Friday, November 26, 2010

Visiting Daddy at Work

On Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Adam had to work but I had the day off. I decided that it would be a good day to go visit him at work with Emmett. He could introduce the baby to coworkers and then we could have lunch together.

At first I wasn't 100% sure that I wanted to deal with traffic, parking, etc. but it turned out that classes weren't in session and traffic wasn't bad. When I went to the NCSU web site to look up location information, I saw that The Creamery was open and that was motivation enough to get in the car and go. Adam had told me that he was waiting to go to The Creamery until sometime when we could go together. It's an ice cream shop where the products are made with surplus milk and cream from NC State cows. Until I got there, I didn't realize that The Creamery was right in the library building itself! We actually went there before heading to lunch together. I ended up having to feed Emmett at the same time that we were eating ice cream, but it seemed fitting to be nursing him at The Creamery. (Without classes in session, there weren't a lot of onlookers.)

I've only been to NC State a couple of times, and while Adam has done a good job of describing where he works, it really was nice to be there in person and to see everything. The library has some really snazzy furnishings and technology. Some things, like the scrotum-esque chairs pictured to the left, make a person go "hmmm" but on the whole, things are pretty stylish--more so than you might expect from outside of the building.

Emmett was pretty much a propaganda baby the whole time we were there. We joked with a few people that he was there to enroll in classes, and one of Adam's coworkers commented on how nice it was that we didn't seem to complain about our baby like so many people do.

We also interacted with several complete strangers: college campuses are interesting places to bring a baby. When I take Emmett to places with lots of moms, I get a lot of comments on how big he is, but it seems that the typical college student is more likely to comment on how small he is (perhaps due to less exposure to the various sizes of babies).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Making It Work

After spending maternity leave gradually become less inept at the various aspects of the work of parenting, it was quite a shock to return to my job and once again feel out of it and at a loss in numerous ways. I have a new appreciation for how vulnerable new parents are when they return to work. My message to the world: be patient with new parents returning to the workforce. Be compassionate as your coworker struggles to take things one day at a time.

Although it had seemed that I'd thought through many of the potential challenges of a return to work, in actuality, much of my planning had been merely "what day will I return and what can I do to make that one easier." I did have some good plans it place: when I found out that Adam would have to be out of town the first 3 days I was back at work, I accepted my parents' offer to come to NC and help me out, and it made a world of difference to have people around to help out as I got ready in the morning and as I dealt with dinner and housework after work. I also requested shorter work hours those three days. I think I figured that once those 3 days past, I would have adjusted and all would be well. So here's my public service announcement: it'll probably take more than 3 days.

At some point during my late pregnancy or early days of parenting, I'd read an article about family-friendly companies in our area and how some of them offered not only maternity leave but a "phase back" period at work. I remember thinking, "hmmm, phase back, that sounds like a good idea" but not really thinking all that specifically about how or why that was necessary. As it turns out, I'm basically doing an ad hoc phase back, due in part to my own difficulties in being able to pump enough milk to leave Emmett for the full 9-10 hours I'd need to be away to for a full work day. I have some remaining leave time and will use that to continue leaving early as needed, but I would have been screwed if I'd exhausted all leave time in hopes of staying home as long as possible. It's funny, I spent so much of my career trying to break out of part-time work, and now I am totally craving a part-time schedule. And yet I need to stay full-time for the benefits and the ability to accrue leave time.

What I've found is that there are some of the challenges of being back at work are things that I wouldn't have been able to figure out until I actually got back to work. For instance, I've learned the hard way that a meeting longer than an hour is hard to manage without enduring breast pain; I've learned to make sure that my phone is with me at all times after missing a few calls from day care during the second week. I've found that I have to bring a ton of additional items to work with me each day and it's a challenge to even just remember everything.

Though some parts of my job have that "falling off a bicycle" ease to them, sometimes it feels like my brain isn't working all that well. I get tongue-tied on a regular basis. I try to do a lot of things right as they come up for fear that I'll otherwise space them. After spending the past several months on a Baby Time schedule. it's weird to be on a work schedule.

On the plus side, I'm starting to be reminded of some of the things that I like about work, and am finding it harder to get all that worked up about some of the things that typically drive people crazy about our workplace. I figure that if I have at least a few moments of competence every day or so, then I'm doing abou as well as can be expected.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

More firsts for Emmett: Halloween and Day care

Emmett's first Halloween and his first day at day care were back-to-back events, so I'll write about them in the same post.

First off, I have been looking forward to Emmett's first Halloween since before he was born. Halloween is pretty much my favorite holiday. For the past several years, we've been dressing up the dog for Halloween (and sometimes ourselves) but we figured that one of the advantages of finally having a kid of our own is that Lucydog could get a break from being dressed up. (I sort of think she missed being costumed, but that's probably my imagination.)

One of my costume ideas was to dress Emmett up as a monkey pirate. One of the first items of clothing that we bought for him was a shirt with a monkey pirate on it and we sort of think of Emmett as our little monkey pirate as a result. In early September, I found a monkey costume at Costco that was sort of his size and I set out to make an eyepatch and pirate hat for it. I was able to get it all together in time for Talk Like A Pirate Day (September 19) so he wore the costume then, too (but only briefly, because the weather was hot and the costume is fleecy).

