Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hey everyone!

Just a quick note to let you know that I'm not going to be blogging at this site anymore...the interfacey stuff is driving me nuts, and so I've found a new home at:

I hope it's not a huge pain in the ass for those of you who have been so kind to "follow" me, and for those who just keep up from time to time. Would love to see you at my new place! ;)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rejoining the world of the (barely) living

I've survived my first week of work post-maternity leave, although I do feel like I'm cheating a leetle by saying that since my "weeks" are four days long now. Wussy weeks! I'm pretty damned thankful though. Because oh yes, guess what? I've decided a need a new career altogether. But let's not get ahead of ourselves yet.

First, on the professional front. I had a lovely time fielding phone calls and e-mails from colleagues welcoming me back...really nice for the ego, I must say. And frankly I'm very glad for the distraction, because I had little by way of actual work to do this week! Seriously, I billed like six client hours total - the rest was pro bono and "administrative." Eek! Not good, especially since now that I'm on flex-time I actually have a minimum hours requirement (note, however, that full-time associates don't...dur). This being through no fault of my own, since I did my best to throw myself at the assigning partner and get some work. There may be some briefing to do in one of my old cases, in which case, done and done, I'm their girl. Sort of awesome in the sense that I love, love, love drafting, especially with the partner and senior associate in question, but kind of scary in that there are some tortured legal issues involved that I've been super thankful to avoid until now. But it's good for people to have to do things they don't like. In moderation. 

On the baby front, she's been in daycare from about 9am-5pm every day with lots of mommy visits. Those mommy visits are probably going to have to be curtailed, for good reason. First, I am getting NOTHING done by running down every time she's hungry. It's impossible to guess when she's hungry, too, as she's still in that stage where some days she'll eat everything in sight and on others, she couldn't be bothered with food. Also, her napping is all over the place, so sometimes it takes 3-4 calls between the daycare and me to coordinate a feeding. And second, I've had the good fortune to be given a child who is a little advanced for five months. She is already experiencing separation anxiety, and so it's significantly tougher to leave her 5+ times a day than it would be to leave her just once or twice. So I think that once I have a space in which to pump at the office (a WHOLE dramatic side-post in and of itself), I will be feeding her just in the mornings when I drop her off, at lunchtime, and then maybe once before we leave for the day. 

So. Things brings us to my larger feelings about the whole endeavor and why I am getting the slightly sinking, but yet exhilarating, sense that maaaaybe I'm in the wrong field altogether. 

Flex-time is fahreaking me out. On the one hand I feel like I'm making out like a bandit. I'm at home on a Friday morning in my pajamas while the baby is napping sweetly in her own crib. I have ambitious plans to tidy up before Josh gets home and even take the baby to her doctor's appointment. This whole week I was able to walk out of my office at 5, and only yesterday did I have to field some e-mails at night. 

But ah, here's the rub. I haven't had any freaking work to do! And I still felt some sickening guilt leaving at what is essentially the middle of the day! Four days in and I'm tweaking about my career already...because the time will come, and will come soon, when I'm on a busy matter and I'll have work to do in the evenings. Good lord, how will I swing that? Evenings are packed with getting the baby to sleep, fixing dinner, and prepping for the next day. I could go to bed later, but with a baby who still wakes 2-3 times a night, that's heartily unappealing. Weekends are the next in line to be sacrificed, which I always knew was part of the "deal," but it is a little sad to think of giving up our only family time too.

I had some master plan about ramping back up to full time once Piglet's three months at the daycare are up, but I don't think that's super realistic right now. As much as I do think the daycare will be good for her, my heart does break a little at the thought of her in there all day every day. She's been crying a lot, which isn't the biggest issue since she's still a baby. Hell, she cries at home...but it's a different beast for some reason when I think of her crying inconsolably in a strange place with strange people. Obv, this will be rectified in time, but I still can't help but think maybe five days is a bit much to expect. But this is also coming from the perspective of my already being back at work - how quickly we romanticize our previous lives! I'm more protective about "our" time now that I know it's (comparatively) limited.

