Someone once stated, in regards to new mothers and their daily routines, “I don’t understand what all the bitching is about. Just put the baby on the couch next to you – in a seat, whatever – and go about your business. How hard can that be?” I was pregnant at the time. And I remember thinking I was about to find out.
I broke up with all of my remaining clients this week. I have been trying to make the mother thing and the work thing coincide since Emory was born. And for a week or two at the very beginning I thought it might just work. But then everything started to change. Emory began demanding more from me as he grew older. And that made juggling work and paying attention to the baby really difficult. But the even harder part, and its not what I would have guessed prior to having a baby, is that it’s even harder to work now that Emory is paying attention to me.
I’m not sure if it’s the guilty catholic thing I have ingrained inside of me or if it’s just the simple fact that ignoring someone who longs for my attention while I stare at a computer (or TV) screen seems irresponsible and depressing. But I just can’t bring myself to prop the kid up on the couch next to me, grab some lunch, and stare straight ahead at a glowing screen while he stares longingly at the side of my head. Which is why it can take 3 hours spread across a few days to watch a half-hour TV show in this house. Granted, even the potential TV and/or computer staring scenario doesn’t come around all that often. Time is usually spent feeding, bottle washing, adult dish washing, catching up on laundry, baby changing, hanging up clothes, feeding myself, pumping breast-milk, washing myself, paying the bills, and general tidying. Basically, there are a whole bunch of other things that must be taken care of before watching TV or working. The good thing about most of those things is I can talk (or sing) to him while I do them. Chores don’t take much attention. TV and design work does. So, I don’t feel badly doing chores while Emory stares at me and I tell him stories or sing him songs.
About two weeks ago, as the pieces of my work life began to fall to the floor around me, I realized that the whole working while mothering scenario simply was not going to work for me. I had to make a move. I had to break up with my clients. “It’s not you, it’s me.” And, “I just don’t have the time to be in a committed relationship right now.” weren’t just clichés. They were entirely true.
There’s a misconception that being a stay-at-home mom is some easy thing people do and that it’s not really work at all. I thought this way at one point in my life as well. I mean, how hard can it be, right?
It is hard, people. Moms have tough jobs. Not only are we juggling chores so the house doesn’t end up in shambles, but we’re also taking care of a really [insert any adjective] baby. My baby happens to desire constant amusement. If it’s not amusement on his mind, it’s food. And what’s more? He doesn’t speak english yet. So, sometimes “AHGOOOO!” means, “FEED ME!” And sometimes a “AHGOOOO!” means, “Dance for me, woman, DANCE!” I just never know.
So, no, it’s not possible to just put the baby on the couch next to you and go about your day as you once had. It’s far from possible, which is why I am going to do this full time until further notice. We may end up monetarily poorer as a family but Emory will be a lot richer as a baby.
Hat knitted by Nora. Yay, Nora!
I’m stressing with the same thing right now. I’m a mom of a 6 week old and her “Ahgoo”s captivate me. But between all the daily needs (exclusive pumper as well), the constant sleep deprivation, and the face of my little lady, work is not a priority. I love my little lady, but I never thought it would be this much work!
I totally understand. I wrote a similar post about this yesterday.
HI, I’m new to your site and since I’m 36 weeks pregnant (first one) and don’t have much to do at work (another week till I finish – yeah, sweatpants here I come…), I love reading through your stories. It always helps to know someone has gone through the same worries you’re going through while pregnant (I started reading at June 2007). I too am a graphic designer and always said that it is a great job to do from home and at the same time be with your kids while they grow up. I really want to look after my own kids and be able to bring in a few dollars but a mother (of two) asked me the other day when exactly am I planning to do any work? Since you’re suppose to sleep when they sleep right? I’m keeping positive about getting some time to do something creative but I’ll probably have to keep an open mind and face reality pretty soon. Have you given up all your clients now? By the way – you never wrote about the actual birth experience or am I missing it? We also have a kitty cat, Phoebe and I’m really interested to see her reaction once the baby arrives. I really love your Murray stories. I’m also expecting a boy. Can’t wait to meet him now.
I hope you’re not being hard on yourself about this – I mean, if you were still working for a company and not self-employed/freelancing, wouldn’t you be taking maternity leave? I think it’s certainly reasonable and appropriate for you to just focus on your family right now, and not worry about jumping right back into work right away.
It seems, too, that as Emory gets older, he’ll begin to learn to entertain himself, which will give you a bit more time and maybe then you can think about adding projects back into your life gradually. :)
The whole sleeping while baby sleeps thing? I couldn’t really do that because I was always trying to pick up the house whenever he slept. I simply could not nap knowing there were bottles and trash building up all over the kitchen, or cat shit on the floor. :] But yes, that’s the idea, sleep whenever baby sleeps.
JenBlosom, I really beat myself up over it BEFORE i came to that final decision. Once that happened, it was as if a huge weight lifted. I knew I made the right choice for both me, my family and my clients, but was it ever hard to come to terms with it.
Also, how rude of me, congrats on the babies and the babies to come, ladies!
Well, that’s terrifying. I HAVE to keep working, or we won’t make bills. I work from home, too—database analysis.