So yes, I had his costume ready more than a month in advance, but did that stop me from lookimg at every costume display in every store? Of course not. It took serious restraint on my part not to buy him five or six or more costumes. I was especially tempted by a kangaroo costume at Babies R Us. I did end up buying one other costume (a one-piece tiger outfit that I scored at a yard sale--hey, it only cost a dollar!) but in the end, we used the monkey pirate outfit for all of his Halloween events.

I took him to four different Halloween events. The first one was a late afternoon party at The Red Hen, a local consignment boutique that sells baby and maternity clothes and accessories.
During maternity leave, I've been going to a "breastfeeding cafe" event on Monday afternoons and at this party, Emmett had the chance to interact with some of the other babies that he has met there. He was not the only monkey, but he was the only monkey pirate!

As is typical for North Carolina, there was a forty-degree temperature difference between first Halloween event (on a Wedneesday) and the next event (a mere two days later). I was glad that his costume was so warm! Our town has a Halloween Carnival every year, hosted by the Parks and Recreation department. Even if you don't have kids, it's a great way to get into the Halloween spirit. Kids and some adults show up in costume and there are various games and activities going on. Emmett's too young to play any of the games, but I had fun pushing him around in his stroller and chatting with other parents.

On the night before Halloween, we took Emmett trick or treating at the local mall. Adam had not been able to accompany Emmett and me at those first two events but I really appreciated having him along for this event because we'd opted to carry Emmett rather than use the stroller. Emmett's now around 14 pounds and about halfway through the event I needed to have
Adam carry him instead. We really enjoyed this event. Being indoors and in good lighting, we could really see the other kids' costumes well and there were a lot of people participating.
Emmett ended up falling asleep and we got the chance to see just how cute a sleeping monkey could be.

On Halloween night, we went out trick or treating with some of Emmett's big kid friends. Adam and I had taken Lucydog out trick or treating with the same kids on the same route in past years. I kind of discovered that actual trick or treating with a very young baby is kind of ambitious and perhaps inadvisable. Keeping him in a stroller doesn't work well because you can't get up the stairs on people's porches, and carrying him gets tiring. We called it a night long before the big kids were done, but we would have done so even without logistical difficulties because Emmett had a big day the next day: his first day of day care.

Emmett and I had stopped by his day care a couple of times in the past month to drop off paperwork and supplies. He's going to a Spanish immersion day care and I really do feel like he's in good hands there. I've known the directors of the center for over a decade and I like the idea of him getting the interaction with other babies. That said, the first day was hard. Adam went along for that first drop off even though in general I'll be the ones doing dropoffs and pickups. When I left Emmett, he was calm and that made it easier to leave. I was torn between staying a while and doing a short drop off, but I assured myself that he was fine and managed to leave. When I realized that I'd forgotten to leave his pacifiers, I was tempted to go back, but he isn't a heavy pacifier user anyway. I kept wanting to see how he was doing but one of the big things I've been working on this week is getting used to breastpumping and I figured that if I were there in person, I'd probably nurse him instead of getting the pumping practice. So I stayed away and stayed busy. At the grocery store, I got pangs when I saw other moms with their kids. Even though I find grocery shopping with Emmett along to be a bit complicated, I missed having his company. I realized that the longest I'd been apart from him was around four hours. When I picked him up at 3, I realized that just the act of leaving him for the day was an accomplishment in itself.

This was one of those cases where the dog parenting frame of reference was and wasn't helpful. The helpful part was knowing that Emmett was getting some good playtime (as Lucy gets when she goes to "camp"). Pickup time was much different from a kennel pickup, though. When we pick up Lucy after leaving her, we get such an excited reunion: heavy-duty tailwagging, snoopy dancing, jumping up and down, and so forth. For some reason, I expected that Emmett would do all of those things when he saw me, despite not having a tail and not being able to jump up and down yet. He was pretty calm and a little tired (he didn't nap much that first day). Now that I'm a few days into using day care, I can say that it's a great, great thing for him to be nice and calm at pickup time. He stayed calm for a while, but I didn't quite feel all right about everything until he started smiling at me again (which only happened once he was sitting in his swing at home listening to me play the mandolin; it was quite gratifying to have the playing of music be what got him to smile).

When I asked his caregivers how he did, they said that he did well except that he was hungry a lot and that I needed to bring in more milk for him. It turns out that just a few more ounces was all that he needed, but it was a bit hard for me because I was already spending a lot of time pumping and not getting as much as I expected. On Tuesday I went ahead and rented a hospital-grade pump to help keep up with Emmett's appetite and that has helped. I set things up so that he'd start day care a whole week before I returned to work and sometimes I've felt selfish to be not with him but not at work, but I've really needed the time to work through some of these issues with pumping as well as to have time to get certain aspects of my life more organized. Each day of day care has been a little bit easier and he's generally been in a good mood when I've picked him up.