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Pumping Mama

Thoughts on being a working, pumping mamaThis is my second go around being a working, nursing, pumping mom.

My thoughts on that follow:

  1. It’s time consuming. We’re all busy. Home life is busy, work is busy, society in general is busy. Finding time is not easy. If you’re like me, you have found the ability to multitask while pumping: I can often be found writing work reports (or sometimes future blogs—where this one may have come to fruition) while my electric pump and hands-free pumping bra does the majority of the “work”!
  1. You’re tethered by a hose. Enough said.
  1. You may never feel sexy again. If you have ever seen what happens when a woman is attached to a pump, I’m certain you agree!
  1. It’s uncomfortable. For all you men out there reading this: it’s as uncomfortable as it looks.
  1. All you get is a storage room. If you’re like me, there is no designated space for a pumping mother at my work place. So, I get the pleasure of spending time in the storage closet in order to have some privacy. At least they let me keep a chair in there so I don’t always have to drag one in with me!
  1. Cleaning pump parts. You have just spent roughly 15-20 minutes pumping, do you really want to spend another 10 cleaning all the parts? If you’re like me you just throw them all in your cooler to save for cleaning later which, including all the bottles the baby used while you were away from them, leads to plenty of dishes every night.
  1. Your life is dictated by the schedule of your boobs. As if your life being dictated by a tiny human (or many tiny humans) isn’t tough enough. Skip a pump/feeding and the evidence will be there right on the front of your shirt.
  1. Car Pumping. For my job, I often travel around throughout the day. This means pumping must occur in my car. Not easy to do completely discretely. Thank God for hand-less pump bras and nursing covers!
  1. Lugging the pump and parts. EVERYWHERE. As if you don’t have enough to tote around by just having the baby. And what about those days you forget one little piece of the crazy contraption… ugh, guess you won’t pump that day (then you can refer to #7)!
  1. Counting ounces is stressful. Did I squeeze out enough? How much does the baby eat while I’m away? Should I try to pump a little longer? Ugh. The stress. And please tell me you did not spill a drop of that liquid gold!

Keep it up mama.  This too will pass.  And in some twisted way you might even miss it a little bit (like I did after I stopped nursing/pumping for my first—seriously though, now that I am back in the midst of it, what was I thinking?!) .

And even through all those undesirable and unattractive things that go along with pumping and nursing—there are a few positives that for me, outweigh my list above:

  1. Burn extra calories—who doesn’t love to eat an extra piece of candy every once in awhile!
  2. Decreased chances for breast cancer—I want to see the babies of my grandbabies and will do whatever I can to increase the chances of that!
  3. Ideal nutrition for my baby—I can even produce the antibodies my baby needs to fight off colds and give them to him through my milk. Wow—amazing!


Feeling Guilty, Party of One

guiltyI know this is a recurring theme in our blog—in fact it’s the reason this blog exists—but being a mom is hard. I’m a working mom, and lately that’s been weighing on me.

Since Ev was 9-weeks-old, he has been in child care. It was the single hardest experience of my life—to leave him in the care of someone else—but since it was a high-quality program with child care providers I trusted, I was able to make peace and feel confident in my decisions.

But I’m feeling guilty. It started a few weeks ago when Ev’s class was having a party and parents were invited to participate. He’s had a few parties since he has been in that classroom and I’ve attended some and not others. He didn’t seem to notice (or be bothered) either way, so this time I didn’t put it in my calendar. On the morning of the party Ev asked, “My teacher told me some parents are coming and some aren’t…are you coming?” When I told him I wasn’t, he got really sad and asked several times if there was any way I could. I felt so bad because I had some meetings that I just couldn’t get out of or reschedule at the last minute. Luckily, I have a great friend who has twins in Ev’s class. As soon as I dropped him off I asked her if she was going. She was—so I told her the story and asked if she’d give Ev a little extra attention. She sent me some encouraging texts and pictures so I could see Ev was having a good time. It was comforting, but I still wished I would have planned to go.

Going back to work/school after the holiday break is hard on everyone. I read somewhere that January is like the “Monday” of months and it couldn’t be truer. Recently in the morning, Ev has been saying things like, “I just want to stay home and snuggle with you,” and “I only want to be with you.” It breaks my heart to tell him that while I feel the same way, I have to work and that means he has to go to school. I’ve been staying with him in his classroom until he finds something of interest to get engaged with and when I leave he is quite content, but it hasn’t kept me from worrying.

Whether you are a working parent or a stay-at-home parent, you are still a good, hard-working parent, and your children are lucky to have you. When it gets tough, it’s important to remember that.


Better Together

There's a silver lining to being apart from my children, and it's that I'm reminded how golden our hours together have the potential to be.

There’s a silver lining to being apart from my children, and it’s that I’m reminded how golden our hours together have the potential to be.

