5 truths on a Friday evening 

1. There is a giant spaghetti squash rotting on the kitchen counter that I’m too lazy to carry outside to the trash. Jim offered to last week but I stubbornly declared “it’s not that bad,” and demanded he leave it. Joke’s on me.

2. I ate a large bowl of Minute Rice for dinner. Partially because I didn’t feel great this week, but mostly because it was the fastest way to get carbs in my mouth.

3. Every time I read the dosage instructions on the baby’s teething tablets I laugh because it claims they are designed to “alleviate symptoms of wakeful irritability.” Uh…every person I know has that. Should we all be taking teething tablets?

4.  I admittedly don’t like Scandal anymore, but I absolutely will not stop watching it because I still want Vermont and jam to happen. 

5. I have never made a March Madness bracket*

*ducks to avoid being smacked with a rotten tomato.

Non-glamorous self reflection

Over the years, I’ve derived my identity from a lot of illogical places: the size of my house, my title at work, the places I travelled. I was great at piecing together all the parts of a full life, but it was never all that fulfilling. I was sort of like a paint-by-number piece of art where from a distance I was pretty impressive, but up close things were messy and awkward.

You hear people say it takes losing everything to realize what really matters, or experiencing a rare sense of enlightenment to discover their true purpose. Whatever it looks like, being stripped down to your bare-bones self is a fast track to figuring out who you are.

For me, this didn’t occur after a magical yoga retreat or hike in the rainforest, it happened during maternity leave.

Forget all the pain and hormones and general madness (I’m serious, forget about it, or no one will ever reproduce again). Consider going from life with a 50+ hour work week, full social calendar and time to do whatever the hell you wanted…to the complete opposite. Once baby arrives, the very ways in which we’ve defined ourselves are snatched away, replaced overnight with this hard and amazing and Most Important Duty.

Color me clueless, but I couldn’t wrap my head around how to use a swaddle blanket, let alone the fact that I’d created and sustained a life. And the crying. Oh, the crying.

Adjusting to this new life can feel hard and sudden, no matter how much you thought you prepared. At first, you might fumble about in resistance, but you’ll surrender everything as you’re gently immersed into your new world.

This 12-week period was the most time in my entire life I spent alone. And while I wasn’t really alone (come on, I was with the baby! I could text! I was occasionally awake when my husband was!), there often was no one to talk to, and summer in Phoenix meant I was pretty much on house arrest. It was me, the baby and my thoughts.

When you take away everything you’ve used to build your identity, you spend a lot of time realizing what parts of yourself you like and those you less than like. You get to live in this distraction-free bubble where you can peer out at how you’ve been living your life “out there” and see if you want to change anything.

Glamorous enlightenment? Not really. But just as effective and no sweat lodge required.

wish-even-clue-baby-ecard-someecards

working moms: the only perfect solution is whatever works for you

Over the past few weeks, a few friends have asked for tips on transitioning back to work after maternity leave. I don’t pretend to be an expert on this (that’s a comical idea, actually), but having gone through it so recently I figured I could share what I’ve learned.

Truthfully, I dreaded going back to work before Lila was even born. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go back; I did. I love my career. But all the unknowns scared the pants off of me.

Don’t get me wrong–there were plenty of days where sitting in meetings seemed like a luxurious alternative to enduring the screams of a colicky baby–but it’s really tough to part with this precious extension of yourself that’s so tiny and vulnerable.

Around three months was when I finally got into a bit of a routine and started getting some sleep (read: I could leave the house with the baby and neither of us wound up sobbing). My new normal centered around spending my days and my nights with an infant, and as the countdown kicked in, I doubted my ability to even have an adult conversation — let alone make business decisions.

All that being said, the transition has been a smooth one. Not a walk in the park, but it’s been good. Really. There’s this societal expectation that all women secretly hate leaving their babies and only work out of necessity, and that just isn’t true.

I know that right now this is what I am supposed to be doing. I’m also open to whatever might feel right and make sense down the road.

There are days that I feel like crap for working and am jealous of her teachers, and I’ll question what I’m doing. But that’s ok, and it’s not the norm. Most days I genuinely value the opportunity to be a role model for her and show her what women can achieve. I’m thankful for a job that lets me grow and learn, surrounded by good people, and for the ways my income supports our family. I appreciate that she’s gaining early socialization, a toughened immune system and loving attention and activities I would never attempt at home (hats off to the brave souls who supervise infant painting).

