Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On the Fear of Missing Out

I’m sleep deprived. Well, duh, you are thinking, you have a four month old. Really, though, if we had a conventional childcare/work schedule as a family, I probably would not be as deprived as I am, and neither would my husband. Hayden sleeps mostly through the night these days, which is amazing, as young as he is. He normally goes to sleep between 8:30 and 9:30pm and then sleeps through until between 5:00 and 7:00am. If he wakes up during that period, it is usually only once and very briefly (according to my husband, anyway, who handles the night time routine) for either a snack and/or a diaper change. So, if we had a conventional schedule, with both of us working a 9-5, M-F work week, we’d probably be doing pretty well! We could take turns with the middle of the night wake-ups and the early mornings, and we’d be just fine, probably.

Hayden, one month old
Of course, as are most things in my life, our work schedules are anything but conventional. Well, Chris’s is, actually. If anything ,his is even more flexible than the conventional schedule, with his ability to slightly alter his hours and work from home occasionally. Mine, though, is not so much. I work an overnight shift in public service, so I leave for work while Chris is getting Hayden ready for bed, and then I get home in the morning usually a little bit before Hayden wakes up. This is great for me, in a way, because of that question people always ask when one returns to work after maternity leave. Is it hard leaving the baby at home? The answer, for me, was, “Well...not so much. He’s asleep, after all.” And so while I am at work all night I am not missing my baby too much. I am not needing to constantly take breaks to text home and see how he is doing, because I know that both he and my hubby are fast asleep, and I take comfort in knowing that. 

It’s during the day time that I worry about missing out. We can’t really afford childcare at the moment, and I’d much rather not put him in daycare anyway until he is older, so, while Chris watches out for Hayden at night time while I’m at work, I take care of him during the day. I love this deal, really, even though I dreaded it at the beginning (see my post on going back to work). I get to spend time with Hayden all day (in between morning naps for both of us and an evening nap for me, plus dozing for me whenever else he dozes during the day), and then do my part for our household finances by going to work at night. 
Obviously, I’m sure you can see the issue with this “great deal” that I love. When the heck do I sleep?  That’s been a huge issue for me to figure out since I started back at work last month, because of this major concern I have with missing out on time with Hayden. The sleep I get in the morning when I first get home has never bothered me because he is usually asleep at the same time. It is once he’s woken up, though, and I am up with him (and fully responsible) that the guilt and fear set in.

By encouraging him to nap more and play in bed with me in the morning, am I somehow understimulating him so that I can get more rest?

Am I causing issues that will be difficult to reverse by letting him hang out in my bed instead of putting him in his crib every time he dozes off for a nap?

Am I letting him entertain himself too much in the afternoons because I am too tired to engage him enough?

Does he spend too much time in front of the tv watching Little Einsteins while I try to tidy up between naps so that I can doze when he does?

What if, when I go to lie down for a few hours after Chris gets home from work, he does something new? What if he sits up, or plays with a new toy, or sticks his foot in his mouth, or does some other equally silly but oh so important thing while I am upstairs sleeping away?

Am I keeping him in his stroller too much in the afternoons because we go out and walk around the mall or Target or some other store so that I stay awake better? 

Mostly, am I missing out on activities that we should be participating in together because I need to sleep?

The answer to most of these questions, I know, is that what I am doing is just fine, and if I miss out on something the first time he does it, odds are he’ll do it again and I’ll see it that time. Does that make me feel better? Sometimes. Not always. And I know I’m not alone with these feelings, so that helps a little, too. At first, when I came back to work, I fought the need for sleep in the evenings so that I could spend extra time with my boys. Finally, though, the lack of sleep caught up with me so that it ended up outweighing that need to be with them as much as possible, and I’ve started taking advantage of my wonderful husband and the fact that he takes over with Hayden as soon as he gets home from work so that I can get some extra sleep.

Caught by Dad, passed out on the couch together
Am I still sleep deprived? Absolutely, although not nearly as bad as I was a couple of weeks ago when I was still fighting what is necessary for daily functioning. Do I still fear missing out? Oh, yes, of course. Despite this fear, though, I have realized that in order to be a good mother to my baby and a good wife to my husband, I need to take care of myself as well. I need to make sure I am rested so that the health issues I already have don’t get any worse and so that new ones don’t crop up. I also need to make sure that I get the sleep I need so that I can focus fully on the time that I do spend with my little family instead of focusing on not falling asleep sitting up (yes, I’ve done it. As I told my sister the other day, it is amazing what positions you can fall asleep in if you are tired enough!).
The anxiety regarding lacking sleep, missing out, and not being engaging enough comes and goes, but I am finally learning to cope with it.

Have you struggled with the balance between spending time with your family and taking care of yourself? What techniques or solutions did you come up with to cope with this struggle?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Going Back to Work - First Time Mom Chronicles

I'd like to write a bunch of entries documenting the things that surprised me about or were major changes when becoming a first time mom, so I'm going to label those posts as the "First Time Mom Chronicles."

