Thursday, October 30, 2008

Maternity Leave - Taking time

Until you have a baby I think it is almost impossible to imagine the importance of taking time off from work after having a child. At least for me that is the case. Even with this being my second child, I had so quickly forgotton the amount of time a baby takes and the level of sleep deprivation that can come along with feeding, diapering, and caring for a newborn. I am fortunate to have what would be called and "Easy Baby" and a SAHD to help out with our son Dash, but even an easy baby is demanding!

Jack-Jack, my "Easy Baby" is now 8 weeks old. He basically only cries when he is hungry or he is in the process of pooping (Yes, this is what the current focus of my world is. As my 4 year old so eloquently observed - Mom, food goes in here, goes down, and comes out poop!) I rarely have to deal with a crying baby for any longer than it takes to stick a bottle in his mouth. Yet there are still days where I am so tired I feel like it is an effort to walk a straight line. For me I feel like I get "intoxicated" by sleep deprivation. My ability to think clearly is impaired. Even with my husband at home, it still falls upon me, the Mom, to initially do most of the caring for our newborn.

Fortunately I have the benefit of being able to take 4 months of leave to care for Jack-Jack. This is the right amount of time for me. Hopefully, by then Jack-Jack will be sleeping through the night and we will have figured out a routine that works for us as a family.

Time off to care for a newborn is allowed for me by company policy as it is for many people. Taking this time off however is sometimes easier said than done. It is one thing to have a policy that says you can take time off. It is another thing to feel comfortable that you can leave your job for months at a time.

Fortunately I have many factors working in my favor;

1. Boss Support - I can't say enough about this. My boss is unwaivering in her support of me taking time off. It helps that she has demonstrated her commitment to this by taking leave when she had her children. It's one thing to have a company policy, but it means nothing if leadership doesn't demonstrate their support of it. It also helps immensly to see women continue to be successful when they have taken time off.

2. Peer Support - My peers can't step in and do my job since they are plenty busy doing their own jobs, but I know that they are reaching out and providing support when needed.

3. A Great Team - My staff that works for me is really picking up the bulk of my responsibilities while I am gone. Having the right people that you can count on makes all the difference in the world.

Even with all these factors I still second guess myself about going back to work earlier, but I am committed to taking my leave. I owe this to my baby and to myself. I also owe this to other Mom's at work. We all need to know it is okay to take time off, especially for something as important as the birth of a child. My work will be there when I return. My career will continue to move on. And hopefully, more Mom's will find a work place that is friendlier to them finding a way to balance their work and family needs.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Multi-tasking Mishaps

I've had my share of mishaps while trying to do 2, sometimes 3 things at the same time. Lately it's just been little things. Like yesterday, while making up a bottle for Jack-Jack and trying to clean the house (before the cleaning lady comes ) I forgot to screw the nipple onto the bottle and dumped a whole bottle of formula into Jack-Jack's face! He took it quite well, but I sure felt terrilbe. It brought me back to my "Reality Check" post a few weeks back and reminded me to just slowwww down.

My worst mishap though was with my work laptop. Several months back I decided to make use of Dash's prolonged bath time, which I always supervise. Usually I bring in a crossword puzzle to work on while he plays in the water. This time though I was especially busy at work so I happily sat myself on the bathroom floor and started catching up on work emails while my son bathed. I was making great progress, until my son surprised me by throwing a cup of water onto my laptop!! Okay, LOTS of screaming followed. My laptop was trashed and just as bad, I was working offline so all of the email work I did was lost too.

The next day I had to sheepishly go into work and explain how laptops and bathtime do not mix very well. Lesson learned.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Grocery shopping

Little did I know that moving to Switzerland would have the hidden benefit of my husband learning to grocery shop!

I initially tried to "teach" my husband how to grocery shop when we lived in the US. He was very good at going to the store for chips and soda, but nothing else. I even created a inventory check list that he could use prior to going to the store. I thought it would appeal to his sense of organization, but it was to no avail. I can't tell you how many times we have had this conversation:

Elastomom- Can you go to the grocery store today?

Mr.I - I don't know what we need.

Elastomom - Food (sarcasm) Really, look in fridge, what are we short of?

Mr.I - I don't know.

Elastomom - Milk?

Mr.I - Uh, yes.

Elastomom - What else?

Mr. I - I don't know.......

You get the picture. It took me less time to just do it myself.

In Switzerland however, with stores closing at 5 pm and not open at all on Sunday, it became a matter of neccesity for my husband to shop for groceries. Shopping here is not at all like in America. Here you really have to hunt for what you need. Bread at one store, Milk at another, meat and produce somewhere else. I think this challenge appealed to my husband, either that or he realized that it was a better alternative to starving to death. He has searched high and low and found what we need at the different shops in the area. Succesfully finding things like Ritz crackers, sourcream, spaghetti sauce, hot dogs, and wheat sandwhich bread that doesn't taste like cardboard!

