Tears, Returning to Work, and Life as a Working Mom

Ever since having L, I associate different times of the year with my pregnancy or with the different stages of her first year.  This time of year marks my final days of maternity leave and my preparations to return to work.  It was, undoubtedly, one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life.  I still remember the dark cloud that hung over me in those final weeks of leave.  I looked at my tiny little peanut who was changing by the minute, and knew, with overwhelming sadness, that I would be missing so much by returning to work.

Whether watching her play happily on her playmat or quietly holding her, memorizing her face, there was always, always the backdrop of sadness.

With tears streaming down my face, I thought, 10 weeks is not enough. It’s not even close to being enough.

Fortunately, JD was able to stay home with her during the first 4 weeks I was back at work.  It made the transition infinitely easier, but when I think back on those 10 weeks I had at home with her, I feel almost like I’m grieving something that I can’t ever have back.

The first few months back at work were hard.  I wanted to walk out the door and quit nearly every day, not because of work itself, but because it seemed dumb to be spending so many hours away from L instead of cherishing every second of watching her grow.  I gazed out the window and saw women with jogging strollers enjoying the morning sun.  I envied them.  I hated them.  I browsed real estate sites for houses out in the country, scheming for ways we could live off one income.

But, in time, that morning daycare dropoff became routine and I found my stride at work again.  I’m thankful to have a good job, especially when so many others out there are struggling.  I’m glad to have something that stimulates me, and I know that the time outside of the house spending time with other caregivers and kiddos is actually really good for L.

I still get a pang of jealousy when I watch a mom leisurely strolling down the street, or when a friend posts pics from a museum or a playground on a weekday, but I know in my heart, that is not my path, even if I will forever have mixed feelings about it.

I’m a working mom.  I love it.  I hate it.  I do it because I truly believe it’s the best decision I could have made for my family.

Stranded in SoCal

So, last week I flew out to Santa Monica, CA for a quick work trip (or what was supposed to be a quick trip).  Then, Snowpocolypse happened, and everything on the East Coast shut down for 2 days, so Thursday’s return flight was canceled.  There are certainly worse places I could have been stuck (my co-worker sent me a pic of the customer service line at LAX, super glad I knew before I even left for the airport that my flight was canceled and was able to make alternative arrangements), but when your hubby is snowed in with a sick baby on the opposite side of the country and you have no way of getting home to them, it’s hard not to feel at least a little guilty.

Stranded or not, I was in sunny LA, the land of blue skies, cool ocean breezes, and a vibe that practically begs you to take a deep breath and relax.  So, guilt-ridden or not, I decided to make the most of it.  I finished up some work on the sun deck of my hotel (talk about an office with a view!) then went to work figuring out a way to take advantage of my extra time in LA.  I finally decided on one of those cheesy bus tours.  It seemed like the easiest and most practical way to see a little bit of everything in the short amount of time I had left.

I boarded the bus Friday afternoon and immediately noticed I was surrounded by nothing but couples.  Oh right, it’s Valentine’s Day I realized.  It’s nothing new for me to spend a holiday alone, which is probably why it’s kind of easy for me to forget about holidays in the first place, but in a strange twist, it turned out my schedule was the one ruining the holiday this time, not JD’s.

It was surreal to be touring LA, seeing all these iconic places.  LA has always almost felt fictional to me, like a place that only really exists in movies or on TV.  No one real actually lives or works there, it seemed.  Yet, it was all real- the Hollywood sign, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, giant cliffside mansions, gorgeous West Coast sunsets- I was able to experience it all.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted and ready to crash.  I was booked at a hotel closer to the airport for the night, so I called a cab to make the trek to the new location.  Unfortunately, it was a Friday night in LA, and a holiday on top of all of that.  Traffic was THE WORST, so I spent a good hour darting in and out of traffic in a tiny Prius (the cab of choice in LA) with a very nice man who was listening to some get-you-in-the-mood R&B radio station.  There was something both endearing and creepy about it.

I guess, all things considered, I was really lucky.  I wasn’t one of the people stranded on the side of the road or at a random airport.  The extra few days were a real gift- a chance to explore the city in a way I couldn’t have otherwise, given the time constraints of my original trip.  And, when I finally arrived home, I was welcomed by L’s grin as she toddled towards me.  I have a lot to be thankful for.

This is what the Santa Monica Pier looked like on the first night.  Just a bit foggy.IMG_2023

We found a cute Mexican place to have dinner right off Ocean Ave.

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I couldn’t get enough of the iconic SoCal palm trees against the blue sky.

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Working on the sun deck.  Not a bad “office view.”

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This is the part of the trip where I started taking awkward selfies because I was all by myself.

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The Santa Monica Pier.

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Thanks to my extra days in Cali, I got a slightly less foggy view this time 🙂

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More fun with awkward selfies.

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Finally able to catch that West Coast sunset.

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Gorgeous.  Almost looks like a postcard.

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A tiny little Italian place I found on Third Street Promenade.  The owner (who spoke with an accent) was very attentive  to his guests and asked “what a pretty girl like you is doing all alone?”

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Sunny afternoon at the beach.

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Beverly Wilshire Hotel- the same hotel from Pretty Woman!

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Rodeo Drive.  ‘Nuff said.

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LA really is as smoggy as they say.

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The Hollywood sign!

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Got a nice couple to take a picture instead of another awkward selfie.

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Found my favorite actress on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (I also found Chuck Norris for JD).

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A shot from Hollywood Blvd up to the Hollywood sign.

