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The Mommy Track: Six Months In

It was six months ago that I announced to the world I was knocked up and unemployed. Now, as I did then, I find myself in a totally different situation than the one I had planned so carefully — one that, though flexible in theory, did not stretch as far as I hoped. The worst part of it all? I was not as flexible as I needed to be.

Here is why:

Time.
Newborns sleep 16 hours a day including two-hour naps here and there, I learned, as I did my research and planned ahead. Well, not our baby — she must have gotten the wrong memo, since everything she did was in reverse, specifically that sleeping part. This left me with, in total, two or three hours to work. And I never really stopped working, nor announced an official maternity leave to my clients, as I was somewhat able to stay in touch for the first three months thanks in part to Armin’s paternity leave. So, I thought I would not be subjected to a mayor re-adjustment once he went back to work and I was left alone with Maya. Easing my way into a new dynamic seemed feasible and possible. Even intriguing. When I lost my in-house baby sitter I realized I was in serious trouble — something as simple as a conference call became nearly impossible and as uncertain as the weather. With my lack of control on the rise and my attention span ever diminishing, my distress became evident. So the idea of daycare shifted from a projected start date of April 2008, to January 2008, to November 2007 all the way to this past September when we enrolled Maya in a daycare six blocks from our home/office — just not full time yet.

We decided on five hours a day for three days a week, so I have a total of fifteen guaranteed hours a week to distribute very carefully across my various projects, clients, books and teaching. Why only fifteen hours? Why not more if I have so much to do? Well, because I can’t stand to be away from her. Still, we just had to up the separation by one more day, as things are getting busy around here, so as of November I will have twenty hours.

Help.
Let me start by saying that I have fallen in love with the women who care for Maya these few mornings a week — a solid group of Russian women who can’t have enough of her. They have fallen in love with my little Mayushka (their nickname for her). But even as I see them together and how well they interact, I can’t stand to be far from my baby, I feel naked without her and somewhat lost. A constant battle ensues where I enjoy my time alone, I love checking items of my to-do list(s), and a little quiet is rather welcome. Yet, her things around the house and office distract me and I keep checking the clock wanting to run over and pick her up. I always give her a nice big hug as soon as I see her, and find it hard to let go.

Balance.
It is all about balancing life and work right? A little nudge here, another there and presto: Balance is achieved! As a premise, I agree. As reality, I am struggling. Having just opened our doors as UnderConsideraion LLC, it is very hard for me to spend my afternoon at the park when I know Armin is buried in work at home. I know I have the capability of taking a load of his back by doing some of the work, thus de-stressing him and alleviating our schedule. But I can’t. I can’t stand to be apart from Maya, and I can’t stand the idea of having others benefit from her presence more than me. I can see myself growing along her side, and I am not willing to pass on that. Maybe it’s selfish but, hell, I carried her for nine months and went through a rough labor, so I think it’s justified!

If it weren’t for daycare, I would not be doing as much today as I am. Before, I was trying to do both things at the same time — work and baby — and not doing either at the same time. Now I am either working 100%, or caring 100%. I have the deepest relationship with my Blackberry a person can have, as it gives me peace when I see things chugging along while I’m at the park in the swings. It gives me peace when things go wrong and I can take care of them from the sandbox, the lake or the walk path.

Fuel.
I am hybrid of sorts; some days I am running on rich oil, and some days it seems I have mud in my tank — and, apparently, now I have less control of what kind of day each day will be. This is something I had never really experienced before (I always knew when I was overworking during a period of time and expected the consequences). But there are so many things I have not experienced before that I am now, that I am still experimenting. One thing is for sure, when things need to happen they happen — rich oil or mud. Morning, night or dawn.

And so, I come to the end of the six-month review. Where once more I am stumped by life, as I find myself surprised with how things are turning out to be:

1. Maya might need to wait a little longer before attending evening AIGA events in New York. One was enough for now.
2. Attending the HOW conference with a newborn is possible and enjoyable.
3. Taking her to Michael Bierut’s book party, and stealing some of his thunder with a cute smile and adorable outfit? Awesome—even if Michael’s ensemble was quite dashing that day.
4. Attending the AIGA conference? A bit more stimulating than anticipated, and a little too loud for delicate ears. Not as successful.
5. Dressing her in black, head to toe? Okay in New York. Not okay with her grandparents.
6. Flying with a baby? Not as bad as the horror stories might suggest.
7. Taking her to Atlanta, Houston, Toronto, Denver before hitting six months of age? Daring, but doable.
8. Switching long-term plans one afternoon at your local café, thus having your husband at home at all times? Very rewarding.
9. Doing so is also very scary.
10. And somewhat stressful. Until you come home in the middle of the day, and there he is. In all his Stay at Home Dadness glory.

