I meant to blog about returning to work at the end of my first week. Still no dice.
Two weeks in and JUST NOW I’ve found the mental wherewithal to post. Thankfully my mom is pretty much the only person who really gives a shit about my blog and she’s been too busy putting out the fires in my brain to realize I’ve been slacking.
Better late than never, right?
Here’s the thing about returning to work post-baby… this isn’t my first rodeo. I dutifully returned to work at the end of my maternity leave and practically skipped out the door. Thanks to a real gnarly case of colic, I didn’t experience any of the emotionally conflicted feelings one generally speaks of. I was READY. See you all later, thanks. Don’t get it twisted… I loved my son. I still do. Infancy and I weren’t buds. I’ve made peace with it and we can all just move right along. Still, having done this before – and handled it fairly well – I was unprepared for the emotional shit show that would ensue. It’s as though I stepped foot on the train that first day and my brain fired a starting gun and said “Let the games begin!”
Top Five Things I’ve Learned About Being a Working Mom
- One Can Have 45 Different Feelings at Any Given Moment: Let me illuminate for you (because this has been the biggest struggle for me thus far). It’s Friday afternoon. I am elbow deep in an exciting new project at work. For the first time in years, I’m in a room surrounded by adults debating layouts, cracking jokes and tossing around ideas for streamlining branding processes. I feel alive. Professionally stoked. Full of possibility and potential. I have ideas. People are listening to my ideas. My brain is firing off ideas while my social anxiety is desperately trying to keep my mouth from vocalizing these ideas. CREATIVE STUFF IS HAPPENING AND THIS IS AWESOME. Then… I remember my child had a meltdown at school the other day and “mouthed off” to his teacher and I realize I should be missing him. A “good mother” wouldn’t feel so jazzed. Who am I to enjoy the possibility of a career while my poor child is forced to play with his peers and take naps in between occasional visits from the dance teacher and the fire department? I have failed. Enter mom guilt. Cue tears. Within minutes I’ve gone from professionally excited to a failure as a mother. After discussing my alleged transgression with some trusted folk, I realize perhaps I’m being silly. Now, I’ve added self consciousness and judgement to the list of feelings I’m experiencing. We are quickly brewing a stew of crap in my brain. This pretty much sums up my experience with returning to work.
- I Am Not Cool: The strange part of that statement is that it took me so long to realize this. But, I’m not. And rarely is this more apparent than at work. After spending 3 years with my mini me, it is a struggle to interact socially with my coworkers. They have things to say. Exciting tidbits to offer about their lives. They have fashion sense and well rested brains and are just full of youth and coolness. I have spent two years playing trains, reading every single parenting book that exists and agonizing over whether my child will starve to death because he refuses to consume food on a regular basis. My victories consisted of long naps, good lunches and playdates that didn’t result in hysterics or physical violence. At the library with other moms, this was acceptable conversation. Suddenly, however, I find myself facing down my lack of identity outside of my child and it’s really alarming. Lest you think the other working moms are a source of comfort, let me assure you. They’ve got this shit figured out and are also buckets of cool. Or maybe they’re not and they just play the game better than me. Or, maybe they’ve been back to work for more than two weeks. All are possibilities. What remains true is the fact that I’ve immersed myself in “being mama” for two years and lost a lot of what what makes me Lizi and this has been made crystal clear.
- Your Child’s Face Can Actually Cause Physical Pain: Catch me at the wrong moment and the sight of my adorable little dude can actually cause my heart to hurt. “I don’t want you to go to work mama” can bring on an episode of physical distress that is simply ridiculous. Seeing him smile when I return home is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. It’s that face I miss during the day.
- I Am Not In Control and It’s Ok: Welcome to last week’s lesson. There was an incident at preschool. Mateo made some snarky ass comment to the teacher and they took him aside to speak to him. Before I go on let me clarify one thing. No one else referred to this as an Incident. In fact no one else found it particularly snarky. Everyone else was able to see that my child was being a toddler and testing limits by informing his teacher that “you can’t make me” sit down for story time. I did not respond nearly as calmly. This was a behavioral issue that needed to addressed immediately and swiftly and was absolutely the sign of future delinquency. Thanks to a few solid friends, I was able to calm down and see it for what it was. But, the fact remains that I am used to being able to control every aspect of how that child is raised during the day. I am used to be able to decide how I discipline, what’s acceptable and what we do in the face of unacceptable behavior. Now, I have turned that responsibility over to the teachers at a really wonderful preschool and letting go has been far more challenging than I anticipated.
- Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail: It’s only two weeks in and I’ve finally started to get my shit together in terms of planning. The laundry is done. My clothes are ready. His clothes are ready. Food is prepared and frozen for the week. His lunch is packed. His breakfast is ready for him tomorrow. I have tweaked the schedule for our evenings. I’m anticipating problems before they arise. I’m ON THE BALL. Last week, not so much. Preschool kindly reminded me that perhaps my child would like to eat with utensils and it might be good if I sent a set. A peak into my closet mid week reminded me that “winging it” in the morning won’t fly when you are battling an annoyed toddler and some bodily fluids. I now have an entire closet of options awaiting me. Bring on the last minute fluid explosions. Tonight, as I type this, I feel calmer than I have in a month. I have prepared and in doing so have at least tricked my brain into believing we’ve got this. That’s good enough for me.