Working four days a week is an adjustment for everyone, and if Miss E’s request that I “stay, stay” at bedtime and Little Sister’s manic-excitement kicks and hand flaps when I return in the afternoon are any indication, I’m not the only one who’s missing something fierce. It’s tough and likely only to get tougher when Miss E returns to a preschool program in a few weeks and Little Sister is settled into a family child care home.

But the time we do spend together, it’s sweeter and better for our parting.

I’m home in the afternoons with plenty of time to jump around in the sunroom singing “Walking, Walking,” to tickle Little Sister repeatedly from toes to ears, to admire the day’s many drawings of ghosties and Miss E’s attempts to write her name; I’m also home with patience enough for requests to help make dinner and cries to nurse every half an hour.

As much as I love my sleep, there’s a part of me that wishes my girls were (a little bit) earlier risers, so we’d have more time for snuggles and stories in the morning before I have to go. Still, Miss E climbs down the stairs at long last and leaps at me, and I carry Little Sister through as much of my morning routine as I can.

On our most recent day home together, Miss E helped me to hang the diapers to dry and to sort her clean laundry, and we three worked together on the very important task of tower building and wanton destroying. While Little Sister napped, Miss E and I decided what to make for lunch and played a matching game. And then she had some quiet time, too, and while I caught up on work, I wondered over what a fine day it was. Sure, there’d been a hug that got a little too aggressive and the usual tug-of-war over the inconsequential that just comes of living with a nearly-three year old, but I felt less frazzled, less quick to anger, more willing to accept what could be done in the moment and move on. I was just happy to be with them, and that felt good. Really good.

There’s a silver lining to being apart from my children, and it’s that I’m reminded how golden our hours together have the potential to be.


I Didn’t Choose Work

I’ve read a lot of great blogs out there about working moms—including some right here—and as I am reflecting on one last week of being (mostly) at home with my girls, I’m thinking a lot about the empowering, positive messages shared by mothers who work outside of the home. How they’re better mothers because they work. How they’re setting an example for their young sons and daughters about all of the things a mother can do. How they’re using their whole brains, and not just the part that repeats something about washing your hands after you potty. How grateful they are to have the privilege to choose to work, as many mothers in previous generations did not.

But for me, this is what it really comes down to: if you can afford to choose, you choose.

If you can’t afford to choose, you don’t have a choice.

It’s about money. Paying the bills, buying the things, saving for retirement.

And how am I supposed to feel about myself, about my parenting, if that’s what it’s really about?

Admitting that I don’t want to go back to work feels like a most unpopular opinion. I should want to use my degrees. I should want to contribute in a more significant way financially to my family. I should want to have the money to buy Jamberry without feeling guilty. Flippant comments aside, I should want, as a feminist, to do more than mother. Wanting to stay at home feels indulgent, even though I know it’s incredibly hard work. Wanting to stay at home feels like I’m saying wanting something else isn’t okay, which is not at all how I feel. A friend of mine often sincerely quotes Amy Poehler when she says of others’ choices, “Good for her, not for me.”

And that’s the truth.

I’ll be working for a non-profit, doing good. I’ll be writing and editing and many of the things that I love to do. I’ll have a flexible schedule that allows me more time with my children than many working parents get during the week. These were choices I made about the kind of job I was willing to take, but the real choice, the big choice, about returning to the workforce in a more significant way—that one was made for me.

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What I Never Expected About Motherhood

Two things I never expected about motherhood? Babies are funny. And gross.My daughter will be a year old this month. Part of me can’t believe that my tiny little girl is already a (tiny) 1-year-old. And there’s another part of me that can’t believe that she isn’t already in kindergarten because I don’t remember what our lives were like before she was part of them.

I’m an over-preparer. A year ago when I was waiting for Elliot to make her big arrival, I read everything I could get my hands on. I didn’t have a baby so I actually had time to do things like read. I made a plan for what I would do if my water broke at work. I researched what contractions felt like so I would recognize them when they started. I prepared myself emotionally for the fact that breastfeeding would probably be hard for awhile.

We had a pretty easy adjustment to parenthood, which I credit partially to my daughter being an easy baby and partially to the fact that I felt emotionally prepared. Yes, I wasn’t sleeping much, but I knew that would be the case. I had prepared myself to be exhausted. Yes, she seemed to nurse constantly, but I knew that would be the case. I had prepared myself to do nothing else for a few weeks.

But of course, there were also surprises. Things that I could never have planned for or things that I just didn’t realize came along with motherhood.

I was totally unprepared for the amount of time my daughter would be… kind of a blob. In my head, babies were a lot like the 11-month-old I have now, not like the newborn that we brought home. I didn’t realize it would be months before she’d even smile at us, let alone laugh. I didn’t realize that she really would be small and helpless and unable to even grab a toy for what felt like an eternity.