You might be asking the plainly obvious question: why the hell am I stressing myself out about "big" decisions at the end of the first week? My emotions are clearly out of whack, I'm discombobulated and stoopit, and really tired. True. But the bigger issue here is, what the hell am I doing even contemplating working 60+ hours as essentially a corporate mercenary? Is this what I wanted to do with the rest of my life? Because there was a time when I had promised myself I'd only be doing this type of work to make some quick cash and get out. Now I'm totally meandering because it's "safe" and "easy." And paying for it dearly, because the longer I stay here, the more I'm giving up in terms of finding out what I really want to do with the rest of my life. It's not even the hours anymore. It's that my hours have to be worth something more...I have to be able to justify my time away from my family with something worthwhile. I'm not running the country or curing cancer or even making the world a tiny bit better by what I do. I'm just collecting mad money, which don't get me wrong, is awesome, but...good enough? I don't know. I can't even begin to formulate answers to all the questions swirling around in my head, but I think maybe it's enough to just be asking them at this point.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Letter to Piglet at Five Months - on my last day of maternity leave!

What a curious journey. In five short months I've gone from the woman who would be pregnant forever to a real mother...and you've been my trusty sidekick all along. Unthinkable in some ways, really, because often it feels like you've always been here. Was there ever a time I had long, idle days that I spend lounging around and watching Food Network reruns? Did I ever fix dinner without you perched on the counter in your Bumbo, watchful eyes taking everything in? You've put your slobbery little hand-stamp on every last inch of my life and far from it feeling oppressive, it's actually pretty wonderful.

I have to tell you that the last month has felt not unlike emerging from a thick, hormonal and sometimes pretty desperate fog. The change in you, now that you can sit up, interact, laugh and SLEEP!!! is nothing short of farking remarkable. Not that you were a particularly challenging baby before, except for your heinous sleep issues. We truly count ourselves to be incredibly fortunate, because you are beyond perfect, but like any wee bairn you threw our household and heretofore relatively uncomplicated lives for a loop. Thinking on the first three months does have me squirming in my chair a little - but you know what's funny? Not once during your even most trying moments did I ever reconsider my intention to give you lots and lots of siblings! And from what I'm told, this is a rare conviction on the part of new mothers. So I would take that as a compliment! Even in our darkest moments, there was never any question that you had enriched our lives beyond anything we could ever have contemplated and we would do it a hundred times over. I used to wonder at how parents could so unequivocally state that they would give up anything, up to and including their lives, for their children, and I wondered if I would ever feel that sort of all-encompassing, totally consuming love. The short answer is yes. It happens to the best of us, I guess! But it's true...there is no doubt in my mind about the lengths I would go to to keep you safe and happy. It doesn't even come from an emotional place. It's just something I know for sure, and forever.

This is especially important for me to get out on paper for you today because today is officially my last day of maternity leave. On Monday, you, me and daddy are going to strap you into the carrier and tootle on down to my office, where your care will be entrusted to the wonderful teachers in the infant room at Bright Horizons. Your new world for the next three months. As convinced as I am that this is the best thing for our family, it would be a bald fib to claim that I'm not nervous about the transition. How on earth will I get everything I do now done and work forty hours a week (this being on a reduced schedule!)? I've dutifully made up a meal and chore plan that are stuck up on the fridge, but how long until the "systems" collapse under the weight of daddy and my respective workloads?? How will you adjust? You're a smart little thing and already detect and shun most strangers! You've only just gotten into a good sleeping routine. You're humorous and sweet but also demand lots of attention. But at the same time, my more logical self knows that everything is really unfolding as it should.

I want you to know that while I never seriously contemplated not returning to work, our choice to be a "working family" is not one that was made without deep, critical and continuous thought. This may be a particular issue for you because we aren't the "typical" working family, either. There will likely be many days that your father or I will walk in the door much later than 6, or when you'll encounter us working late into the night from home or on weekends. I hope that you'll understand why it's so important for us to work hard and achieve things for the family that we never had growing up, and also that we would never pursue these things to the detriment of you or your future siblings. All of our decisions are subject to being switched up if for one second we feel that we're not doing the best we can by you...who knows, by the time you're reading this, we could be living completely different lives!

