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:
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.
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.
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.
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.