Saturday, February 27, 2010

One year ago...

One year ago I was lying in a hospital bed. I had worked all day the day before, had been up all night (minus the hour that I slept before my water broke), and hadn't had anything to eat since 6 the previous night. I remember lying there with all the machines hooked up to me and watching the seconds tick away on the clock in front of me. I had been lying there since midnight (or was it 1 a.m.) willing Coben to hurry up and come out so I could eat. There is NOTHING like birthing hunger. I remember thinking, "there is no way I am going to be able to push this baby out if I don't get some sleep or get something to eat." I remember initially thinking that I could have him by breakfast time and be able to order some of the pancakes that I had after giving birth to Cady. After having labored for 21 hours with Cady and having eaten very little I remember thinking that the hospital pancakes were by far the BEST pancakes ever made and now getting to order those pancakes was becoming a full-blown obsession. But then it was going on 11 and my hope shifted to having Coben by lunch time. It's not as though I couldn't eat at all. I did have some Tums and some ice chips. I'm not sure why that didn't hold me over or give me the strength that I felt like I needed but the intensity of my hunger outweighed everything else that was going on. And then around lunch time I heard the most beautiful words I've ever heard. "It's time to push." This time Rob was awake and ready to assist as he'd been sending play-by-play updates on Facebook. (note to anyone who is planning to have a baby. Make sure you husband knows ahead of time that he must get permission first before putting FB photos of you up after you'd been awake all night, have been pumped full of fluids and have just pushed a baby out). So one year ago minus two hours I pushed a beautiful little 9 pound baby out. I remember Rob holding him up in front of me and my first words were, "He is so beautiful" because he was even more beautiful than I imagined. One year ago I learned that giving birth for the second time is just as intense, beautiful and amazing as the first time. I also learned that your heart is big enough to love another child as intensely as you love your first. Happy Birthday Coben!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Working moms and productivity

A friend sent me a two minute news blurb the other day on how women in the work force who have children are not promoted to the same extent as those without children. Initially upon watching the segment I felt like I was *supposed* to be outraged but instead I felt somewhat responsible. I automatically felt conspicuous as a cause. There are women like me that contribute to the preconception that being a mommy in the work force may lead to less productivity. Don't get me wrong. When I'm at work. I work hard. I'm passionate about what I do and often times that carries over to doing work at home or being on committees or other little extras. But when it comes to attending meetings outside of my work day I can't just stay on a whim. I have kids to pick up at 3:30 so I have pretty strict boundaries. And boundaries in the American work force are not a very welcome thing. I'm reluctant to give up the precious time that I've been given to be a mom to two litle ones. Anything "extra" that I might have dedicated to giving to work in the past I am now dedicated to giving the kids instead. But on the other hand, there are women who are absolutely dedicated to their jobs and will do anything to get ahead. They seemingly are able to do this while balancing their roles as a mom. Maybe their husbands stay home with the children so that they are able to dedicate 120%. Or maybe they have family in town that offer additional support and therefore they have less guilt at being away more. The women who are able to give 100% to their work deserve to be promoted for their extra efforts and not held back just because of their parenting status.