I don’t have all the answers and I’m convinced there’s no perfect solution to being a working mom, at least not until America decides to get with the times and give moms appropriate support. So don’t strive for perfection, because it’s only an illusion. Just work on figuring out whatever solution is perfect for YOU. Whether you work in a cubicle, on the road or from your kitchen table, there will always be struggles and questioning, this I can promise you, but it can be great. And if you choose not to work outside of the labors of motherhood, which is a 24/7+ gig in itself, that’s wonderful too. Your babies are blessed to have you full time. But never go into a situation expecting to be miserable. Always give yourself a chance to adjust and to like the way things are.

Here are a few tips, mostly courtesy of sweet friends who walked this road before I did:

1. Choose childcare you LOVE. Not one that you like, or that is a better price, but one you think is the damn cat’s meow. Our daycare is pretty amazing and I credit this as the single biggest factor in having a pleasant transition back to work. Considering these folks see my child more than I do and charge us a second mortgage payment, I knew I had to love it there. They send photos all day, are flexible to each baby’s needs and schedule and genuinely love them. There’s crazy-intense security and amazing support for parents. Total win.

2. Don’t start daycare cold turkey. If you can, start taking your baby in for a few half days or every other day for a week or two before your official return to work. This lets you both adjust to spending time apart and makes the process so much less stressful. Also, see if your first day back at work can be a Wednesday or Thursday so you don’t spend a whole week apart at the get-go.

3. Divide and conquer baby tasks. Until Jim and I worked out who made bottles, who washed bottles, who packed diapers, who set aside clothes, etc., I tended to get resentful and overwhelmed. Once we figured out what tasks needed to be done each night and each morning, and what made the most sense for each of us to tackle, things were way easier. Pro tip: do as much the night before as possible, even just putting things in the car. I put my work laptop bag back in the car every night because it means one less trip in the morning when we’re inevitably running late.

4. Find working mom friends. Let me be specific here: wherever you work, find other moms who choose to work, and enjoy it. They will be an incredible support and give the best advice. They’ll get it when you have a bad day, feel mom-guilt or have to tend to a sick kiddo. They will let you vent about being t-i-r-e-d. I really value having working mom buds both in the office and all across the country via email to keep me sane and support me.

5. Give yourself grace. Please, just yes. Because no one is perfect and no situation is perfect, but you will do the best you can and it will be enough. You will be awesome and your baby will be great and it will all be ok, I PROMISE.

6. Accept that it sucks when your baby is sick. You will feel torn and guilty about not being everything to everyone and it’s normal. It also passes before you know it, so hang in there.

7. Learn to smile and discreetly zone out when people offer unsolicited advice. They mean well. I use these opportunities to nap with my eyes open.

8. Keep extra clothes in your car or office because you will, without a shadow of a doubt, end up with poop or puke on you.

9. Set clear expectations with your boss and team about your parenting priorities. Don’t let it distract from your role, but if you have to leave at 4:45 to get to daycare on time every day, then make that clear, don’t apologize and go on with your bad self. It’s like going to a new class at the gym…we’re so paranoid about what we look like in front of everyone, but everybody else is more focused on themselves than on your departure.

10. Make sure you like what you do. This is a biggie. I was told 100 times not to make “any big decisions” the first year after having a baby, but I sometimes struggle following instructions, so I promptly quit my job to take a new one when Lila was six months old. Here’s why: being a working mom is a-o-k, but it ups the ante on job satisfaction. If you don’t enjoy what you do, it’s a LOT harder to be away from your little one. So if you’re not digging the daily grind, make every effort to find something that’s a better fit.

rosie

on grace 

We got a new roof last summer and recently discovered an area where it was leaking. The company fixed it for no charge, but I was so irritated. I had this ugly thought: “This is your job, you do it every day, how can you make this kind of mistake?”

And then I remembered the collosal error I overlooked while proofing an important message at work this month. Our CEO very easily could’ve responded with: “This is your job, you do it every day, how can you make this kind of mistake?”

Lesson: We’re all human and we all make mistakes. It’s how we learn, and we all deserve grace. 



New Parent Reading Material

As a brand new mom, the amount of time I spent Googling and reading message boards is impossible to quantify. Let’s just say it was all I did, and I didn’t sleep–ever–so it was a 24/7 timesuck.