There's not a day that goes by when I'm not completely grateful for this time we've been able to spend together, even when it's been hairy and I've longingly thought of my office and a skinny tall latte that I could drink HOT in SILENCE. For all my anxieties and tendency to question every little decision along the way, I can't look at you and not think that we can't be totally botching the operation. You look happy enough and frankly you're just unreasonably cute sometimes! You seem to love the silly faces and songs and dances I do for your sole entertainment. Your favorite activity, which I'm happy to tolerate for now, is grabbing fistfuls of my face while standing on my lap...ouch! In fact, you find the greatest delight in some pretty insane stuff...and so if I'm destined to mess you up somehow hopefully the ship hasn't sailed yet!

Mad love for you, Miss Piglet, even though you're currently screaming the apartment down. Time to stop waxing philosophical about parenting and instead perform!

xoxoxo Ma

Monday, March 09, 2009

My last week on mat leave!

Wow, did that sneak up on me. Although to be honest, I do feel like I've been off forever and ever. In the legal word, six months may as well be forever anyway. Waaah! Hold me! 

Seriously, though...I actually am looking forward to most aspects of being back at work, but also apprehensive. Most significantly, the landscape of the world has changed immeasurably. Our biggest clients are investment banks, which I'm told no longer exist. Whoops. And on a more micro level, I really wonder how long it's going to take to dust off my atrophied legal skills. What if they never come back at all? What if I spend my days staring at my computer with Jumperoo music playing a continuous loop in my head? What if I open my mouth to speak at a meeting but accidentally end up blowing a raspberry?

Okay, okay, and lest you throw up your hands in despair and write me off as the worst mother who ever existed, I am a little apprehensive about daycare for Piglet too. Not so much because I worry about how she'll be treated or anything, because I have every confidence in the facility she's going to, but just about how the change will be for her. If she's anything like her ma, she'll love the stimulation and new faces. But of course, in the last couple of weeks I've started to notice her acting a little more like a mama suck, even to the point where she'll wail when left alone with daddy. Luckily, this tends to only happen when she's crabby to begin with. And hell, who knows, maybe daycare will send her back all fresh and improved. Hah! Maybe she'll sleep and eat beautifully for them and never scream and always share! Maybe they can teach her to load the dishwasher and mop the floors too! :whistle:

My biggest fear is that this change will hit me like a ton of bricks in terms of trying to balance everything. I mean, realistically, now I'll have to do everything I do now, PLUS a full time job. (And yes, I'm going back flex-time for the first few months, but that's still pretty much a full time job since I have to bill 38 hours a week!) The flex-time schedule will probably help in the ramping up to full speed aspect of the transition, but it also means less money, which means less flexibility in spending on things like takeout, house cleaning, and outsourced laundry. It was tough to know whether it was the right decision to, should I take this massive paycut if it just means that I have to devote more time to domestic drudgery? We shall see how it all shakes out!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Seventy Two Hours of Sleep Training

I'm putting this out on the Internet for two independent but very important purposes. First, it'll function as something of a journal - or hopefully a funny memoir we can share with Piglet in happier times. *wince* Second, it'll hopefully provide some support and encouragement to other parents thinking of sleep training but either not knowing where to begin or fearing that it'll make things worse or damage their children irrevocably. I can't speak authoritatively about the last point but I can share how it's changed our lives already...yes, I'm risking even jinxing our considerable progress at this point just to spread the good word!

We're using the Sleepeasy Solution. Prior to the mini-breakdown that precipitated a Sunday morning mad dash to Barnes & Noble to pick up the book, I was more or less firm that I wouldn't let the baby "cry it out" ("CIO") at least for a few months. The anti-CIO literature out there is so prevalent that even I, with an open skepticism for most attachment parenting theories, was really terrified that I was going to ruin the baby by letting her cry. But after worsening sleep and naps, to the point where she was waking maybe twenty times a night and napping 20 minutes at a time four times a day, IF that, and my pediatrician assured us that she was ready, I couldn't ignore it any longer.

Our first impulse was to hire a baby nurse that my friend Sarah had used. She had insisted way back when I was pregnant that I would need a baby nurse and I'd privately rolled my eyes at her silly extravagance. It's a baby, not quantum physics. Yeah...anyway, I wondered if perhaps we should try ourselves before outsourcing, not only because of the $$ ($175 per night!), but also because I had an uneasy feeling about getting someone else to do something I really should have the cojones to do myself, if I was going to do it at all. And so, we picked up the Sleepeasy book and I read it in one sitting.