The article said that in order to get ahead you need to have solid and reliable child care for when your child gets sick. Is my childcare solid and reliable? Absolutely! But if I have to choose between work and mommying a sick child, I'm quick to put on my mommy hat. This happened recently with Coben and his myriad of illnesses. My kid was sick and it made for a distracted mom. Unfortunately the worst of it was on one of my short weeks where I only work two days. One day was so bad that I chose to stay home. Coben had diarrhea, vomiting, a fever, coughing, etc... Not only did I not feel it was fair to subject Alicja to Coben's virus but really, when it comes down to feeling like crap, I feel like a kid needs his mom. The next day I pushed myself to go back to work but only lasted a half a day since Coben's fever was not breaking, he was sleeping around the clock and his eyes were now glued shut most of the day. The following day I took him to the Doctor and was told that he had a double ear infection and pink eye on top of a cold virus. We started antibiotics which caused severe diarrhea. Coben already hadn't eaten for a week and now everything he was eating was exiting his body was quickly as it entered. And just when I thought he was on the upswing I woke up at 6 on the day I was to return to work to find a child who had a bone dry diaper after 8 hours. Dehydration can be a pretty serious thing for a little one. Since the Dr. wasn't open yet I went to work and found myself absolutely distracted by Coben's health the first two hours of my day until I could make a phone call to bring him in and was then told to bring him right in. What would a mother who is able to dedicate 100% to her job do? I honestly don't know how a working mom is "supposed" to juggle these things. Because the structure of our employment system (with the exception of some really progressive companies) requires me to make a choice. And I will always choose my family. But the truth is that while I was unable to be at work, I spent hours at home taking care of the work that needed to be done. This was not noticed. What is noticed is that I was not at work therefore I was not working. Nobody called me out on this and my dedication is not in question but I imagine if I actually worked in a traditional system that promoted a person that my sick days would not go unnoticed.

So I am not surprised that working mom's don't get promoted as often. And it's because I understand our jacked-up American work system that won't even take a chance by hiring a newly married woman who they perceive might, God forbid, get pregnant. And forget hiring someone who (no matter how well qualified) may already be pregnant. And if you happen to be employed through your pregnancy it astounds me how many women don't get paid time off for any amount of maternity leave. I appreciate the great strides that have been made that allow me to be a working mom and I understand that it is my choice to put my children over my work. But I'm not a single mom who doesn't have the luxury of that choice. Or a mom who is financially responsible for the family because her husband has been laid-off or has a disability preventing him from working. This is where my outrage comes in. We have more choice than ever but we are still dealing with antiquated companies that fail to recognize that they actually may have the ability to retain some pretty fantastic working moms. Mom's aren't quitting the workforce because they are flaky since having children. Many of them are being driven out. Is is possible that working-moms can be just as productive as their childless counterparts if given flexibility, the potential to job share, opportunities to telecommute, and/or on site childcare? And I'm not just talking about moms here. Rob has the opportunity to be a fully-invested dad because he is fortunate to be in a position that offers family-friendly policy. I know it sounds a lot idealistic and extremely kumbaya-ish but it's being done. Look at McGraw-Hill and Johnson & Johnson who is at the top of the Working Mother's Magazine top 100 Family Friendly Companies and has been for the past twenty years!

I know that some of my more conservative readers are going to insist that a woman must make a choice or that she belongs at home for those first few years. I don't disagree that within our current contstraints that a woman must make a choice. But maybe where the choice needs to lie is not with working versus caring for your kids but instead with where you choose to work so that we can strive for systemic change.

Ummm. That 2 minute news blurb really kicked off some emotion. I went into this blog thinking I would sound off with a couple of SENTENCES. Thanks for staying with me. :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

First Steps

Let me start by saying that today was a fantastic day. Nobody is sick. Cady didn't have school. And so we had the entire day ahead of us and had a really great time. We visited the Buttefly Pavillion which both kids loved. We had lunch at "MsDonalds" and spent time at the Playplace. We stopped by Emmas and they ran wild for a while. We haven't had an opportunity in quite some time to just have FUN and I think it was great for all of us.

Last night we celebrated Coben's first birthday two weeks early. Most of you know that two very good friends of mine had their babies right after Coben. Three babies, three days in a row. The funny thing is that all of us were due in March and we all delivered early. One of the good friends is moving out of town next week so we decided to bump up the celebration and have it on Valentine's Day. I'll try to post some pictures soon but the boys did great. They properly smooshed their Cars cake and wore the red icing like a badge of honor. So maybe because Coben thinks he is one he decided to start walking.