Suffice it to say, I read a lot in a desperate quest to learn things that are, in retrospect, completely impossible to understand without experiencing them firsthand.

A lot of what I came across was nonsense, and after a while it all seemed to contradict itself. Occasionally though, I’d come across something golden. Something so perfectly hilarious or poignantly accurate it moved me to offer silent thanks that IT WASN’T JUST ME. That sounds silly, but when you’re in the thick of it, seeing that someone else was there too is what you need to make it through.

I started bookmarking articles and sharing them with other new moms, to overwhelmingly positive reactions. A lot of these posts are sarcastic, written simply to poke fun at or highlight the negative, and while it can be reassuring, it’s certainly not what parenting is all about. But I think that goes without saying; anyone blessed enough to be a parent knows there aren’t enough words in the world to sum up the wonder and joy of every day. But for the moments when it’s just hard, maybe some of these words will make you smile.

Without further ado:

Having A Baby Solved All My Problems

Meeting in the Middle

It’s OK to Hate the Newborn Stage

‘Mommy, Somebody Needs You’

Oh, he looks “JUST LIKE YOU”

When You Just Want to Quit Being a Mom

What I Want U.S. Companies to Know About Maternity Leave

You Won’t Remember, But I Will

10 Mommy Items I Can’t Live Without

All of my Issues With the “Goodnight Moon” Bedroom

Why You Should Never, Ever, Ever Get A Tattoo (but Having a Baby is Fine)

You Began in Love (or Someone Once Wiped Your Ass Over and Over Again)

Why You’re Not Failing as a Mother

Motherhood is Crazy.

Why Baby Sleep Books Can Suck It

[Love Looks Like] 2:07 a.m.

The Parenting Myth I’ve Finally Stopped Falling For

5 Universal Truths of New Motherhood

An Open Letter to Baby Jammies with Snaps

Dear Baby Jammies with Snaps,

Hi. Not sure if you remember me, but we met a few nights ago in the nursery. It was 1 a.m., the baby was screaming and we were both covered in poop. In the soft glow of the cool-mist humidifier, I squinted at you in desperate exhaustion, muttering words so ugly even the white noise machine couldn’t drown them out. I threw you defiantly into the hamper.

You are a tricky one. Has anyone ever mentioned you’re kind of complex and vindictive? I mean, you lure unsuspecting moms and dads into your non-sensical clutches using the SOFTEST materials and the CUTEST patterns that no decent person can resist. Yet you fail to mention your fastener system is an archaic mind game. You stand boldly next to your zippered counterparts, (who, I might add, are clearly a more evolved pajama species), shamelessly promoting yourself with nary a disclaimer. So, we give in. We buy you.

And for a while, the arrangement works. We take you home, wash you in dye- and fragrance- and everything-free detergent, and place you in a closet full of teeny-tiny clothing. Your debut comes shortly thereafter when we lovingly select you, (yes you!) to clothe our small offspring after evening bathtime.

But then things go downhill. Because, you see, infants poop at night, the rascals that they are, which requires their clumsy, sleep-deprived parents to rouse themselves and initiate a series of activities that rivals the most advanced NASCAR pit crew maneuver. Late-night diaper changes require a truly unfair combination of hand-eye coordination, fine-motor skills and patience. Parents have none of those things, and you require all of them. It’s a match made in a dark, dark place.

The idea that anyone is capable of fastening a series of tiny snaps in the dark, on no sleep, while navigating a petite tsunami of bodily fluids AND singing a lullaby is ludicrous. You might as well suggest I bake a cake, blindfolded, while steering a cruise ship. There is no logic or positive outcome in either scenario.

Inevitably, I mismatch your parts in the awkward dance of dressing a squirming baby. No matter how many times I try, I always end up with an extra piece on one leg without a matching fastener. I unsnap and resnap and STILL CANNOT WIN. The third failed attempt causes me to surrender, meekly. I put my child back to bed with a ridiculous, gaping hole in her jammies where I quite literally could not make ends meet.

So unfortunately we’ve reached the end of our relationship. I wish it didn’t have to come to this; I’d love you to be part of our jammie repertoire, but you aren’t willing to be more accomodating and frankly I’m exhausted. You’re cute, but you’re impractical, like the college boyfriend whose only method of transportation is a Vespa, so it’s time we parted ways.

Sincerely,

Jessica