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