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Moms Need a Break Too

This elbow break has been no joke.  The thing is, the break itself was pretty manageable- hairline fracture, no cast, no surgery, minimal pain- but it’s hard to  rest, ice, and heal the way you need to, when you’re also trying to be the mom you want to be.

On days where I rested the way I should have, I felt bad for letting JD do everything, and guilty every time L raised her chubby little hands at me, asking to be picked up.  On days I did too much, I paid the price by the end of the day (and usually into the next day) as simpler tasks became painful again and I worried that my arm wouldn’t heal the way it should.

It was very, very frustrating and I could feel myself losing patience.  In my weakest moment, I started crying to JD about being a neglectful mother, and how I thought I was scarring my baby for life, and I think somewhere in there I started babbling about how my mom always made custom birthday cakes for us (whatever we requested!) and how it was those little things that always made me feel loved, and how would L ever know how much I loved her if I can’t decorate cakes?

Yeah, that happened.  It wasn’t my finest moment.

But through that, what both JD and I realized is that what I needed was a break, not just physically, but emotionally.  I needed to be able to check out for an  hour or two, and not think about motherhood or work or broken elbows or any of the other day to day stuff.

So, I went into the bedroom to ice my elbow and recharge by catching up on DVR’d shows, and it only took an hour or two before I felt much, much better.

Women, mothers especially, tend to put the needs of our loved ones first. But the thing is, you can’t be a great mom and a great wife unless you take care of yourself, physically and emotionally. We cannot feel guilty about taking an hour to go to the gym or request quiet time to read a book or gossip magazine.  This is especially hard for me because I’m a working mom and I already spend enough time away from L, but if you want to give your family the best version of yourself, sometimes it’s necessary.

It’s not always about quantity.  Quality counts too.

Adventures in Denver

Well, I had a total BLAST in Denver last week.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect, since it was a work trip and I would be spending the week with people I’d never met, but I am lucky to have a team full of really fun, awesome people who wanted to explore Denver as much as I did.  In fact, we were so busy having fun, that I didn’t even get a chance to write any blog posts!

The week was full of laughs, drinks, late nights, new friendships, and a little work here and there.

Here are some pictures from my trip (sorry for some of the picture quality, they were all taken on my phone).

Denver, where even the airport terminal is cool….

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And the office views are gorgeous….

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And long-distance friends can meet up for dinner and drinks…

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Where business professionals meet for important meetings…

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And serious work gets done…

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 Where a quick half-hour drive will take you to some of the most breath-taking views….

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And a famous amphitheater…

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And a little park called Red Rocks can make your entire week…

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Bye Denver!  Hope to do it again soon!

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Mama Goes on a Business Trip

So, I knew travel was a possibility when I was offered the promotion a couple of months ago, and it didn’t take long for the first trip to come up. Since my new team is spread out at offices across the country (I’m the only one from my team in my office location), they are bringing everyone to Denver next week for a week-long team meeting.

When I heard the news, my very first thought was how excited I was- I’ve always wanted to see Denver. It sounds like such a cool city, and I know the mountains we have here in NC are basically foothills compared to what they have out there. I work with people based out of the Denver office all the time, so I’m excited to meet them face-to-face and get to know everyone on my new team.

Then I started to think about L and how guilty I felt for being excited. Aren’t I supposed to be devastated that I’m leaving her for a week? Am I missing some sort of motherhood-attachment gene? I know a lot of moms who can barely stand the thought of leaving their kids overnight, let alone for a whole week. Why don’t I feel that way? If I already have a hard time leaving her for 40 hours a week and every second at home is precious to me, why am I okay with this?

Maybe being away from her during the week is the very reason it’s easier for me to take a trip like this. I’m used to spending time away from her. Life for our family has always been about balance.  For me, balance means being a loving mom and having a successful career, even if I have to leave her for a couple of days every once in a while.

Luckily, with JD’s schedule, he has always played an equal part in taking care of her. I don’t have to worry about him knowing when/how much to feed her or what her bedtime routine is.

I’m just hoping she doesn’t change too much in those 5 days.  You hear that, Loralai?!  No walking or anything….

 

 

 

 

 

All About Perspective

Over the past few weeks, work has been pretty stressful. I’ve been keeping busy transitioning from my old role to my new one, helping to get the new hires on my old team up to speed, training for the new team I’m supporting, and have had 2 major projects with quick turnaround times thrown into the mix. Nearly every day, I’ve come home with something to vent to JD about, and he’s been super supportive and a solid listener.

The thing is, sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t be complaining to JD about work. I mean, really, what do I know about work stress? Ultimately, it’s all about perspective, but sitting in an office dealing with an irate account manager is very different than chasing down a felon.

Honestly, how can I sit here and whine about insignificant work problems when JD is out in the world dealing with real problems? But, being the great hubby he is, he’s never thrown that in my face. I’ve never felt like I can’t vent to him about work, because I know he’s not going to turn around and tell me “Well some guy pulled a knife on me today, so I don’t wanna hear it.”

But sometimes I wonder how he can even take my work stories seriously.

A typical Jenny work story is something like “So they totally changed this process on us and didn’t tell us.  So we sent this issue to team A but they sent it back and had to send it to team B.  I was so irritated.”

A typical JD work story is “Well I started out the day by chasing down a suspect.  I had to tackle him and wrestle with him to get him cuffed.  Later, I had to pepper spray this guy on bath salts.  Luckily, I didn’t get any on me because that really burned last time.”

Definitely not the same.