Having a baby changes everything. (Even your professional ambitions).
Having a baby does not mean losing sight of what you want.
It requires constant readjusting, loads of energy and a fearless disposition.

Having a baby is worth every petty adjustment in life.

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 4007 FILED UNDER Discussion
PUBLISHED ON Oct.25.2007 BY bryony
WITH 20 COMMENTS
Comments
Ben’s comment is:

Ah the joys and challenges of parenthood - perhaps a trite phrase, but always true. Thanks for sharing your experience and glad to hear that it's worth the adjustments. Would you say Maya's the most challenging and rewarding client yet?

On Oct.25.2007 at 09:16 PM
matelo’s comment is:

I really really enjoy this blog, especially this kind of post where I discover the day a day of a designer, not only the perfect part. Thanks for sharing, yo both of you.

On Oct.26.2007 at 09:05 AM
rachele’s comment is:

bryony,
i wish more working-mother-designers would post these kind of real life trials and tribulations. i have witnessed you and armin both with maya at how and next, i even remarked to armin in the elevator how wonderful i thought it was you both were involving her so much in your design lives (and how wonderfully behaved she is!).

motherhood (and parenthood for you both) will make you work smarter not harder, prioritize faster, take on work worth more financially and emotionally.

it is not easy, when you are with maya you feel you should be working, when you are home working you feel you should be with maya, the hardest part is the snuggly age she is at and how much they still love and need their mammas. you are doing the right thing with your 15 hours, when she gets older and more independent it will be easier for you to spend more time away from her and more time stimulating yourself.

enjoy every single day (they are not easy, but they are worth it, on every level).

i've been there myself,
rachele
(mom, designer, student (3 weeks 'til mfa completion!!)
and design educator)

On Oct.26.2007 at 10:30 AM
Sheepstealer’s comment is:

Maybe it’s selfish but, hell, I carried her for nine months and went through a rough labor, so I think it’s justified!

There is not a job in this world where you give of yourself more than that of a mother. Don't feel that you're selfish.

On Oct.26.2007 at 10:40 AM
Jon Dascola’s comment is:

Its so great to hear a bit about you and Armin as people as well as designers. I like the community Underconsideration has created. The more each of us can relate personally, the more intimate and meaningful our conversations can be professionaly. (Maybe that sounds creepy, but its not intended that way.) Anyways...as i digress.

Great post and best of luck to the three of you.

On Oct.26.2007 at 12:46 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:

You are doing a wonderful job, Bryony. Remember that at all times, and tell Armin that he is doing a good job too. Support each other like you have been. Take breaks for yourselves---and for God's sake, insist that Armin take breaks too. And as for the sleeping thing, Maya should be in her own room by now and not near your bed. She will get on a sound sleep schedule soon. Patience.

On Oct.26.2007 at 02:27 PM
Susie’s comment is:

Isn't the reality of what baby means to your life shocking! I remember when I was pregnant with baby number one I had this ideal that during my maternity leave (in Canada we get one year paid maternity leave) hubby, baby and I would get in the car and do a cross Canada trip for one month or two... Baby could sleep in the car as well as at home, this would be our chance since we would actually have some time off...

Reality hit the day we drove home from the hospital - baby cried the entire time she was in her car seat, and continued to do so every time she was put in her car seat from that point on until she was over one year old! Not only did baby not sleep in the car, she did not sleep. Ever.

I was an absolute, unrecognizable mess for, well I would like to say a year here but then I got pregnant with baby #2 so honestly it was about 4 years for me... sigh, I shouldn't have put that in words... Still, I love them to bits and can't stand to be apart from them for long - although now that my youngest is three I REALLY treasure those snippets of time I do get.

On Oct.26.2007 at 03:55 PM
Doug’s comment is:

Bryony,

Don't believe that crap about Maya needing her own room! There are many benefits to having your kids in your room, whether it's in your bed or near you, not least of which is the increased amount of time with them, especially when they are at their cutest (asleep!). Mine are 7, 8 and 10 now and they are all great sleepers despite what the mainstream folks say about getting them away from you at night. I occasionally work from home and my wife did for ten years and it can be a real challenge, but what will you remember years from now: the client calls or the times with Maya? Good luck and keep up the great work. I love your slice-of-life posts!

