Friday, October 14, 2011

Pumping mama

A couple of days ago one our our HR staff asked me if she could ask me a question that was sorta personal but also work related.

"Sure" - what else am I going to say?

So she asks me how many times a day I pumped when I was nursing my son, in the beginning. Three times. I actually held up my fingers while saying this for extra emphasis.

"That's what I thought" she said - sounding a little disheartened.

So apparently one of the managers she oversees has a newly back-to-work mom who is nursing and (s)he is complaining that this employee is spending too much time pumping. It was a little sad to hear. Sad because, while my company actually does better than other companies in that they provide a room for us lactating mom's to pump, obviously some managers don't quite get it. My manager certainly got it. I never had anyone make any fuss about me going up to a room, hooking myself up to a pump and sit for 10+ minutes three times a day so I could provide breast milk to my son the first year of his life. I did manage to get some work done as I have a BlackBerry so I could at least answer emails. I guess I get that for some jobs it's hard to be away from your desk...but I see lots of people get up and go outside to smoke a cigarette three or four times a day...I'm going to guess most managers aren't raising a fuss about that. What would be great if companies (or - gasp - the government) would give women more than 12 weeks maternity leave so maybe we could stay home with our babies and not have to come back to work right away and figure out how we're going to continue to do our jobs while still pumping...but I don't want to get all crazy here.

I stopped pumping at work at around 11 months. I don't miss it one bit - OK, there are days I do miss the quiet time to myself, but I certainly don't miss having milk sucked out of my boobs. However I did it because I truly believe that giving your child breast milk (either direct from the source or in a bottle) helps ensure a great start to his/her life. I don't really expect my manager or any manager to actually care whether or not I want to provide this for my child. But I do expect managers to understand and follow federal law.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Typical* Working Mother's Day

Recently my new favorite blogger, Mary Tyler Mom, reposted a piece she'd written about Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP site and the typical days of working mothers. To say the least, MTM didn't really think it was typical at all, and neither did I. To be fair, she did say "extremely busy days of mother's she knows." Obviously GP doesn't know me or any women like me. But as a counter point, here is this busy working mother's day.


Wake 6 a.m. catch a few extra z's while Mr. H. finishes his shower while also listening to NPR (multi-tasking at its finest). Shower (a five minute thing if this is a no wash hair day - 15 if it's a hair wash day), do my five second makeup. My tip for quick makeup - don't wear much. I have a moisturizer that I bought at CVS that has SPF and is tinted. Most days that's all I wear. But lately I've been trying to "look nice" so I put on eye shadow (either a light blush or brown) and mascara. Sometimes I put on lipstick. Get dressed, change clothes when I don't like what I'm wearing.

By this time, Mr. H has probably gotten Baby H. up, and changed his diaper and started the feeding process. I usually join them in the kitchen for a glass of OJ and a couple of vitamins. I may take a bite of Baby H.'s toast/bagel/fruit. At this point I try to get my stuff together so I don't forget anything - this includes making my lunch which is some sort of frozen thing, or maybe a Boca burger and some fruit, maybe a yogurt. Also, if there is time, I do the dishes that weren't done the night before. And unfortunately, for now, that means actually doing the dishes because we don't have a dishwasher...someday.

Feeding of Baby H. is probably done by now, so one of us gets him dressed and then we all brush our teeth. For some reason we always seem to be in the bathroom at the same time doing this. It really highlights how small our bathroom is...but it's good quality family time.

OK, we're all ready at this point so if it's a day I have to get to work by 8, I leave (probably going to be late anyway) and Mr. H. waits for the "nanny" to come pick up Baby H. and take him to the house of the family we share her with. If it's a day that I don't have to be to work by 8, Mr. H. leaves and Baby H. and I argue over what shoes he's going to wear. I then drop Baby H. at said family's house and speed-walk to the train.

Ah the train - some alone time. I usually check my blackberry to make sure that there's nothing urgent awaiting for me when I get in. Then I switch to my personal phone and "curate my social media" which just means checking Facebook and see if anyone I know has anything funny to say and if I feel the need to make any funny comments or "like" something. Then I switch to my Kindle and read whatever Project Gutenberg book I currently have (right now it's Bleak House by Dickens). After a 30 minute train ride I am finally downtown and I speed-walk the five blocks to my office cursing everyone in my way.

