I just read this post and all I can say is, “THIS THIS THIS EXACTLY THIS.” Replace Chelsea Market with somewhere far less glamorous, and that is EXACTLY how it feels for me, right now. Man, I love it when the internet gives you exactly what you need to see. Go read it. I mean, as I said, I’m happy with my current choice, but she NAILS the way I feel torn.
There was one thing I kind of forgot as I was weighing my feelings about going back to work, and it was, in in hindsight, a big one. It’s that I am very good at my job. And while it’s not my passion, I really do enjoy it.
I’m going to violate one of the internet’s prime directives and talk about my job, just a little.
I did admin work for the better part of a decade. I was good at it, and fast, given the amount of spare time I had compared to my peers. But I never really enjoyed it. I would put off tasks that I didn’t enjoy, like filing, for months. I always got everything that needed to be done, done, but my main interest wasn’t the day to day tasks that fill up admin support days. It was always the special projects. I’ve worked in a variety of different admin jobs, and the special projects varied along with them. I’ve done everything from organize a trip to New York for 30 people for a week with 30 different schedules, to cold calling people in France using what remains of my childhood french immersion skills to try and find a genealogical-minded distant relative for my boss, to becoming the group expert at a new piece of graphing software, to learning Access to update and QC a giant database. A huge range of things, and all much more interesting than putting in another stationary order. Although that doesn’t mean an absence of pens around the office wouldn’t be a problem, so it always got done too. Just, you know, given the choice to work on a special project or organize someone’s business cards, well… It was always easy for me to prioritize.
When I went on mat leave, I was officially a tech, but I was also still doing all the admin work, just due to the way things shook out in the group. I had no problems with that, of course. I’d been doing all the tech work as an admin, and there was no real difference doing all the admin work as a tech. But now there’s an admin to do all the admin work and she’s great and I don’t have to order stationary anymore. My entire job, in flux as it is, IS a special project. The last couple of weeks I’ve been working for an engineer who has been an amazing teacher, and I went from knowing basically nothing about this subset of our industry to being conversant in it. I’ve learned 601 new things in the last month, and that’s an awesome feeling that I had forgotten – how nice it is to learn something new. To tackle some new project that at the beginning feels so confusing, so far over your head that you don’t even know how to start, and then a few short weeks later you’re QC’ing someone else’s work as a second pair of eyes. To be an expert at something – to be the person people come to for help. To be good at something clear and tangible with immediate results. It’s nice. It’s really nice. And I had forgotten that going back to work didn’t just mean leaving J with someone else all day and getting a paycheck. It also means that I get to be good at something and get better at other things and to learn.
It also means lunch dates and coffee dates and yes, a paycheck. It means talking to grown ups all day, every day, and then coming home with my kid and my husband and eating together and playing together and enjoying the whole time we’re together, instead of those days spent simply waiting for naps or a play date. It means missing out on play dates, and long daily walks and spontaneous trips to Ikea for lunch. But right now, this very week, I can live with the trade off. Next year, or another kid later, or a different role at work? Who knows? But for right now, things are okay. Things are good.
It feels like the best deep breath I’ve taken in months.
Hey, so remember like 10 months ago when I was all aflutter because my baby was charted as being off the chart overweight for her height? Yeah, I barely do either. I was thinking about it today, though. At J’s 12 month check up, the doctor charted an actual drop in weight – about a pound the month prior. So on Friday I took her to the public health nurse office to weigh and measure her. And she’s lost another half pound. Which puts her somewhere between the 3rd and 15th percentile in weight. She did grow an inch, so she’s now up to the same for height, which is something, I guess. She’s a tiny peanut. A tiny peanut who now weighs the same as she did 5 months ago.
Yeah. That probably isn’t good.
The doctor, at the last appointment, told me I had two months to fatten up the baby. Two weeks of macaroni and 5-cheeses and cream cheese spread and a couple of pieces of bread a day (daycare) and everything else I can think of to fatten her up, minus feeding her straight up butter? She loses weight.