Tonight Coben took his first steps. He's been standing on his own for a while but has been very meek about even trying to take steps. Tonight he picked up a foot, realized he could do it and by the end of the night was taking multiple steps down the hallyway. The kids ended up taking turns putting on their shows. Coben would take a few steps and get lots of applause (he's not too modest to applaud himself) and then Cady would take a turn doing flips and spins. We even had Wall-E and Jenny crowded into the hallway to take in the show.

What's a blog without a chuckle? Even if it's at my expense I'll share. Cady today says to me, "I want a big butt likes yours so mine can dance in the shower too". Ha ha haaaaaa.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mommy Brain

I used to have the memory of an elephant. I could pretty much function without a calendar and recall people, conversations and events without even straining. Now I have three calendars (four if you count the one on my phone), I've had more than one embarassing situation where I find myself chatting with someone at the grocery store and have NO clue who they are, and can't remember where I'm supposed to be at any given time even WITH the use of four calendars. Call it what you will -- baby brain drain, maternal absentmindedness, or Mommy Brain. It's all the same. I can't remember shit!

Here are some recent examples:

Freezing cold snowy day. I have both kids with me that I'm taking to Children's Hospital for Coben's appointment. I roll down the window to take a ticket for the parking garage. Two and a half hours later I return to the garage (upper-level unsheltered area of course) thinking someone might have broken into my car because my driver's side window is missing and there is snow in my front seat. I just forgot to roll it back up after taking the ticket.

I have to pump breast milk when I'm at work. Usually there isn't a good opportunity to do this so I end up multi-tasking. Pumping and responding to emails or voice mail messages. So, the other day I'm pumping and I notice that my leg feels warm. I don't stop to look it was more of a "huh, that's weird my leg feels warm, back to work" moment. Well, when my leg really started to get warm I looked down and noticed that I forgot to put the bottle onto the pump. And then I look at the other side and notice that I didn't attach either bottle. So, off to a meeting with wet pants from hip to knee.

Most of my readers here are already familiar with the 7 people and a dog walking Cady to school on a non-school day so we probably don't need to revisit that one.

Rob always says, "You should use your planner!" I do! How about the countless times I've checked my calendar at say 2:00 and notice that I have a 3:00 appointment and then somehow manage to tune-out and not tune back in again until like hour after I've missed my appointment.

And it is becoming more and more common to run into people in the neighborhood who know my name and stop to stay hi and I have no clue (their face doesn't even look familiar) who they are. And it's not like I remember ten minutes after walking way. I just never remember.

Last weekend Gretchen emailed me to make sure that it was still okay for them to come to dinner Sunday night at 5. I'm not even home at 5 because of my Soul Fire class. What?? Really? I invited someone over for dinner and can't even remember that? Nice!

And fleeting thoughts are a dime a dozen. Thank you notes. I still haven't written thank you notes for Christmas. I really need to email Tammy and make plans before she leaves town. Hey, I left our green mixing bowl at Alex's house three months ago. I'd better call her. None of it gets done. They are just fleeting thoughts that occur when I'm driving which is when I have time to think (and no time to actually put those thoughts into action).

I stopped to analyze this the other day and it makes sense. I'm now the social planner for four people. I moderate Rob's Dad's group and plan their dates. I moderate a dinner group and the Sloan's Lake neighborhood mom's group. I schedule all of the kids activities and appointments. I research school and child care options. I'm on Cady's school leadership team and a committee to set up a health agenda for Denver Public Schools. I plan the grocery shopping and dinners. I have 42 students that I have to remember details about not to mention keep track of the myriad of meetings, maternity leaves, and community networks. I have the added responsibility of compiling data for all of the teen parent programs in the district. And part-time work is just a figure of speech. I wonder if anyone who works part-time really works part-time since the rest of the world is still functioning full-time and doesn't wait for a part-timer to come back to work to have their needs met. And there is just very little down-time. Having two kids is like running a marathon (not that I would really know). Just about the time that exhaustion takes over you look ahead and realize that you aren't even close to being able to stop.

And the real problem. I'm doing all of this on less than six (not continuous) hours a night. They say the first year is hardest and I don't disagree with that.