OHBD 2015

OHBD 2015

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Blending work and home

As a working mom, you need to decide how much to bring home to work and how much work you bring home. For me, I try to blend my working life with my one at home. I found they tended to bleed into each other naturally. Over the years, bringing my kids to visit at my job became a way to include my kids in that portion of my life. It started rather innocently when my first son was 10 months. I took him to my job dressed up as a pumpkin because I was taking him to my husband's school after work. You can see him below enjoying a blue lollipop.
The visit morphed into an impromptu trick or treating event for him as he met my colleagues and they him. Everyone had so much fun that my department set up something more formal the next year. And my son and the children of my colleagues loved coming. Now all three of my children get in on the fun. My current job does something similar. Here is a picture from our most recent at work trick or treating event. The pumpkin grew into something much larger as you can see and is joined by two other characters played by his brother and sister.
I also bring my three children to take your kids to work day as well as one or two times during the year just because they enjoy just being there with me (and of course I with them). I am still somewhat perplexed that my kids find coming to my workplace such a special event. I think part of it comes from wanting to understand and be a part of the piece of your life they don't see into on a day to day basis. I believe having that view into where you are when you are not with them is comforting. And it makes them feel like they have a role in that part of your world too even if it is just an occasional cameo.

I also noticed my kids especially enjoy seeing their pictures and artwork (and making new contributions) in my workspace when they come. As my boys got older, they moved on to helping me pick out pictures to hang on the walls. I found that process gave me some insights into each of them. My eldest picked the most beautiful picture of a single perfect pale yellow rose. It was a realistic portrait of a lovely flower. My second son picked "A starry night" which is a much more abstract rendering. Interestingly, the colors were complimentary but the moods were starkly different. My boys share a birthday and have much in common. But they are definitely two unique individuals. Seeing those two posters side by side on my wall was a interesting pictorial reminder. Finding ways to blend the different portions of my life and the learning that comes through the process provides much color, some unexpected, in the "art" of managing the "working mom" role. . .at least for me.

The Power of Sleep

Sleep is one of those thing you take for granted and even maybe resent having to do until you can’t get it. I remember hating to take naps as a kid and trying to take a book with me or other activity to keep sleep at bay. When you become a new parent, you are at the whim and mercy of a little person who has needs 24/7. Allowing you the appropriate time to catch the recommend 8-9 hours at a stretch is not within their consideration set. Kids on the other hand find their sleep as they need it as demonstrated here by my daughter asleep in her stroller as we were visiting my work.

I recently saw a great description of a typical day from a work colleague who is the father of a number young children on a parents group email. It went like this:
“Sleep is overrated.
8 p.m.: Put kids to bed, talk with wife.
11 p.m.: Finish my review feedback – turn off 7 year old’s reading light and take book off her face.
12 a.m.: Finish fixing the drain under the sink clogged by 5 year old’s toy.
2 a.m.: 2 year old wakes up, comes into my bed, squishing me up next to the new baby who just finished nursing. Get up, bring 2 year old back to bed, put his pajama shirt back on because he thinks he’s a super hero and should be bare chested.
3:30 a.m.: Wake to put 4 year old back in bed who just “rolled out.” Get wife glass of water cause she woke up. Check fatals for website & email an on call (have empathy with the SDE who gets the occasional midnight page).
6 a.m.: 2 yr old wakes up for good. Start coffee, put on Blue’s Clues, stumble into shower. Come to work – find problems, work problems, call home – hear about more problems, get feedback.
5:30 p.m.: Look up & gasp – run to bus, barely catch the next bus – run to catch transfer bus – miss it #$@%#%$@ walk the mile home, uphill, in the rain.
6:15 p.m.: Open house door – hear feet running. Tackled by children with a hero’s welcome. Priceless.”

When we just had one child, I could coordinate with his schedule and make it work. I am not saying it was easy because that certainly wasn’t the case especially because being new at the parenthood thing brought on more anxiety about whether we were doing it right, was he developing as he should, etc. When we had our second son, it got more interesting. I didn’t know how good I had it with the first (isn’t that always how it goes?). My first slept through the night at 10 weeks and within a few months, regularly slept 11-12 hours a night.

