Monday, July 18, 2011

My balance of work/baby/life

    My lovelies, last week, seven amazing mothers shared how they juggle work/life, including the ups and downs. It's so wonderful to be honest and normalize what that all mothers are going through. Thank you again to those brave and lovely bloggers!

    Now I'd love to share my own juggle post. I have to admit, it feels strange to be sharing my own routine because I didn't have a decent schedule figured out for a long time. After Toby was born, it took me months to figure out a solid schedule that worked well for us, and I'm still experimenting and tweaking!

    OK, my darlings, here goes....

    *****
    1. What's your work schedule?
    I work from home Monday through Friday from 9:30am to 4pm, plus a couple evenings a week. I take the other weeknights off, and I try to take weekends off completely.

    During the workday, I run Cup of Jo, am an editor for Beso, and do branding work and trend consulting. I'll also be blogging for a magazine again later this fall (yahoo!).

    2. How do you handle childcare?
    Toby wakes up at 6am, and Alex and I switch off waking up with him. So, every other day, I get up with Toby (bleary-eyed!), feed him breakfast, take a quick shower while he chills out and chews his rubber ducky in the bouncy chair, and take him to the playground really early (we're often the only people there!) or take a walk or bike ride together. Even though I'm usually pretty sleepy on those mornings, it's lovely to spend that time with him, and see the city as it's waking up. Then, every other day, Alex will get up with Toby, while I either sleep until 8:30—bliss!—or get up at 7am and start my work early while they hang out.

    (A little note: Alex and I didn't always switch off. I used to get up with Toby every day, and after a while, I felt completely exhausted and run ragged. So, finally, I asked Alex to switch off—and we both were sort of like, wait, why didn't we do this sooner? It's funny how easily and subconsciously we can fall back into long-held stereotypes that the mom is the #1 main caregiver, even when spouses are both happy to share parenting responsibilities equally.)

    Anyway, then the babysitter arrives around 9:30am. We have two beloved babysitters: Naudia on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Sophie on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. They stay from 9:30 to 4. Now and again, they'll stay an hour later if I have extra work or a big deadline.

    After the babysitter leaves, Toby and I spend every weekday afternoon together from 4 to 7:30pm. I absolutely adore this special time together. Whenever possible, we try to make it 100% hang-out time—no errands allowed!—and go to the playground or meet up with friends or take bike rides. On Wednesday afternoons, we have a playgroup with a bunch of other neighborhood one-year-olds and their mamas. (Once in a blue moon, I'll take Toby along to an evening work event—but then we run the risk of scary camera flashes!) I feel so lucky and grateful to get this wonderful quality time with him every day.

    (Afternoon activities might be a bit trickier in the winter, I'm guessing. I have to admit, I'm a little nervous about this coming winter with a toddler who walks! It will take some imagination to make our tiny apartment fun for Toby every afternoon. We'll have to learn to make soups together or something!)

    Then, in the evenings, around 6:30pm, Alex gets home from work, and Toby and I will meet him back at our apartment. And we'll spend an hour together feeding Toby dinner, giving him a splashy bath, reading bedtime stories, or just hanging out on the bed in the nursery.
    (Toby also once joined for a beauty tutorial photo shoot at our apartment with Jamie:)

    3. Where do you work during the day?
    When the babysitter and Toby are outside at the playground or the library, I work at my desk in our living room; when they're at home, I work on our bed.

    4. What do you like best about your current set-up?
    I feel really grateful that my schedule is flexible. Even though I work full-time hours (40 hours a week), I can decide to work early mornings or late evenings, in order to have my afternoons off with Toby. The other day, I ran into a dear friend who loves her amazing job at a major beauty brand; she looked chic and windswept on the street, wearing a silk dress and a chignon, but she admitted that she was literally running home from work to see her baby. Every work situation has pros and cons, and everyone does such a great job doing it all.
    5. What do you find so-so/tricky/hilariously bad about your current set-up? What would you change if you had a magic wand?
    You know, I really hate working on my bed! Sometimes I feel like I spend 20 hours a day in my bedroom. It's a nice enough room, but that's a little crazy. :)

    If I had a magic wand, I would rent an office space outside the home, where I could be part of a community of people. It can feel really isolating—especially in the winter—to be working at home alone all day. I would love to be surrounded by other creative people during the day, to inspire each other's creativity or discuss last night's 30 Rock episode or order lunch together. (Unfortunately, it's tough to find an affordable place like this in Manhattan, although I'm still looking!)