On Oct.26.2007 at 04:02 PM
cecilia’s comment is:

Absolutely, yes yes and definitely yes. I have a one and a half year old and I am still struggling with everything there is to do. My husband is a professor and painter and I am a graphic designer at a firm, freelance graphic designer and painter as well. I am often tired out of my mind and, with the girl in daycare fifteen hours a week - have some time but not enough to do what must be done. It is completely indescribable to anyone who doesn't have children what kind of a time and energy drain it is - and how watching the little one drop her books and come cruising toward you as you walk in the house at the end of the day makes all your resentments fade away. I never wanted children. Now that I have Constance I never want to look back. We are still negotiating what the both of us can let go of because it is clear you can't hang on to all the accouterments of single life with babe in arms. And I want a full life not a busy life. But my fears surrounding losing my identity and the activities (like paint under the fingernails) that make me feel whole are slowly dissipating as I realize it can be balanced when you are thoughtful and careful about what you are willing to take on.

On Oct.26.2007 at 05:55 PM
julie’s comment is:

Here via Dooce...
Don't let anybody tell you when your baby should be doing what (like sleeping in their own room).
You're her mommy and you know what's best for your situation. I constantly heard that Lil Daughter should be sleeping through the night, in her own room, etc. But she was breastfed and I was working full time. She slept with me and nursed all night long for many months. And was happy with her dad all day with only two bottles. These days you do what works. Preferably, guilt free;)

On Oct.26.2007 at 06:32 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Bryony,

Congrats on the baby, mama. Sorry I didn't get a chance to spend more time w/ you guys in Denver. Maya's just beautiful.

I honestly don't know how women do it. Kids are incredibly wonderful, but they take soooo much work. No one can truly understand until they have one.

You should never feel selfish for wanting some time to yourself. It's natural. Besides, Armin can use some bonding time as well.

Kids are never too spoiled. You never regret any moment you spend with them -- you'll always regret moments you spend away from them.

And enjoy it while you can -- both the business and the baby. They don't stay young for long, and you'll always remember the early days as the best days of them all.

And especially enjoy things now, before she turns 9 months and start to stand and walk. Life will change drastically for you guys again then.

Both my kids are in school now, can you believe it?? Melina is in 3rd grade -- and has a crush on a boy. And Mason is in kindergarten, and won't shut up about Transformers and Pokemon cards.

Enjoy your first Halloween too w/ the baby. It's so much more fun with kids. I'm making a wicked transformer costume for Mason. It won't be too long before he outgrows home made costumes and Halloween, so I'm taking advantage of it while I can.

On Oct.26.2007 at 06:34 PM
Kat’s comment is:

Hi, I know we don't know each other, but I feel like I need to offer some unsolicited advice. Coming from a family where my mom worked till 8pm everynight and eventually took a job out of city and was only home on weekends...I just thought I should remind you that your baby is only a baby once. You only get this precious short time once with her and I just think taking a year wouldn't kill you.

Wow, I feel like I am being so innapropriate. Sorry. It sounds like you are handling everything great and I am not critizing you. I just thought I should remind you of that in case no one has yet.

It's just one year. The world won't end. France offers 3 years paternal leave!! (which almost seems like too much). And I'd really like to believe that not all kids that grow up in NY are raised by nanny's and private schools.

Please don't hate me. GO SPEAK UP!

oh, and that is so not fucking selfish! don't even worry about that.

On Oct.26.2007 at 10:52 PM
becky’s comment is:

Also here via dooce...

it's great to read about other families who are taking a non-traditional approach to the whole work/family dilemma. We have a nearly 2 year old son now, and both my husband and I work from home. As you write, it has been a constant juggling act - reassessing his needs and ours. I did what you did in the beginning -- worked when he slept, until it just got ridiculous. It was just as you described: getting very little done it seemed, thinking about work while with him, and him while working. When he was 9 months old we got a sitter for 2-2.5 hours a day, and that totally allows me to get 32 hours/week in now (b/c I still work while he sleeps).

Things got LOTS easier once he turned about 8 months old b/c his naps became very consolidated and predictable. Once we moved to 1 nap, things got even better because i had these big lumps of time to work with -either for play or work! So, hang in there - you'll be making more adjustments as your daughter gets older, and many of them will make you life easier.