It’s so hard to tell if you’re doing the right thing with kids. I worked really hard to introduce J to fruits and vegetables and proteins and all types of dairy and she eats so well! I really had thought we’d had it all figured out. I mean, the kid eats more interesting cheeses than David does. He likes… marble cheese and plain babybels. J eats aged white cheddar and Parmesan and cranberry goat cheese. She happily eats almost anything and everything. She doesn’t like peaches, and we both had a similar blurg reaction to the millet I experimented with, but otherwise? She has a preference for citrus fruit (including lemons!) and kiwis, but will also eat bananas and purred apples and pears. She still has no teeth, so has had no luck with chunks of apples. She hasn’t turned her nose up at any veggie that I’ve made for her, and shows a particular love for carrots and parsnips. On the rare occasions we eat steak, she gleefully sucks the meat dry. (She still has no teeth.) She eats pork and chicken and shrimp and beef and even raw fish, although her preference is for fruits and veggies over meat. We don’t eat a ton of grains at home – I rarely keep bread in the house because it goes moldy long before we’d have finished it. I’m not on Atkins or anything – I just don’t, you know, eat a lot of starches, other than rice. Which she is indifferent too, but I still offer and she always eats a bit.
I thought I was doing good, you know? Having this kid who turns down chicken to eat another segment of a sweet blood orange. Who cheerfully eats broccoli and green beans and parsnip soup. Who loves yogurt with berries and flavourful cheeses. Who devoured homemade salmon cakes. Who still nurses twice a day. And yet, somehow, something has gone wrong, and I feel guilty. Should I have been pushing higher fat food the whole time instead of fruits and veg? Is there something more seriously wrong, or is this just a blip brought on by the combo of daycare, a sleep regression, a cold, teeth finally emerging and gradual weaning all happening at once? How much olive oil can I pour on her food before she stops being willing to eat it? What’s the line between enough cheese for the calcium (she doesn’t like milk much, though she’s offered it 3-4 times a day) and total constipation? How much of my reaction is overreaction, penduluming too far the other direction from last time? I thought I was doing so good, feeding her veggies instead of like, processed sweetened puffs or whatever. Should I go out and buy more frankenfood? God knows I love me a bag of chips, so it’s not like I’m totally against it. It’s just… I thought I should keep her foods pure-ish for as long as I could, you know? I’m sure it’s not hard to learn to love goldfish crackers (NOM) but much harder to introduce broccoli later, so why not offer it now, when her tastes are so influence-able?
I just don’t know anything any more.
When I was pregnant, I read a million and one lists of What You Must Have and What You Totally Don’t Need. I cribbed together a fairly detailed spreadsheet, delicately titled “Shit We Need”. We were gifted/handed down the vast majority of what we needed, plus a bunch extra, so as we received things, I’d colour code the cells and add the information to the thank you card tab. (Yeah, I’m that person.) The list was fairly comprehensive, from the big ticket items like the car seat and crib, to small things like washable breast pads and baby socks. I won’t go in to all the details, because, as I said, there are a million and one resources for that kind of thing on the net. But I will list the 5 things that Baby J needed/loved the most. It will be interesting to see if the list is the same for hypothetical future second child.
1) Baby Log. The best $5 I spent in the last year, no question. After the first month of so, when J’s habits started to become apparent, I downloaded every free baby tracking app that would work on my old iTouch. I picked the one that I liked best, imaginatively called Baby Log, bought the full version, and tracked that baby every single day until she was 11.5 months old. Which, on paper, is crazy OCD, but in reality was wonderful. J lives by a clock in her head, and as soon as I figured out what her preferred schedule was, especially in terms of napping, my life became so much easier. I knew she would want a nap 2 hours after she woke up, and the app kept count so I didn’t have to remember. As she got older, the waking times changed slightly, but with the app, it was easy to see and adjust and not have to think too much. It also tracked what side I started nursing on, so I didn’t have to remember that either, and during the 1-poop-a-week phase, we could easily track that too. I know, I know, but with this baby, who lives by her own clock it was the most wonderful thing to have. I’m not that OCD or clock following myself, but she is, and this was worth it’s weight in gold coins.
2) Swaddling/Sleep Sacks. J enjoyed being swaddled from the beginning, albeit with one arm free for finger sucking. When she was too strong for swaddling, we switched over to sleep sacks. We keep our house on the cool side, and she’s now a very mobile sleeper, and this keeps her warm and cosy and makes it slightly tougher for her to cruise around the crib.
3) Stuffed animals. This was a surprise to me, and points to other people for providing them. J LOVES stuffed animals. Like, open-mouthed-making-out-with-them love. It’s adorable. There’s now something cuddly in every toy bin in the house. If she’s upset, just hand her a stuffed penguin and watch her cuddle him to happiness.
