What a special day it is! Today on Casual Conversation Friday I am featuring a dear friend from Journey of Life. Charissa and I have been friends since college. She helped me through some difficult times, was a bridesmaid in my wedding, and now lives thousands of miles away (boo hoo).
Just five short months ago Charissa became a new mom so I decided to check in with her and see how things are going.
Me: Sometimes new moms struggle with a loss of identity as it can be difficult to make the adjustment from “Married” to “Married with Children,” and “Me” to “Me, the Mom.” How have you continued to be “you” yet still make room for the “new you”?
Her: Between all of the day-in/day-out feedings, diaper changes and lack of sleep routine it's easy to lose yourself and become so wrapped up in everything baby. I hadn't really noticed that I had been sucked into the loss of identity until I met with a coworker and all I could talk about, all I could think of, was my baby. Now, I'm not trying to say that thinking of your baby all day every day is bad. I just took it as a reminder that there is more to me than being a mom. I am a whole person. That whole person is made up of being a wife, being a professional worker, a performer, being a mom, a friend, sister, daughter, etc. Those are many of the identities I 'wear.'
That being said, there is one part of me that I will treasure the most all my life and that's my singing voice. I love to sing, I love to perform, I love every aspect of it. In the past, I had been involved in a caroling quartet during the Christmas season. After having my son, I had decided not to be involved in the quartet for a season. It was going to be too hard, too stressful, way too much work and all that would have detracted from enjoying the gigs/performances. I told my mom (the best mom in the world) that I wasn't going to sing this year and she reminded me of how important singing is to me. She volunteered to watch Evan anytime that was needed during the caroling season. She also told me that she would be willing to pick him up/drop him off if I needed that. And, on top of all of that, she said I could stay over at her house if that was needed. Seriously, did I mention the best mom in the world?!? All that to say, I am going to be a caroler again this season. I'm still worried about the scheduling of it all. I work 40 hours and then gig about 20-25 hours during December. It will be CRAZY! Will there be times that I wish I had not been a caroler? Probably. Will there be precious moments and Evans firsts that I miss? I don't want to talk about it :( But all in all, I know I would have regretted not being a singer for at least one month out of the year. This is the one time that I get to do something that is just for me!
Married to Married with Children...do you really want to go there? My husband and I have definitely been challenged in our marriage since our son was born, in many different aspects. We've never had such 'heated discussions' before ;) Money is tight, baby is screaming, neither of us have slept a solid 6 hours in MONTHS...of course we are going to argue. At the very same time, I've never had a stronger and deeper love for my husband. Seeing him play with Evan, seeing Evan smile and laugh at him, brings tears of joy to my eyes. I didn't know how much I could really love my husband until I saw him sleeping with my son on his chest. Granted, he was drooling so I had to laugh at him too! :) We won't even talk about the lack of marital things happening in our bed where the baby just puked all over! :)
How do I balance it all? I'll let you know after December...if I survive!! :)
Me: I’m jealous. There I said it. You have one of the most amazing jobs ever…one that allowed you to adjust your schedule and spend some of your working hours at home. How did you approach that request, and win?
Her: I really am blessed to work for a spectacular institution that allowed be to have a flexible schedule arrangement. At first, I was nervous and totally naive about the whole process and what it would take to get a flexible work schedule approved. When I first talked it over with by immediate supervisor, she was not keen on the idea. This is her first supervisor role, and to have to supervise an employee working from home was a little out of her comfort zone. She and I talked about ways to approach this kind of request and the first thing she suggested I do is talk with each of my co-workers individually and get a sense of what tasks we could swap in order to have enough 'non-confidential' tasks to do from home. (Let me say here that I work in the registrar's office of a college and a lot of my tasks have pretty confidential information involved. I knew I wouldn't be able to bring student files home with me, transcripts to evaluate or anything else with Social Security Numbers. That put quite a damper on what tasks I COULD bring home.) After we got all of that squared away and my boss approved, I talked with my HR about the process I should go through for the institution. I researched how to right a flexible schedule proposal online. It was fairly easy to find a template with questions that helped me think through many of the details that I wouldn't have thought about. I had to give details (LOTS of details) about how I would track my time, the tasks I could bring home and keep confidential items at home, the way I would connect to our schools network (www.logmein.com allows me to connect to my desktop at work from my laptop at home), the approximate hours at work vs. hours at home, the reason behind the request (DUH, I want to see my baby more often!), the benefits to the employer, etc. It took me about a month to get every word exactly the way I felt best portrayed my thoughts and desires in a professional manner. This proposal had to be approved by my boss, her boss, and then passed to HR for approval. After that, it went to the Executive Cabinet of the institution for the final approval.