Thank you also for expressing that heart-pounding, irresistable love that you feel. We work in our basement while the sitter takes care of our son upstairs. Both of us find ourselves stopping mid-sentence to listent to his giggle, or with bated breath to see if the crying is something serious or merely an expression of irritation. Having both parents home has just been an amazing experience, as I'm sure you're finding out. It has been worth the cut in pay, the working on weekends to make up for the whole family attending swim classes or story time at the library. My husband is just as adept with our son as I am, and I watch them together with pride. A lot of fathers feel adrift with babies, but being home together let my husband become as well-versed in our son's naps and feeding schedules as me.

thanks for letting me get a glimpse into the day of another working-stay-at-home mom like myself. It makes me feel better to know that I'm not the only one who counts the minutes until the sitter leaves and I can once again grab my bub so that he can laugh so hard it breaks my heart.

Enjoy this first year! It goes by so fast (as I know everyone has told you already! ;)

On Oct.27.2007 at 01:36 AM
Bryony’s comment is:

Thank you all for your words of wisdom. Indeed there are many schools of thought for every minute/big topic regarding children—this is something that comes with having a baby, you get to hear them all. That’s a good thing, as they lead to informed personal decisions.

For now, I shall focus on the delicious time(s) that I have be it with Maya or be it working and make the most of each. I know that in the end the bills will get paid, the books will make it to the publishers desk, the comps will live up to client expectations and every morning I can sit across from Armin and say good morning. And see you later, we are going to the park...

On Oct.27.2007 at 08:17 AM
diane’s comment is:

I was almost in tears reading some of these posts. It's comforting knowing that I am not the only mom who fights with herself every day. My head vs. my heart. Every morning I go to work and give my 4-year old boy a big hug because I know that I am going to miss him. At the end of the day he gives me the big hug and tells me that he missed me.

My husband and I both work full time and our son attends pre-K two days a week and the other three my mom has taken on the role as caregiver. We are very fortunate that she took this role and has provided a safe secure time for him while we are away.

Byrony, I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who has experienced these feelings. The tearing of your heart between work and family, it is all worth it. It takes adjustment, it takes time and it sounds like you are doing a fine job. Some days you'll be frustrated and fed up and other days you'll be amazed at what you are capable of. Good luck and you know what is best for you(which is not the same as being selfish, and sometimes it's necessary to be selfish because it's what you need at times), listen to your heart and you'll never go wrong!

On Oct.28.2007 at 04:29 PM
Krista’s comment is:

I have a four month old and have the same battle everyday. Unfortunately I have to drive an hour one way to my office 4 days a week - a situation I hope to change eventually. The time away from my daughter kills me. It's refreshing and helpful to know others are battling with the same issues.

On Oct.29.2007 at 09:09 AM
Hark!’s comment is:

Thanks for sharing the experience... as one who is considering the logistics of someday starting a family and wondering whether that goal is compatible with having a design career, I take heart in seeing how others make it work, and deal with and learn from the challenges.

On Oct.29.2007 at 03:34 PM
claire’s comment is:

this post has made my day (and weekend...and likely weeks to come)! thank you so, so much for providing some relevance to fellow new Mama. i relate to many of your experiences and for whatever reason, it makes me feel a little bit saner.
lastly - Maya is gorgeous! many congratulations.

On Oct.29.2007 at 04:30 PM
Elizabeth’s comment is:

Good stuff! Your post really made me think. I am on the verge of needing to decide between work-at-home, work part-time outside the home, work full-time at my own business, etc. It's good to see how other people are working out this issue!

On Nov.01.2007 at 04:46 PM
dryad’s comment is:

Hi, we've never met, but I am at the other end of your journey, as my first baby went away to college this year. I was lucky, I stayed home and did the mum thing for 12 years before going back to school and getting my BFA and them my MA and now I teach part time (drawing) and work part time in a commercial print shop fixing color seps and other such technical joys (??!!). I am exhibiting in galleries again and writing a book based on my research for my studio work. I still have two kids at home, who are serious athletes and performers, and such a great joy! So I run around all the time like a chicken with my head cut off even now they are teens. Now I feel I am playing academic and professional catch up and competing against people half my age with twice the experience for any job that is out there, but its OK because, they are only babies for such a short time! Every time someone told me that when they were tiny I laughed a little hysterically, but before you know it you'll be teaching them to drive, and watching them fall in love and then packing everything they own in the truck to take them to college, ... and they'll be gone (except when they need money or clean laundry!). Having them is the greatest adventure, so hang on and enjoy the rollercoaster, before you know it the ride will be over (sort of). My hubby and I are looking forward to having each other all to ourselves again soon, but it will be bittersweet, I guess now all I can do is hope I prepared them well!

On Nov.06.2007 at 08:38 PM