    On the rare day when I have a work lunch or meeting (maybe once a month), I always feel SO revitalized to be around adults and feel part of a working community.

    Another thing that was tough, especially at the beginning, was when I was working at home, and I could hear Toby crying in the other room. The sound was heartbreaking to me, but I couldn’t go out to him because I was busy working or on a conference call—and plus I had to respect the sitter and trust her to take care of him. There's a certain stress of being on deadline, and a certain stress of hearing your baby cry, and I was getting both at once. (And when I heard him playing and laughing, I would want to go out to him, too!) I do crave some mental and physical distance from the baby while I'm working.

    6. How do you and your husband fit your marriage into the balance?
    Toby goes to bed around 7:30pm, so Alex and I have the rest of the evening to hang out together. Alex is a great cook, and he’ll make us dinner—like spaghetti Bolognese, or eggs and sausage, or a big salad with tons of toppings—while I finish up work. He listens to music while he cooks, so it always takes a while (since he'll just stand there, drumming on the counter and watching the water boil:). Then when dinner is ready, usually around 8:30, we'll hang out for the next few hours, and watch a movie or play games or just chat. Also, a few nights a week, we'll go out to dinner with friends, or we'll invite friends over. We usually go to bed between 11 and midnight. I cherish that grown-up time at the end of the day.

    My parents got divorced when I was little, so I'm really conscious of focusing on my marriage as much as my child/ren. I feel lucky to be able to spend frequent quality time with Alex and love having our own adventures together, separate from the baby. Plus, I think most kids like seeing their parents dress up and go out to dinner together; it's exciting! (There's a beautiful passage in the book Peter Pan about Wendy watching her parents get ready for an evening out.) I love the idea that the goal should be not only to have a happy child, but to have a happy family.

    (By the way, a few commenters last week mentioned that it's hard to afford babysitters. I totally agree! At $15/hour, it adds up. Everyone needs to figure out a solution that works best for their family. For daytime babysitters, it definitely makes sense for me to work, financially, and I also enjoy working overall. As for evening babysitters, we talked it over, and we decided we would prefer to spend less on other things so we could afford to spend more on babysitting. It's too bad we don't all live closer to grandparents, aunts and uncles, who would be happy to babysit for free—what a dream that would be!:)

    6. Do you have any time for yourself?
    Not really! For me, the thing that ends up coming in last place is free time alone. Now and again, Alex will go out to meet a friend, while I'll stay home, have a glass of wine and read magazines; or I'll sneak out at night while he's home and get a pedicure, but overall free time by myself is pretty rare. That's ok for me, though. I'm kind of a pack animal anyway.

    7. Do you ever wonder how other women manage the juggle? Have you talked to other women about it?
    Yes, I've wondered about it so much, which is why I really wanted to do this series. It's so wonderful to hear from other moms and realize that we're all in the same boat, even though our circumstances might be different. I only wish I'd had time to feature many more parents (single moms, moms working in offices, stay-at-home moms, dads, etc.); but like I mentioned last week, this time, I wanted to feature moms who are in similar work situations, so we could see how they've each created very different schedules that work for their families.

    I think sometimes people feel nervous about talking candidly about motherhood and their own scheduling choices, and I understand that. Parenthood is emotionally ridden, because everyone cares so much about their babies—so sometimes it can seems as if, when another mom makes a different decision from you, you are at odds. Differences in parenting choices can make people defensive. But, really, making various parenting decisions is like apples and oranges. We have to remember that there are 824,739,894,536 ways to be incredible, loving parents, so we should all support each other and our lucky babies.

    8. What advice would you give to other moms about how to balance work and life?
    My own mom often tells me, "Take gentle care of yourself," which I think is a surprisingly profound thing to remember. Of course, it's true for everyone, not just mothers. Everybody feels overwhelmed sometimes, and it's really easy to beat yourself up or put too much pressure on yourself or assume everyone around you has a perfect life. That's not true, and we should be kind to ourselves and treat ourselves like the sweet souls we are.

    One commenter last week left a great line: She said, "Bless you new moms. If you're trying, you're doing a great job." We don't have to be perfect; we just have to be gentle to ourselves and take it one step at a time.
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