It's been two nights and two days and I do have to say that while it isn't "easy" by any means, we are so lucky that it hasn't been too heinous. In the night she hasn't ever cried for more than 10 minutes at a time *knock wood* and both nights so far she has cried very little after, say, 9pm. Naps are harder because she cries at the beginning and the end of the nap, and also I'm alone and have to stay strong and talk myself up! There is no worse feeling than going in to get your baby when she's been crying and having to see her teary face break into a sweet, trusting smile as soon as she sees you. You feel like a special kind of monster, that's for sure. But I have to say that, even though it's early days yet, the improved sleep has improved her disposition considerably. She's not whining and complaining all the time, and seems to be able to focus much better. Definitely, some kids don't do well with this type of method. I've heard of kids screaming for hours on end and forcing themselves to throw up :/. So thank heavens for small mercies. I don't think I could have kept trucking through those types of circumstances.

Despite my sincere belief that this really is the best thing for her and the time is right, it's such a sensitive parenting issue and really one of the most difficult things I've had to go through yet. If you're thinking of it, but are yet feeling guilty for even contemplating it, and feeling yourself torn by the Searseque stuff you're reading about how it's "lazy parenting" and will cause your child to hate and distrust you, well, all I can say is that I understand! And I hope you find a solution that'll work for your family! Sleep deprivation is truly the suck.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Piglet's Adventures in Sleep Training

Once again, I begin with a warning...I must let everyone know that this is one that probably won't resonate unless you have very small children at home, or have had small children in the not-so-distant past, such that the memory of horrific nights is still raw and recent enough to cause a little shiver down your spine.

Every parent at some point or another whines about their baby's sleeping. It's so common that it's a punchline, really. People will rib you about "never sleeping again" when you're pregnant and you roll their eyes at their negativity. Why do they need to be so grim anyway? Gawsh! You'll just be so happy to have a little baby that a bit of sleep deprivation here and there will be hardly worth grousing about. And anyway, you're no stranger to sleepless nights. You've been known to participate in a bender or two in your wilder days. You may even be a very important doctor or lawyer or some other always-on-call person who's pulled more than a handful of all-nighters. So whatever. You know what you're in for.

Until that precious little thing arrives and hmmm. Sure doesn't sleep a lot for a baby, does she? Maybe a phase. Maybe colic. Maybe just gas. Maybe it's too hot. Too cold? Maybe we should buy a new mobile for the crib. Maybe a better crib? Maybe some blackout blinds. Maybe this cool $120 sleep sack from New Zealand? Sure is pretty! Maybe we swaddle? But she hates the swaddle. No, the swaddle's good for her. But shit, now she's busting out of it. Co-sleeping?Studies say it can cause SIDS! But wait, this other one says it prevents SIDS. Huh? Well, let's just give it a shot and not tell the pediatrician. Okay, it sort of works in that you're dozing through the feeds instead of getting up a million times a night, but now she wants to nurse every five minutes. WTF?

Aaaaaand then she's four months old and you haven't slept more than two hours at a time in eons and holy shit, you're going back to work in a few weeks. But what can you do about it? Letting them cry it out is evil...right? "Lazy parenting"?? And what on earth would Dr. Sears say? The attachment parenting crew would have your head.

But this is where we find ourselves. She's four months and one week old and while I fervently wish it had never ever had to come to this, she lies in her crib now screaming her fool head off. This will probably sound like your typical whiny parent hyperbole, but we were truly at the point where she was waking dozens of times in the night. For all my fears about "letting" her cry, she was certainly doing enough of it while being held close, nursed, bounced, rocked, swung...something had to give. I am not exaggerating when I say her poor sleeping was pretty much ruining motherhood for me. I could barely focus during the day and had zero physical or emotional energy to spend on entertaining her for the whole day (minus her four 30-minute naps, if she felt inclined to take them!)...and I hate to admit it but I was getting resentful. Not at her because, obviously, she's a small baby who doesn't know any better and can't help it. But I felt like I was failing miserably at helping her. 