4) Bumbo seat. J wanted to sit up from a young age and watch the world. The Bumbo made that possible. We still use it every day, when we eat dinner in the basement, on the couch, watching tv. (Yeah, yeah, I know, but at least we’re eating homemade food together as a family. And she tends to ignore the tv except to dance to the music.) Sure, she can flip her way out of it now, and we only use it with one of us sitting with her at all times, but it helps corral her during dinner, and it’s easier to use in the basement than the high chair in the dining room where we eat breakfast and lunch.
5) Bassinet. Our bedroom is on the main floor, and the nursery is upstairs. She slept in a bassinet in our room until she was 7 months old. Co-sleeping didn’t work for us, going upstairs 5 times a night wasn’t going to work for us. The bassinet was perfect. It was on a stand, so I didn’t have to bend much, which would have been impossible after the c-section anyway. Even after she moved upstairs to her crib, she’d still occasionally have naps in it. I know a lot of people say not to bother with them, but it was perfect for J, for a very long time.
Sure, we needed a bunch of other things: strollers, diapers, clothing, a baby bath tub (oddly essential for a very short period, especially for shaky new parents), a swing, bouncy seat, high chair, baby fingernail clipper, etc. But those are mostly generic needs (though swing vs seat is pretty baby specific. J liked both…). I’d say that the 5 above were pretty key.
As for what we didn’t need? J hated carriers and wraps from almost the beginning, so the 3 different kinds I bought got very little use. J rarely spit up so all the nice homemade burp clothes people made for me barely got used. We barely used the 3 bottles I bought – even when we’d go out, she’d basically just wait for me to return before eating much. There are a dozen unused sippy cups of various styles in my kitchen, purchased before I tried a cup with a straw, which she handles like a champ. (Yes. Can’t use a sippy cup, has no problems with straws. I was surprised too.) We have been given a lot of toys, and some of them have not been played with at all. (Unlike the duplo, which she is still officially too young for, but she adores taking blocks apart and using the blocks to make noises.)
Babies. They have funny personality quirks and opinions just like real people!
That’s the only word to describe the first day back in the office after a year of mat leave. Totally, completely surreal. It was a bizarre mix of “what the fuck am I doing here? where’s the baby?” and “what do you mean I ever left?”
And it’s not like things haven’t changed. The company moved in to a brand spanking new office tower, I’m officially a tech and not an admin, there are 13 new people in our group of 25 people. We’re on a new operating system, and my monitors are even bigger, so even the view of my screen is different. (And by big? I mean huge. A pair of 24 inch monitors. It’s a good thing it’s a big desk.) I currently don’t know what, exactly, the new role will require me to like, DO every day.
But other things haven’t changed. My three favourite people are still in the group. My boss is still my boss. There’s a constant struggle with budget and personalities. (The stock price is still junk.)
I have lunch dates and new shoes and a pair of monitors (I know I go on, but man, they make work so much easier). I have a paycheque coming and options that just vested and coworkers and software and a brand new electric desk. I felt… normal.
I also spent the whole damn day trying to get the daycare camera to work, so I could watch my little baby play.
Yeah. One foot in a pretty black heel, the other in barefoot. I’m not the first, and I’m not the last. The main feeling for today was, oddly, how fucking NORMAL it felt. I thought it would take a little bit more time than that, you know?
But we shall see. I can revoke all this tomorrow and go back to being a hysterical mess, keening in the car in the parking lot of the daycare.
So we’ve started the transition to daycare. Without getting in to the details, let me just say that IT SUCKS MORE THAN EVERYTHING HAS EVER SUCKED BEFORE, at least since the last thing that was completely terrible. So many tears. The daycare hasn’t been great at communicating what I am supposed to do, which hasn’t helped anything, but that’s only a side stress of BEING IN THE SAME ROOM AS MY SCREAMING BABY AND NOT BEING ABLE TO GO AND COMFORT HER.
We’ve both been doing a lot of crying.
On Monday, I *think* I’m to drop her off in the afternoon and then leave, so I’ve booked a massage. And on Tuesday a hair cut. And on Wednesday I go find my new office in the new shiny office tower. And the next phase of our lives begins.
I know it will be fine. Eventually. I just hate hate hate how many tears are being shed in the transition.
Being a grown up sucks.