Thursday, January 22, 2009

Work, That is to Say, the Kind With Money

Recently I met a woman who described her days of paid employment before becoming a mother as "the time when I only worked eight hours a day".

A-freakin'-men. I think this is the best solution I've found to the problem of differentiating employed moms vs. stay-at-home moms, since we can't say "working" moms, because EVERY mom is a working mom, we work our butts off every damn day and all night too! "Stay at home" really does sound like you're just sitting around, and I'll be the first to admit that my day does include a hefty dose of doing just that, but it's not the sitting around of my carefree youth.

What you don't understand until you are in charge of a tiny and ignorant person is that you spend every minute of every day - the full twenty-four hours - with the well-being, safety, and volatile mood of another person constantly at the forefront of your mind. There's no "off" time. It's incredibly draining, even if to the outside world it looks as if all you did was sit and watch the baby play for an hour.

I've often heard about how distracted mothers are, how it's impossible to finish a conversation with one. I'm living that stereotype right now, now that Gwen is mobile. Yesterday at Mother Goose I had to excuse myself in the middle of the other person's sentence to rush across the room and prevent Gwen from knocking over a cup of coffee. Fortunately, the other person was a mom too, and she understood completely. Also fortunately, she shook her head in disbelief that someone had brought a hot beverage into a baby class. (That woman's child is only a couple of months old, and lays peacefully on the mat through the entire class. Someday, though, she'll understand.)

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to announce that my return to work paid employment has been set for April 27th. Much to my dismay, I have not been able to find a workable part-time option, but I am optimistic about taking Janice's advice of using 1-2 vacation days per month to get an extra day a week with Gwen. That along with my 2 flex days a month ought to make me feel like I'm working part-time, even though I'm not.

I called the daycare I want to use a couple of days ago to find out what their waitlist situation is. I filled out an application and a deposit cheque back in July, so I really see no reason why Gwen should not be accepted, but I want to get the details worked out in plenty of time. And really, April 27th doesn't feel like it's "plenty of time" away. If I want to do any kind of gradual transition into daycare, such as leaving her for only half-days for the first week or something, I need to get on that. So I am. Except Daycare isn't returning my call. Angst and woe.

I have mixed feelings about returning to my job. I know I'd lose my mind if I were to stay home with Gwen full-time. I recognize that there are people who enjoy spending all of their time with children, and other people - like me - who don't. I recklessly assume that workers at a child care centre are the former, and I'm happy to hand my daughter over to them; though I'll admit I struggle with feeling like I should crave her company all day every day. I'm also excited for Gwen to have more stimulation, more attention, more social opportunities, and more activities than she gets at home. However, I have fears about how rushed I will feel. Right now the dishes, laundry, and meal preparation only happen because I do them during Gwen's naptimes. What happens when I'm at work? I worry about how that very brief time between end of work and Gwen's bedtime will look, and how much has to be packed into it (not only the necessary chores, but any semblance of quality family time as well). I feel sad when I think about all the things I won't be teaching Gwen: that grass is green and that both of those things start with G just like her name.

On the other hand, I have noticed a tendency in myself to look at Gwen as if she is my job. I notice this when I have the opportunity to go out and do non-Gwen-related things and leave her at home with her dad: I feel guilty, like I am slacking off on my job and leaving it for someone else to do. I know that's not the case: Chris and I are parents and it is a job we share. But I am the one who has taken a year off work (while Chris is still working full time) in order to take care of Gwen. Surely, then, Gwen is my job and it is justified that she demands so much of my time...? Now that I see this tendency I am almost looking forward to having a paid job, so that I can work on seeing Chris and I as equal parents, and Gwen as a family member, not merely a job. Not to mention seeing myself as a full person, not just a parent.


Anonymous said...

I say no angst and woe, for this simple yet often unexplained reason! Daycare people don't work in an office, and can't usually return phone calls in a timely manner. Call back after 3 days, to make sure your message hasn't been lost, as that's a pretty typical turnaround time. Also, did you pay a fee for paperwork when you got on the waitlist, or a deposit on a space?

Also also, I don't think it's bad not to crave Gwen all day every day. I think it' actually pretty healthy!


Surprised Suburban Wife said...

Oh boy can I relate!! Found your blog through Reesh's blog and this is EXACTLY what I've been musing and writing about recently! Especially the part about feeling like you SHOULD feel guilty about dropping your daughter off.

Oh and the mother goose/coffee incident. SO been there! Love your blog so far and I'll definitely keep reading:)

Amberism said...

I've brought coffee to Mother Goose :). I wouldn't hesitate to bring it even now. Of course, I place it on the table, not the floor... I think that makes it better somehow ;).

The time between picking up the kids/dinner/bed, for me, is insane on the days I work. I hate it, but yet don't hate working ~shrug~. I am one of those folks that could stay home with the kids (never, EVER imagined myself saying THAT) but I still need something of my own - whatever that might be.

I will admit that it is nice to be paid for work. It's unfortunate we can't be paid to stay at home with the kids considering how hard it is and how it feels like you always have to defend what you do.


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