Jenblossom is right, 3 months maternity leave and frankly give yourself all the time you need. Their demands change as they grow. When they are able to easily entertain themselves, like at 3, then you go back to work. That is what I hear anyway that they eventually want nothing to do with you. That seems like a good time to fill the void with mindless work.
I totally am feeling the same here and am only working while Dex sleeps as much as possible. His naps are getting shorter and shorter though. I thought it was easier to work when he was younger because he’d nap for hours at a time. Now it’s like an hour here and an hour there. Luckily, Dex doesn’t like me to hold him all the time though. He actually cries sometimes until I put him down. I have 2 things to amuse him when I need to get stuff done – #1 his mobile, he loves it and I can lay im in his crib for half an hour picking up stuff, putting up clothes, stocking the diaper drawer and #2 his new rainforest themed playmat with dangling toys, music, lights which is in the living room and I can eat, make dinner, clean up and he’s fully entertained for at least 30-45 minutes. Being a mom is a stressful, hectic job. I don’t see why people go through it more than once. Can you believe our boys are 2.5 months now? I’m with Elle -where’s your birth story?
Ahhhh, the Birth Story. The one that I have started writing about 7 times? It has a happy ending obviously, but I gotta tell you, it was not a pleasant experience. I’ll have it. Promise.
Y’all trying to add more work for me? Right when I break up with my clients? heh
OK, maybe leave the birth story. At this point it feels like when I did my music exams at school – I know I practiced but somehow I feel very unprepared for it or like a big math test coming up – aarrrrgh. I’m just hoping for a happy ending as well – I don’t have to pass with honors. My cousin’s wife just had twins a month ago and she is opening her own educational toy shop next month – she’s a hero but she admits things are crazy as hell. I don’t get maternity leave here since I only started in June, but I get short term disability. My boss wanted me back in January already (!!) but I got him to agree on mid-Feb but honestly I don’t think I’ll come back. Before this I did freelance work and will again if I see it is possible, but for now it is more important to me to focus on my family at this point. Emerson is the cutest boy by the way – love his hat!
I love that you called him Emerson. Hahah I call him that as a nickname but his actual name is Emory. So funny.
No, I plan on writing the birth story. I know I’ll want it someday and it’ll be fun to see what time has done to my retelling.
This brings back memories of bouncing a screaming child on my lap (who had an ear infection), while a client was sitting next to me making final changes to a design before it was going to print … that’s when I came to the same realization.
You did the right thing. Bravo.
Ooeeps, sorry about that – baby brain… need I say more?
Being almost 30 and childless, I don’t have a concept of the amount of work that children take. But I do have enough understanding that it constantly amazes me that women are able to get back to work at some point. I think you absolutely made the right decision to take time for Emory now.
I don’t know about the babies getting less work. I agree with Ms. Cobra. Just when you think they are getting to entertaining themselves, they drop down to napping only about an hour or two per day, and also getting into EVERYTHING. I have discovered it is virtually impossible to completely babyproof my house. He’s always finding something else to break/get into. Who knew that dropping toys down heat registers, and trying to climb down them is so fun??
I think you need to take at least a year off work-pretend you live in Canada, and just take it! Although I really wish I had 2 or 3 years off now, I”ve been back to work for 3 months and it sucks monkey brains.
woah, wait… y’all get a YEAR????
Umm..yeah? If you work for 600 hours at least during the year before you give birth, you get 55% of your income for 50 weeks (there is a 2 week wait period). It’s paid by the federal government, from our Employment Insurance benefit.
I can’t understand why the USA does not have mat leave. I think it is inhumane. Some European countries actually have 2 years I think.
I padded my mat leave with 4 weeks of holidays too, so I had 13 months off.
That is corporate America for you. I lived and worked in London and had full maternity benefits after only 15 weeks of full time employment which was 6 months at 60% ( I can’t remember correct but I think the first 3 months were actually 100% of your salary) and then you can take another 6 months with a lower percentage (but at least you could buy diapers with that!). And they guarantee you job for you!
Here I don’t get maternity before 6 months – and then it is also just for 3 months.
Also, in Europe the husbands or partners get 2 weeks paternity leave to be at home as well without having to take days from their vacation time.
Michele – thanks for the props on the hats. They are actually crocheted, but I hope that doesn’t make them any less hip! Let’s hope they are useful this winter. It’s a freakishly cold 59 degrees down here today. That’s like spring for you up in NYC.
I wanted to post on your Chemical post back there but it’s closed now. I just wanted to let you know about rain gear for Emory. I’m also hyper aware of the chemicals that accumulate in their wee bodies and the harm they can do. Thankfully, I live in a part of the world that finds it acceptable, even expected, that I insist on this level of protection from chemicals. As a result, we get a great choice of products close to home.
Anyway, risking a product placement, here is something I really appreciate and find amazing: PVC-free, water-proof raingear:
Yes, Canada gets a year and my employer topped up to meet my salary for the first 4 months and then I got the 55% AND either parent can take any part of that year. Mark’s company gave him an extra 2 weeks off and then he used his holidays he has saved and was home for 6 weeks. We were lucky up the ass.
So, Michelle, TobyJoe – move here and be my friend!
xoxoxo Michelle, you are doing amazing.