I usually get to work between 8 and 8:30. The short version is: turn on computer, get some coffee, answer emails, answer the phone, write some stuff, send some emails out, update the intranet, check some blogs, make some phone calls, have lunch at my desk, get some water, send emails, answer the phone, browse the web, write some stuff, attend to a few personal things (pay bills, make doctor's appointments etc.) send some emails out, update the intranet, make some phone calls, try to get upstairs to our "workout room" to run and/or lift weights for 45 min., go back to my desk figure out what needs to be done before I leave, try to get on "early train" (5:03) so I don't have to run to make it in time to pick up Baby H., get caught up in conversation and miss 5:03 and run to the 5:15. Ah, the Metra. I take the Metra home cause it is just so much quicker than the CTA and it's very close to my office (but a longer walk on the home end).

If I'm lucky, I get to spend the 15 min. on the train catching up with my friend S. discussing, what else, work, kids, husbands - though yesterday we also worked in expensive boots and dresses probably too nice to wear to work but bought anyway because they were such a great deal.

Once I'm off the train I speed walk the mile from the train to pick up Baby H. by 5:45 p.m. We then take a leisurely stroll the four blocks home where I sometimes let him walk and live in fear of him running into the street. Home and we start dinner for Baby H. and hang out in the kitchen. After dinner, depending on how long it took us to get home and how dirty Baby H. got during dinner, we either play or start the bathing process. Unfortunately, since we're in a Chicago home that has original plumbing circa 1920's, filling the tub takes about 15 min. So while we wait, we see if Baby H. wants to go potty. He doesn't, but he likes sitting on it...well, it's a start. We bath Baby H. usually all of us hanging out in the bathroom (again, some good quality family time) although sometimes I use this time to do the dishes I didn't do in the morning. Then we send Baby H. off to sleep with PJ's, a few books (in rotation right now are Baby Faces, I Am a Bunny, and something something Monkey (I can not believe I don't remember the name of this book as we have read it every day for several weeks now...ah the mind of a super-busy mom)) and a song. It is now around 7:30 p.m.

After that, we quietly tiptoe in the kitchen to make dinner, which most nights Mr. H. does while I either (a) have yet another opportunity to do the dishes from the previous day and the morning or more likely (b) go into the living room, lie on the couch and watch TV. Lately I have been using this time to lie on the floor and do some yoga stretches because my neck and back has been so tense lately that I'm pretty sure they are going to seize up. We eat dinner sitting on the couch watching TV and after... if I'm being really good...I'll go into the kitchen and do the dishes, but really, who are we kidding. Usually I fall asleep on the couch around 9:30 and then Mr. H. wakes me up around 10 and we go to bed. While walking from the couch to the bedroom I grouse about all the things I didn't accomplish like: ironing, making my lunch in advance, kitting, reading, writing in my journal...

I'm sure my typical day isn't as hectic as some, but, I dare to suggest, that maybe a little more "real" than those ladies who offered their stories on GOOP.

* I don't really know if I am typical or not - I guess it's pretty subjective. To Gwyneth , Stella and Juliet are obviously typical.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ways to make myself cry

It is 17 months after the birth of my son. I am still emotional. I blame the hormones. But I may be nearing the end of that excuse.

I've just spent the last month reading a blog about a little girl who died of brain cancer. If you feel the need to make yourself sad, learn some about what it is like to live with and then loose a child to cancer, and feel extremely grateful for what you do have, visit Mary Tyler Mom.

Mr. H. has often wondered why I torture myself with sad movies, tv shows that play on the emotions. He wonders why I cry when I watch "the Biggest Loser" finale. I can't help it, I cry, and sometimes I like to. But he also gets it that it's cathartic. And this most recent crying fest over Donna's story. Well, I think Mary Tyler Mom lived the fear that all parents go through. Never in my life have I loved something so fully as I love my son. It is a joy and a privilege to see him grow. And I worry constantly that something will happen to him. Not necessarily something catastrophic that he'll get cancer (though with him being named after his uncle who died of cancer, that thought has crossed my mind). I also think that I'll fail him somehow. That by letting him fall down, I'm being too hard on him. Maybe I don't coddle him enough. Maybe I coddle him too much.

Anyway, this parenting thing is hard. Just about as hard as living can sometimes be. And if nothing else, reading Donna's story has reminded me that I am truly a lucky and privileged person.

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