I was totally unprepared for the snot. I knew there would be poop. I knew there would be spit-up. I didn’t realize that the disgustingness of baby boogers would far exceed either of those—and that one of her early talents would be blowing snot bubbles out of her nose. Ew.

I was totally unprepared for the amount of time I would spend doing new, baby-related chores. Pumping at work, washing bottles and pump parts, washing her diapers, packing her food for child care, doing her laundry, making sure that her favorite blue bunny gets washed at least once a week because he spends the majority of his life alternating between her mouth and the floor. It’s probably close to an hour a day, more on some days.

I was totally unprepared for how funny she’d become. The simplest things are really, really funny when she does them. Have you ever seen an 11-month old shake her head “no”? Because it’s seriously hilarious. Especially if said 11-month old has hair that looks a lot like Justin Bieber’s.

I was totally unprepared for how I’d want to be with her all the time. The hardest part of being a working mom for me is that I miss her. All the time. I love spending time with her and if I could figure out a way to permanently strap her to my side and never let anyone else hold her, I would probably do it.

I know that the next year of parenting adventures will only bring more surprises, though I’m sure that at some point shaking her head “no” will become a lot less funny.

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I’m a Mother First

I'm a mother first. Even if sometimes it doesn't look like it.“I’m a mother first.”

I heard this recently from a high-powered executive, a woman who has accomplished great things. She wanted to be clear about the fact that above all else, she is a mom. I want that to be how people see me, too. I want my son to know that regardless of whatever else was going on in our lives, he has always been my top priority.

But I’m not sure that’s how he’ll remember things.

The other day when Ev and I were sitting at the kitchen table finishing up a snack, I asked him if he wanted to play in his room with me. His response was startling.

“Yes, but will you please not bring your phone?”

Hashtag parenting fail.

I was stunned and for a moment, at a loss for words. Luckily, I was able to contain my remorseful tears. And after the world started turning again, I said, “Did you say that because you don’t want me to be on it while we are playing together?” To which he of course said, “Yes.”

I feel the need to defend myself a little and say that I am not typically on my phone a lot when we are together. Because I am a working mom, our time together always feels limited and I try hard to make the most of it. That being said, sometimes Ev doesn’t have my undivided attention. Sometimes, Ev gets clingy. He doesn’t want to be in a room without my husband or me and can’t seem to engage in independent play. When that happens for an extended period of time, ever since he was a baby, I can take him to his room, shut the door and let him at it. With me in the room, he’ll play for hours. And up until now, he would do so alone while I was on my phone or iPad. It provided a break for me and he was content.

I do feel guilty that Ev asked me to leave my phone and quite frankly, embarrassed that my preschooler straight called me out. But it was a wake-up call I needed. I realize now that I need to be clearer about whether it’s time for us to play together or time for him to play by himself. And when it’s time for us to play together, he’ll get my undivided attention. I’ll still get my time for me, time for “breaks,” but it won’t coincide with time with Ev. While that me-time is necessary for me to energize and be a good mom, I never want Ev to feel that he isn’t always my first priority.

I’m a mother first.

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I’m a (Working) Mom

What does it mean to be a working mom?I’m a working mom, and I love/hate it. My husband went back to school for a career change and is a full-time student, so staying at home with our daughter isn’t an option for me at this point. I don’t know if I would want to if it was. Like most other things about parenting, I’ve found the answer to the question to be complicated.

There are things I hate about being a working mom. I hate that I miss so much time with my daughter every day. The time together we have is quality time, but there’s something to be said about quantity of time, too. I hate that it’s so hard to get out the door in the morning and that I always feel like I’m rushing to get home. I hate that I don’t feel like I get enough time at work or at home. I hate that sometimes my daughter has to go to child care even when she’d rather be with me. I hate that I spend most of my life now feeling totally exhausted and like I’m not pulling my weight in any area of my life.

There are a lot of things I love about being a working mom though, too. I love that I’m setting an example for my daughter that a woman can have a career and a family. On days that I successfully balance it all, I feel like a superhero. I love that because we don’t have much time together, the time we do have always feels really special. I haven’t felt yet that I needed a break from being a mom. The upside to not having enough time together is that I can’t wait to see her at the end of the day and have to ease my foot off the gas pedal on my way to pick her up. I love that she’s being cared for in a positive environment by people experienced in early childhood education. We’re partners in her development and I think that she’ll be better off because of it. For myself, I love that I have the opportunity to interact with adults all day and still snuggle with my baby at night.

Right after Elliot was born, a friend gave me some advice as I was agonizing over the thought of returning to work. What if her teachers didn’t love her? What if she didn’t get enough attention? What if there were things that I didn’t like about her program? “It will be just fine,” she said. “Because it has to be.”

I don’t know if I would choose this if my family situation was different right now. To be honest, I haven’t allowed myself to explore that possibility because it isn’t a real possibility. I think that I probably would because most days, what I love about being a working mom outweighs what I don’t love.