I started to look into a baby nurse (I can't believe I was so sarcastic about people who hired baby nurses before Piglet arrive!!) but ultimately decided to try ourselves first. We're using The Sleepeasy Solution, which involves crying and periodic "check-ins."  Tonight's our first night and it's hard. Hearing your baby cry and not being able to go to them honestly is one of the worst things I have ever experienced. Ugh! But I'm determined to give this method a fair shake. It's worked for thousands of people and they can't all be evil sadists, can they? 

Horribly painful, but I hope to post a very positive update in a few days. *whimper* Wish us luck!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Till Children Do Us Part

The wonderful New York Times recently published an op-ed that appears to have really resonated, as it's been on their "most e-mailed" list for a few days now.  Here's the piece.  

I suppose that if you listen to the anecdotal evidence (also known as your friends and family's bitching and groaning about their kids), the idea that children can stress a marriage won't be news to you. But I'm actually a lot more interested by another point the article makes (although note, the whole thing is worth reading!): Parents today spend much more time with their children than they did 40 years ago. 

Now there's a counterintuitive idea. Aren't we the generation of the overworked, overwhelmed, over-stressed? We're all obsessed with money, getting ahead, or just keeping up, and our poor neglected families suffer for it? I love when empirical evidence comes along to shatter our cozy assumptions - especially when those assumptions involve re-casting the past in a warm but totally inaccurate light.

Almost every working mother you know will tell you that she's felt at least a tiny little twinge of guilt at the fact that her job keeps her away from her children for x number of hours a week. If she didn't feel that guilt on her own, trust me, she's been served heapings of it from every conceivable source. And a huge factor in all of this is this mythical creature we seem to have created out of thin air: the doting mother from gentler days, always home and available for the kids, always busily sewing Halloween costumes and casually baking up brownies for tomorrow's Boy Scouts meeting, always dreaming up family activities and diligently ensuring everyone had their clean socks and sundry for the week. Yeah, I didn't need a study to tell me that we dreamed most of this up. In reality, those moms were far too busy to be planning play dates and carefully micromanaging each child's homework, hovering away in the background. And when Fridays rolled around, you can bet mom and dad weren't settling down with the kiddies for family movie night. More likely, you'd be deposited at the home of your crazy cat lady neighbor Mrs. McLeod while they went out and got their drink on. 

No real deep thoughts here. I'm just cackling with the dark amusement of the (for-now...until the next study comes out, anyway!) vindicated.
A Simpler Life?

So, I've read the books...pondered hard on the theories...nodded sagely in agreement with all the polemics. "We" are overspent! Over-indebted! Over-scheduled! 

It all resonates, truly. 

And yet! When I try to take these thoughts and sort of assemble them in a way that would help me think critically upon my own life, I get - what? Uncomfortable? Squirmy? Defensive is probably the right word. Against no one but myself, of course, since it's not like anyone's ever accused me of living an overly superficial or materialistic life (to my face anyway! And husbands don't count!). It's probably a pretty common knee-jerk reaction, because it makes us uncomfortable when our petty rationalizations start to smell a little funky even to ourselves. "Well, when other people do or buy or borrow or revere those things, they're being superficial or materialistic...when I do it, it's because I really need those things! Or because I rarely treat myself! Or because I'm actually SAVING myself time and money in the long run. And my carbon footprint isn't that big anyway so I can afford to indulge a little here and there." Mmmm-hmm.

My awful hypocrisy is revealed pretty much on a weekly basis, when I go through my closets and cupboards and it seems like I throw out at least 30% of my stuff. Not that it makes a difference to how it all looks!? Everything's still stuffed to the very edge. *puzzled* That's probably a separate confession in the making on my general organization skills.

My first year sociology prof told us that it's a fallacy to think that we live in an "acquisitive" society. We may think we do, but if that were the case, we'd just have our stuff piled up everywhere. We're actually a society that likes to throw things out and is obsessed with new, better, revamped, improved. And that is absolutely me! Today I threw out every single one of my lipsticks. Why do I even have lipstick?? I never wear it! I also have at least eight different brands of moisturizer and body butter. Why? I never use them! And yet I recall having made special trips to the Body Shop and Aveda and Sephora because I just had to have them. Meep. We clear out bags and bags of things on a regular basis but I guess we're just making room for more, because we never lack for stuff! And at any given moment I could rhyme off pages of things that I want. 

Maybe I have a stuff-shaped other people have god-shaped holes? I could be onto something, right? Look out for my book!