When my second arrived, I prepared myself for the same pattern. Survive the first few tough months and then settle into a more sane sleep schedule. My second had different ideas; he was hungry, a lot. The nurses at the hospital commented on it when he was born and that should have been my first clue. But I missed it. Many other clues were there and missed for what was to come. My second never lost weight as babies often do shortly after they are born. Nope – he put on a pound a week for the first 8 weeks of his life. His pediatrician joked that I should start bringing him in a wheel barrow when he hit 16 pounds at 8 weeks. What has eating to do with sleeping you might ask. Well apparently it is difficult to sleep when you are hungry. My second son did not sleep through the night until his second birthday (no I am not kidding). He got up to eat most nights (and trust me we tried everything!). I came to appreciate sleep in a whole new way after that stretch.

I had not thought much about these periods of my life until we adopted our daughter at 6 months old about a year and half ago. And we returned to night time feedings. I was older this go around and did not think I could survive another 2 year interrupted sleep marathon. With my daughter, I was reminded of the new parent anxiety I had with my first. There were many unknowns about the time before she joined our family. I was again faced with the questions: Am I doing this right for her? What does she need from me? I felt ill prepared although I was what adoption folks term “an experienced mother”. Over time as with my first, I found the natural connections and patterns. I trusted my maternal instincts about what was right for my child. I found that process one of the most breathtaking aspects of motherhood. Your baby teaches you as you teach them. Through the mutual learning you develop an amazingly strong and unique bond with each child - whether yours through biology or adoption.

It sounds obvious - balancing children and work (or other priorities) is that much more challenging if you are sleep deprived. Looking back I don’t think I realized how much more difficult the challenge is when you are not fully rested especially when this continues for extended periods. I just tried to power through it and sometimes that was really tough. I try to do a better job getting sleep now(or adjusting expectations if I can't).

My colleague’s description highlights how sleep issues becomes complex as you have more young children, close in age. We spaced ours out so we only had one baby at a time. I found that helped me balance. One baby (plus other older kids) and work was my kind of doable. The bottom line is the same – what you get in return for that sleep deprivation is totally worth it. Here are some photos from the period when our precious daughter was still calling the shots on whether we slept much during the night. Couldn’t say it better – PRICELESS!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother's Day across three generations

Mother’s Day is a special day to me and I am sure most moms. It is the one day I feel I earned. I remember my first mother’s day with my oldest son Dimitri. My husband bought me roses to celebrate. The picture is below.

Becoming a mother and being a mother over these years, has forced me to look at my view of my mother and mothers generally. My mother is Dutch. Her father died after a long chronic illness when she was seventeen. She supported herself since she was 18. My mother was a working woman until she had her first child, my older sister. Then she became a stay at home mother. I went through a period where I was very close to my mother, early childhood and preteen years, and then went through a time where we were much more distant, teens and early twenties. There was a cultural issue because I have Dutch lineage but I am American first.

As I became a mom and continued working, I found myself thinking about my mother more and having a new perspective on her life, her choices and our relationship. There is much I don’t know about my mother. She is a very private person. I remember pushing her very hard as a teenager because I truly believed she did not understand me. Not so long ago, she told me something that made me see that time in my life and her role in a whole new light. My mom told me of her teenage years when her father was dying and her mother was focused on his care. It hit me hard to realize that probably was a big part of why she did not understand me as a teenager. Acting out and pushing for independence were not part of her teenage experience so she was not well prepared when her daughter hit that turbulent time.

I have found myself wanting to know my mother better and admiring more what I do know. I held her up to a standard of perfection growing up and she fell short. I realized if my kids to the same to me, I would also fall short. I try to be open with my kids about my choices, including the one to work and my mistakes and weaknesses. I also talk to them about my mother and her choices. I don’t think there is a right choice for everyone. I don’t know if my mother truly felt she had a choice when she had children. I feel fortunate that I did but it’s a choice with consequences and responsibilities.

On mother’s day, I am truly thankful for my children who have blessed me in so many ways, for my husband who makes being a mother a partnership activity with lots of love, laughter and support, and my mother who made many sacrifices for her children and is a complex, beautiful person as well as a wonderful grandmother. When I was first a mom, I knew she did not agree with me returning to work although she never said anything. One time after a visit to help me with baby Dimitri, she hugged me and said, “You’re a good mom.” It brought tears to my eyes. My mother finds expressing emotional things difficult so that made it more special. I also did not realize until that moment how much I wanted my mother to validate my motherhood. Happy Mother’s Day to moms everywhere including my special mom (pictured here with baby Dimitri, baby Damian and baby Leyla)!