Thursday, August 16, 2012

Some thoughts about being a working mom

I’ve been a parent now for a little over a year and a working parent for about 11.5 months now. I have thoughts on these things, but seem to have a perpetual problem organizing them. Therefore, for the 3 people left who read this blog, you get this.

I had way too high expectations when starting back to work. I expected to return to work at my normal 100% after having Kiddo. I failed miserably at that and, in retrospect I laugh at myself. When I returned to work at about 8.5 weeks post-partum, I was averaging about 5 hours of highly broken sleep a night. I was new at this pumping thing and still a tad hormonal. The idea that I would be able to work for 8 hours straight, breaking only to feed Kiddo at lunch and pump, was and is ludicrous (I should add that it’s ludicrous for me—I’m sure that other people can work sleep-deprived with absolutely no problems). With the sleep deprivation, adjusting to all my new responsibilities, and the general stress of having to start looking for a new job (that postdoc was over at the end of spring) I was overwhelmed. My brain just was too full. Granted I came up with ways to compensate (endless lists and strict prioritization), it was a huge adjustment and I just wasn’t my best. It pains me to admit that because I never wanted to be that parent. You know, the one who is all scattered because of having a kid and doesn’t return to work at the top of her/his game.

At about 10 months in, I felt like I was getting my groove back. Now, at 11.5 months I feel like I’m back to being super productive and making smart decisions. This is because Kiddo is starting to sleep more (only waking me up once or twice a night! Instead of 5 or more!) and I’m adjusting to getting everything done.

By everything done, I mean the normal day-to-day of living stuff. Prior to Kiddo, it was relatively easy to get all my chores done in about an hour. Now, it’s much more difficult, especially since recently the only person he’ll let hold him is me. Dr. Man and I are getting better at dividing up the labor appropriately. We now sit down to dinner together (as a family—including Kiddo!) almost every day of the week. I’m rather proud of that.

I suppose that I wish I could tell the me of almost a year ago that I need to just lower my expectations and recognize that having a baby is a huge freaking deal. That I shouldn’t minimize it and realize that it’ll impact all aspects of my life.

11 comments:

Jenny F. Scientist, PhD said...

Yep. 6 months to a year of paid leave sounds about right, doesn't it?

Carolina said...

I felt exactly the same way and I took a full 12 months off. Now I've been back for a little over 6 months. I'm still not completely up to speed and while I'm not completely exhausted, I can never accomplish everything I used to be able to do in a day. Glad to hear it gets better and easier! :)

Amanda@Lady Scientist said...

Jenny: Yep. At 6 months Kiddo was sleeping slightly more. Also, Dr. Man and I had worked out a better care arrangement for night time. 12 months would have been perfect, actually. Sigh.

Carolina: So. I'm slightly jealous of your 12 months off. The biggest change was having to be more efficient because I couldn't stay later. If something got borked, then that was that. I couldn't stay and fix it. I've gotten better at prioritizing and anticipating problems.

Karina said...

I'm glad you're writing about this. I love to imagine that I'll have kids who love to sleep, but I need to be realistic about what I'll be able to accomplish when they are young.

chall said...

aww.. I still can't belive how to do with the short mat leave here in the US - coming from sweden, in that aspect very kid friendly.

As for the sleep depravation, it's horrible. But most of the time it might be better that you don't fully grasp the horridness until afterwards, when you are sleeping more?! Surely it must be a trick from the body?

Happy to see you back :) and afaik, bullet points can be a good blogging way too ;)

ScienceGirl said...

Hear, hear. Why did I think it was remotely possible to be productive while sleep deprived? About a month after my daughter started sleeping through the night (she was over a year old!), I woke up and realized that for the first time in who knows how long I was not dazed. I have a brain! Woo-hoo!

I think maternity leaves should be at least 6 months, a full year would be even better. Better parents AND better employees - why wouldn't everyone want that?!?

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Anandi Raman Creath said...

Sing it, sisters! 6 months would be perfect. At my job I am lucky to get 20 weeks which works out to about 4.5 months-ish. I can tack on a few weeks of vacation to that, but even that isn't *enough*. 6 months would be perfect, a year even better :D

Amanda@Lady Scientist said...

Karina: Prior to having Kiddo, I completely thought I could deal with the sleep deprivation. More realistic expectations would have been better for me.

Chall: At the time I knew that I was tired and it was awful. It wasn't until now where I've been getting some times as much as 8 hours of sleep in a row(!) that I realize the extent of the awfulness. So there's that. :)

SG: I know! I have no idea where we get such crazy ideas! I read somewhere that Google found that attrition after a 3 month maternity leave was awful. So, they switched to a 6 month leave at full pay and attrition dropped by 50%. I'd think that those employees were much more productive too. (I can't even imagine how much easier breastfeeding would have been.)

Anandi: You're completely right. Even at 4.5 months Kiddo was still getting up all. the. time. Also, that's the age where they stop being a vaccuum of need and start becoming more fun. I just saw that you had a baby! Congrats!

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