I thought that I’d go crazy staying home from work as a new mom. I knew that the first few weeks might be tough and that taking care of Hayden would take up the majority of my time; I even knew that I would miss out on quite a bit of sleep during that early period. With that knowledge, though, I assumed that after a few weeks I’d be working on my blog while watching the baby and keeping my house spotless (mind you, it wasn’t spotless before I had a baby!), and that soon after that I’d be pulling my hair out dying to get back to work for a reprieve from domesticity. My husband experienced that hair-pulling just before his four week paternity leave ended; he was ready.

We’d spent the past three weeks sleeping in shifts when I declared myself unable to sleep sitting up with a baby on my chest any longer. I was deathly afraid I’d fall into a deep sleep (not just the occasional snooze while he ate) while holding him in an unsafe position and so we decided to split the night up (this is a completely different post, really. Suffice to say, Hayden hated his bassinet). Chris took the early shift, sending me upstairs to nap (in between feeding sessions, that is, and at the time our little guy was eating every one to two hours) until he couldn’t stay awake any longer, and then I’d takeover from there. Our way of dealing with Hayden’s early days was far from conventional, I think, but again, that’s another post to be written at another time.

Anyway, my dear husband couldn’t wait to get back to work, if only because it would put some semblance of a schedule back into his life. He’d be able to sleep at night again, and would get a bit of a break to just be with himself during the day at work before coming home and helping out again in the evenings. I didn’t blame him one bit, but didn’t find myself in at all the same position. At that point I still had between four and eight weeks of maternity left available to me, but the mere thought of doing work other than strictly being Mommy already was giving me serious pangs of anxiety. Plus, I work an overnight shift and we were not planning to put Hayden in childcare, so the logistics regarding when I would ever sleep once I went back to work added to my ever-increasing angst.

Out and about with friends
This, like I mentioned before, was a major surprise to me. I’d always assumed that I’d get bored at home, that I’d need to work at least part time, but here I was wishing there was some plausible way that I could stay at home with my baby. I even started googling work at home jobs, but of course most of the ones that Google pops up with require some sort of up-front payment or are time-consuming scams. So, I just braced myself to return to work. To make my anxiety of leaving my baby at home even worse was the fact that I was going back to work on the overnight shift and we had no child care planned. Actually, I take that back. We had child care planned, it was just not outside child care. Chris would watch Hayden at night, while I was at work, and I would watch him during the day. For the few hours of overlap in between and when Hayden took his naps during the day, I would sleep. That was where my major secondary anxiety came in. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to sleep enough, that I’d end up so deprived that I’d risk my son’s safety and my own health (I have an auto-immune disorder that is easily triggered into flare-ups), and that I’d fail at mothering, housekeeping, and work all at once. Plus, I worried that my marriage would suffer, that I’d lose time with my husband in exchange for catching up on sleep.

I’ve been back at work for about a month and a half now, and while I wish I could say it has been incredibly easy on all of us, it also hasn’t been nearly the nightmare that I expected and dreaded it to be. We’ve worked out a pretty good routine, the three of us. I get home from work at about 6am and after putting things away head straight to bed. Normally, I am asleep by 6:30. Hayden wakes up any time between 5:30 and 7:00 (normally towards the later end, thank goodness for my hubby!), and Chris gets up with him and takes him downstairs. The baby gets fed, changed, and Chris spends time with him until it is time for him to go to work, at which point he tries to get him to fall back to sleep and brings him upstairs to our bedroom in his Rock ‘n’Play (which, if I haven’t mentioned before, is a genius invention and needs to be given some sort of award). If he is asleep at that point, I normally don’t even wake up, sleeping until he wakes me. We normally head downstairs between 9 and 11, when I feed him, grab some cereal myself, and hangout for a bit before he takes a good morning nap (which usually lasts between an hour and two hours). Hayden does the majority of his daytime sleeping during the morning, which works out pretty well for me. If we have gone downstairs already, when he takes his morning nap I normally look at the mess around me and then lay down on the couch and nap with him. Lately, though, we’ve been indulging ourselves a bit and staying upstairs until the early afternoon. When he wakes up, I bring Hayden into bed with me, where I feed him, and then we cuddle and watch tv until he dozes back off, at which point I happily do the same.

Hayden hanging with his Grandpa
Our afternoons are a bit more active during my work week. If Chris has ridden his motorcycle to work and left us with the car, we may go to the mall or to Target just to walk around and get out for a bit, or I will take Hayden to my parents’ house while I go to physical therapy or other appointments. I love that Hayden gets these afternoons with his grandparents, and I know they love spending time with him, too, so that makes me happy. If Chris has taken the car (which happens more often lately with all of the rain we’ve been getting!), Hayden and I stay in and hang out, reading books and playing with the toys he now takes an interest in. He also is obsessed with cramming anything possible into his mouth; he even tried to eat his child-sized soccer ball the other day when we were taking photos for the England game to send to my in-laws! He is also becoming a bit more self-sufficient without being mobile yet, so I can put him down on his play mat for a bit some afternoons to get things done (although I usually choose baking or computer time over cleaning, I have to admit).