It took 3 days after the meeting for me to hear that it was approved...those were the longest days EVER! I was 7 months pregnant and desperately wanted this to work out. On the third day, I received an email from a member of the cabinet. My proposal was approved with some stipulations: I had to track my tasks in a more detailed way than I had originally suggested, I had to have bi-weekly check-ins with my boss, and I was on a 3 month trial period (the schedule will be re-evaluated; it will be determined at that point whether or not I can continue). I was so excited about the approval!
Let me say a couple of things about this arrangement. It's not entirely all it's cracked up to be. Don't get me wrong, I am SO thankful I get to be with my son 20 extra hours a week. I was home the first time Evan rolled over. I'm here to help him sit up and try to balance. But there is a downfall; it is incredibly hard to get your hours in at home when your baby is having a melt down or when he decides not to take his normal 3 hour nap...three days in a row :) Evan is a very active baby and likes being held and played with All. The. Time. It just makes it hard to focus on work and getting the same quality at home as I do at work. It was a major adjustment for me and I'm still working out some of the kinks. But it's getting better with practice and as Evan gets older and is able to play by himself.
Me: What new mom/baby struggles have you faced that you weren’t anticipating? Where have you found unexpected joys?
Her: Every mama wants to think that her baby is going to be the sweet, calm, non-fussy newborn that eats and sleeps and doesn't have major melt-downs every two hours....or around the clock. I imagined that my baby would be a dream child that was content in all circumstances. I knew that there would be moments of crankiness, I wasn't totally delusional. But, I wanted to think that my sweet boy would be angelic! HA! Was I ever wrong? The first two weeks were fantastic. Evan was small at birth (5lbs, 13oz) and so I had to feed him ever 2 hours on the clock. With that amount of food in his belly, he would go right back to sleep and stay asleep for hours. Around 3 weeks, he was staying awake longer and able to stretch feedings to every 3-3.5 hours. With that, his attitude toward life outside the uterus changed...dramatically! He was a screamer. He would cry and cry for no reason for hours and hours and hours. It was the worst thing ever! It stressed me out, I was still pretty emotional and hormonal and would just cry with him. I remember a friend came over one day and could tell that I was on the verge of meltdown myself. She gave me a great "present." She took Evan and told me to go into my bedroom and cry it out for however long I needed. Man, I cried. I cried hard and long. It felt so good (and guilt-free because I wasn't crying in front of my baby). That was the perfect 'gift' for that moment.
Unexpected joys? All. The. Time! Every time my son gives me a smile. When my husband interacts with Evan. When Evan jabbers and blows bubbles. When he squeals sitting in his bumbo while watching mama cook. When he falls asleep in a friends arms (I love watching other people love on my boy!!). Last week, he rolled over for the first time and we caught the second time on video...I didn't know my heart could sore so high! Unexpected joy found in the little things give you the opportunity to celebrate every day.
Me: Any last words?
Her: Don't you think I've said enough? :) I would love to leave you with something insightful....but I'll leave with this. Being a work away from home mom is hard. The first couple of weeks back on the job are the hardest but, you will survive. It took me about 4 weeks to get into the swing of working, coming home to cook, clean, take care of my baby, make sure my husband feels loved, and on and on. It was like nothing I every thought and everything I always dreamed. It's hard, taxing, exhausting. But it is totally worth it. I look into my son's eyes, I make some funny face/noise, he smiles at me with his big ol' toothless grin and everything becomes right in the world. That single smile gets me through the day.
Unexpected joy found in the little things give you the opportunity to celebrate every day.
Her: I am so honored to guest post for you Angie. You and I go a long way back and it means a lot to me that you would ask me to do this for you. :) Love ya, girl!
I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend! And don't forget, if you would like to be featured please feel free to email me at professionalmotherhoodATyahoo.com.