So now he is my grocery shopping expert. I don't know if this will last when we return to the US. He'll be back to working in the yard and comfortable in knowing that the grocery store is open 24/7.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What a Beautiful Family

I've been a Mom for 4 years now and I just received my first "What a beautiful Family" comment. My two sons (4 years & 5 weeks) and I had just traveled from Zurich to Kansas City which took about 18 hours door to door. Travelling with kids is challenging no matter where you are going and I wasn't quite sure how we would handle an overseas flight with just me to handle both kids, but they were incredibly good. Probably the biggest incident was Dash walking out of the airplane bathroom with his Spiderman underware and jeans around his ankles. The flight crew and passengers got a great laugh! My hands were full with Jack-Jack so one of the attendants was kind enough to assist.

So back to the comment. My first reaction was one of Pride. My kids were great on the trip. It's a lot to expect, especially of a 4 year old to behave for so long in a confined space, but he's a pretty seasoned traveller for a kid his age. The baby was easy, I kept a bottle handy and he basically ate and slept all the way from start to finish. There were also 2 eager grandmas next to me who kindly asked to hold him for a good part of the overseas flight.

As I thought more about the comment though, I wondered why I had never heard this before. Dash has always been a good little traveler with my husband and I. We travel a lot. He's logged more miles at 4 than I had by 30. So I got to wondering, did I get this comment now because I have 2 kids? Does a family of 2 kids appear more beautiful than a 1?

Either way, the comment still made me smile, but the next time I see a Mom and/or Dad with one child I may just let them know that they have a beautiful family too. Afterall, they come in all shapes and sizes.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Reality Check

I got a good reality check on Multi Tasking in today's busy world while watching Oprah the other day! I am not an avid watcher, but the episode that day featured a woman from the Cincinnati area who had accidently left her 2 yr old in her car and tragically she died of heat stroke. It's hard to believe for most of us that any Mom could possibly do this, but it happens time and time again across the US. I don't hear about it at all in Europe and maybe that has something to do with the lifestyle and culture we lead in the US. We tend to do everything fast, rushing through our day to accomplish as much as we can, and as Women, often taking on more than we can humanly accomplish. Too many of us aspire to be SuperMoms! So yes, this started to hit close to home.

As the show progressed many Moms in the audience shared their own stories of accidents, near tragedies, or mis-haps that they've experienced from being overwhelmed by trying to do too much. Quickly you could see how the audience grasped that these common mishaps were all one step away from a such a terrible tragedy caused by leaving a child in a hot car.

My take Aways from the show

"Just Good Enough" is Absolutely fine: It's not reasonable for us to try to be perfect at all things all of the time. Perfect Kids, spotless house, demanding job, not to mention making sure you are investing time in your marriage. I recently broke down in tears because I did not manage to make the "perfect" Spider Man cake for my 4 year olds birthday. (very silly in hind-sight) I was so upset because I had made really creative birthday cakes and thrown a nice party for our neighborhood friends for his first 3 birthdays. I tried to maintain the same standard this time even though I had just had a baby 2 weeks prior. I ended up making a so-so Spiderman cake that we had after lunch without a party and my 4 year old loved it just the same.

Being There vs. Multi-Tasking: There is no such thing as Multi-Tasking! We just jump from one task to another and don't give our full attention to the moment we are in. I will struggle with this one because I am always trying to maximize my time, but the point is well taken. We often miss very special moments, or even worse, make mistakes, because we are distracted with what we need to do next (or are checking emails on our blackberry). This made me check my priorities to make sure I am giving undivided attention to my family and things I am doing with them when it matters most.

Women supporting Women: Fortunately I have had great experiences with this one. I would say 99% of the women I know both through work and outside have been great sources of support. This includes Moms and co-workers of all sorts: with/w-out kids, WMs/SAHMs, single/married etc. The Ophra show, like a lot of other conversations I have read or heard recently focused on how women tend to tear eacher apart and don't support one another. I'm glad I haven't seen that and will continue to try to dispell that perception by helping out the women I know.

Dad's Role: they get left out of the conversation: I am continuously amazed how conversations around parenting still focus so much on Moms. Dads are (or sould be) 50% of the equation. I think that sometimes we discredit how much they do just because they do it differently than us or set different priorities. I know in my case my husband is a lot less stressed about being perfect and maybe that makes him a better parent than me in some cases. Maybe they are the role models we should be looking at as parents?

Food for thought......