Chris comes home between 4 and 5, usually, at which point he assumes “daddy duty” and I pump before lying down before work. I try to get at least two or three hours in the evenings, but it is hard because I am always hating that I am missing time with my boys! I do try to nap as best I can, though, before pumping once more and heading out for work (I start my shift at 9:30). Normally around the time I am leaving, Chris is putting Hayden down for the night, so he gets a couple of hours to himself to either play his computer games or go to bed early if he is particularly tired.

Phew. That seems a lot more complicated than it actually feels when we are doing it. The nice thing is, my days off rotate so I do work some weekend nights. On those days, I get several hours more of uninterrupted sleep thanks to my amazing husband, and we get to spend a bit of time together as a family in the afternoons. I do wish the baby got out of the house more often during my work week, though, so on my days off I try to make sure we have at least one big outing. Lately we’ve been spending a lot of time wandering around the parks at Walt Disney World, meeting the characters and taking advantage of our annual passes.

Will this schedule work forever? Absolutely not. Hayden won’t always nap this much, and won’t tolerate a tired mama in the afternoons, and eventually the laundry and dust piles will completely take over the house. But, for now, it works for us, and that is enough for me. It means I don’t have to put my infant in day care, and it means I get to watch him grow up and spend time with him while still helping to pay our bills. The best thing about our crazy nutso schedule, though, is that we made it work. Since giving birth, I’ve learned that I can handle almost anything, and that I am capable of a lot more than I thought I was capable of before I became a mom.

It is amazingly corny, but being a mom has made me a much better version of myself.

How did you cope with going back to work after having your first baby? Did you have to adjust your schedule in a major way? How has it changed as your baby gets older?

Friday, July 13, 2012

A New Blog, Because I Have to (Write).

I already have a blog that I barely have time for, so why am I starting a new one? Well….because I have to. I’ve been thinking about it for ages, and I considered just adding new categories to my existing blog (which is a food blog that started as a local restaurant blog and broadened to sharing recipes as well – you can find it at http://www.orlndofoodie.com), but then it just would have become a mess. The blogging world seems to have become very compartmentalized, and I would not have known where to put a blog that started out as just food and became a hodgepodge of my whole life. So here we are, with me starting a second blog when I barely have time to write in my first one.

Why don’t I have the time for my first one? Partly because I don’t make the time, really. That’s the first answer to that question, the honest one. I love my food blog, I do, but I unfortunately don’t have the money to eat out often enough at new local foodie hotspots to be writing new reviews once or twice a week, and I find it hard to find the energy and time to develop, make, photograph, and then write about a recipe more than once a week. Okay, fine, sometimes more than once a month. But still, during all the time I know I should be working on my blog (it’s a hobby…why do I feel like I should be doing anything, anyway?), I also want to be writing. I write posts in my head, but most of the time only the beginning of those posts, the part that has more to do with what is going on in my life than the food.

So, here I am, starting a new blog to focus primarily on those posts that I write in my head, those posts that will focus on more than just food, but that will still hopefully appeal to those of you reading. Posts that will appeal to you, I hope, because you identify with some aspect of them. My love of food, of cooking, baking, and of course, eating, is only a small part of my life, especially lately, and so I am hoping to connect with others through all of my passions and life experiences in addition to that one hobby.

The day I became a first time mom
Now that I’ve rambled so much about my hopes for this blog and my reasons for starting it, I suppose I ought to actually tell a little bit about myself before really getting started. When I think about how to describe myself, the very first thing that jumps to the front of my tongue these days is “new mom.” Because I am. A new mom, that is. My son is just over four months now, and he is my absolute world and, of course in my eyes, the cutest little creature on this planet. In addition to being a new mom, though, I am also a wife of five years to an awesome British computer geek, a book lover, a Disney dork, a public service worker (although I will rarely talk about my job here), an oldest sister of four girls, and a lover of all things gastronomical. I am educated in psychology (although I don’t really use that degree), hate cleaning house, love show tunes, hiphop, country, and pretty much any other music that I can sing loudly and dance along with, and am completely and totally socially awkward in a way that I hope is somewhat adorable, at least to those that love me.

Hayden at just under four months old

How will I categorize this blog? I’m not sure yet. I’m sure to talk about being a mom an awful lot, so maybe it’ll be a mommy blog, but I’m also going to talk about Disney, and books that I love, and my hobbies, and things that, in my ADD nature, catch my obsessive interest and cause me to ramble incessantly with either praise or criticism. All of the things that, at the end of the day, contribute to my mommyhood but also make me so much more than a mom. So who knows. For now, I’m just going to write. I’ll think about fitting into a box later.