There’s your top five. Because lists are so neat and tidy. I haven’t “got this” and I probably won’t really have this ship under control for a couple months. Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learned is to be gentle with myself. This is a huge transition for him. As a result, I’ve been super gentle with him. I’ve made sure to give him more snuggles, let him have more one on one time with me, coddle him a bit more and give him the emotional space he needs to process. What I failed to do was give that same emotional space and gentle handling to myself. This week, my intention is to kill it at work and life… and to be far gentler with myself.
Now, for some crafting goodness.
I call these Halloween crafts our Half Assed Version and they prove true what I’ve always maintained — if I was a working mama, we wouldn’t do half the crafts we do. Turns out I was right. Strange how often that happens.
Paper Plate Pumpkins
Truth bomb: This craft happened after we had gotten halfway to my moms before actually speaking with her and realizing she was not actually going to be home. That’s right. My first instinct was to drive my pajama clad child to Grandma’s to let her take over for a hot minute because I was exhausted. Well, Grandma has a life so we crafted. This is a super simply pumpkin craft that requires little more than orange paint, construction paper and glue. Mateo’s favorite part? “The little eyes be everywhere. I so silly.” The eyeball stickers. That was his favorite part of the entire craft.
- Green card stock paper
- Paper plate
- Small pieces of black, white, brown and yellow construction paper for the eyes, nose, teeth and stem.
- Orange paint
- Eyeball stickers (entirely optional)
- To Prep: Cut a couple funny shaped mouths out of the black construction paper. Make sure you make the mouth large enough to accommodate teeth. Use the white paper to cut out small rectangles for teeth. Then, cut out circles for the eyes and use the yellow paper to create a nose. Finally, cut a stem from brown construction paper.
- Explain that you’ll be making a pumpkin and allow your little one to paint the plate orange. Allow time to dry.
- Once dry, glue to the green card stock paper and spread out the materials your tot will use to create the face. Allow him to glue the facial features in a manner that suits his fancy. Finally, let your toddler loose with eyeball stickers and watch the entire craft take a turn for the ridiculous. Or, maybe that’s just my kid.
Pumpkin Carving with a Toddler
This is fairly self explanatory since pumpkin carving is a staple of Halloween tradition. However, as with anything that involves toddlers, rarely do things go as planned. So, rather than give a step by step explanation of how to carve a pumpkin, I’ll simply list a few helpful hints I’ve picked up.
- The real fun is letting them draw the facial features. After I explained to M that we were going to carve the pumpkin, I put my hand over his and let him (mostly) guide the sharpie. This was his favorite part. We had a lengthly chat about what his pumpkin should look like and where the eyes should go and should they be triangles or circles. I was surprised and impressed by how much ownership he took over his pumpkin’s face and how he was genuinely serious in contemplation over what his pumpkin should look like. Also, it’s pretty much Christmas any time he’s allowed to come anywhere near a sharpie so this was a huge hit.
- Obviously, don’t let your 3 year old carve the pumpkin. Duh. To help with trouble waiting patiently while I carved, I told M that I could only carve correctly if he sang while I worked. Otherwise my muscles wouldn’t work. This kept him occupied and away from me while I wielded a knife.
- Not all kids love getting elbow deep in pumpkin guts. Mateo was really not stoked about the idea. It took some serious negotiation to get him to stick a spoon in that pumpkin and pull out the guts. In the end, we did part of it together and I did the rest while he told me how dirty I was getting.
- Expect awe. While he didn’t totally love the act of scraping out the pumpkin, he couldn’t have been prouder of the final result. Success!
Melted Crayon Decorating
“Pinterest says…” Oh… the story of my life. Well, Pinterest said that crayons would easily melt atop a pumpkin with little more than a hair dryer. Hmm. Is that so? Sort of. I take issue with the word “easily” and would offer a disclaimer that “quickly” isn’t how I would describe the melting process. This craft was not a success. Melting the crayons took too long. The hot air from the blow dryer made Mateo nervous. Melted crayons bits splattered everywhere. I shall refrain from listing the steps involved because I can’t actually suggest this craft. For a hot minute, it was cool to Mateo. The melting was cool. The colors were cool. Wielding the hair dryer was cool. For approx. four minutes. The rest of the time was spent trying to convince him how fucking cool this is.
Eh. You win some, you lose some.
In the event that you want to try this at home anyway, the gist is simply. Glue five or six broken crayons atop a pumpkin. Use a hair dryer’s hot air to melt the crayons and let the melted crayon drip down the sides and create a uniquely “painted” pumpkin. If you have success with this, please let me know.
That’s our story, folks. Two weeks down, many more to go. Slowly but surely we are finding our way and I’m choosing to embrace the excitement I feel at work rather than use it to beat myself up. Ain’t that life. I’m gonna savor all the little moments we have…