Maternity Leave / WAHM / Single Mom

I’m doing my work while she does hers.

When we brought Emma Vance home from the hospital, I had so much adrenaline in my system, I was deluded into thinking that I’d go back to work (helping Ryan out with Retro 8) after two weeks. Then the two-week mark passed by rather quickly, and every week I would tell myself that next week was the week. (One of the good/bad things about working for yourself? No one to answer to when you miss deadlines.) At some point I figured I needed to suck it up and just do it, and so now I’ve been off maternity leave for almost a month. It’s been an adjustment to learn how to work in between feedings and during nap times, but the more I’ve been forced to work on my juggling skills, the more I’m finding my rhythm.

The good news is that I truly believe Ryan and I have the best possible work scenario: We are our own bosses, determining our own hours and having the ability to be at home with Emma Vance all day. These two benefits can backfire, though, since we (read: Ryan) often work until all hours of the night and since Emma Vance can be quite a distraction. I, in particular, am very blessed in that our work situation allows Ryan to really co-parent. For the most part he’s there to relieve me throughout the day, to share in the special moments, and to understand my burden as a mom. It’s a lot different than a traditional setting, where mom’s the caretaker 9-5 and dad takes the evening shift. I often wonder if we’d be as happy in that type of home (which I’m sure we would), but for now I couldn’t imagine anything better than what we’ve got going. (Well, I take that back. I could imagine a better situation if we had a larger home where Ryan had his own studio. One day…)

I read the term “WAHM” (Work At Home Mom) the other day in a magazine, and I liked the way it sounded. I think women often feel awkward when they respond to the “What do you do?” question with “I’m a stay at home mom.” For people, like my former self, who don’t have kids, it’s a struggle to see how much effort, time and actual WORK it is to take care of a kid, and I think stay at home moms sense that. In my personal decision, I’ve been torn between staying home or to going to work. It’s really a lose-lose situation for moms, and men have a hard time understanding why. If you stay home, you run the risk of feeling isolated, of people underestimating your intelligence, of not being fulfilled, of feeling like a “kept woman.” If you go to work, you feel the guilt of missing milestones and special moments, the anxiety of having even less hours during the day to accomplish non-work tasks, the pain of leaving your kid everyday–plus actual work-related stress. Really, there’s no good answer. At best I believe a mom just chooses whichever is the lesser of the two evils in her mind and then pushes down the emotions related to her situation as much as possible. Being a WAHM, for me, is the best option possible, allowing me to have an identity other than “mom” and “wife,” letting me add a little to the family finances, and not keeping me from being with Emma Vance for long periods of time. For now, it’ll do.

The other side of the coin is that although when Ryan’s here he’s literally at home, sharing the baby work load, when he’s gone, he’s GONE. No one to help me at all for days on end. (And, yes, our friends and family offer to and often do come to my rescue to babysit, etc., which I am grateful for.) During these times, I experience the life of a single mom–something I never intended on being.  In fact, today is Day Nine of Ryan traveling, and I’m counting down the hours until he walks in the door and I have my partner in life back.

What I’ve learned during this past week or so is that the life of a single mom is hard. More than that, being a single working mom is really hard. While Ryan’s been jumping from location to location on the West coast, I’ve been holding down the fort here, which has amounted to between two and six hours a day of working. My former self would roll her eyes when reading this, thinking, “Two to six hours a day? Sounds like a vacation to me…” What my former self never realized is how little non-baby time exists in a mom’s day. Right now Emma Vance is going through a phase of short naps (of course!), giving me 30-45 minute bursts of free time…so two hours of actual work takes about four+ hours to accomplish. It’s just pure math! It’s been a struggle, and so when Emma Vance has been taking her afternoon naps this week, I’ve been laying her next to me in bed to coerce her into a longer nap by exploiting her comfort level. (Hey, I need time to work on my laptop in peace, people!) I’ve learned that working and being alone in this whole parenting thing means that everyday has to begin with a list of priorities, and if by 1 a.m. the list isn’t complete, it’s okay. I’ve also learned to forgive myself for mistakes with Emma Vance, especially since no one else is here to judge me. (Confession: Working and mothering led to E.V. being bonked in the head with an iPhone three times while Ryan’s been gone. One day when I’m paying for plastic surgery for her misshapen skull, see Re: This Blog Post.) I’ve given up a lot of my gym time this week and my house hasn’t been the tidiest of places, but those were lower on the list. It is what it is. (I did indulge in having a cleaning service come by this morning so as to trick Ryan into thinking I’m Wonder Woman: “able to keep a child alive, a business thriving, and a household spotless, no man necessary.”)

The end result is this: Work is work. Babies are work. Households are work. Health is work. Thankfully, my relationship with Ryan is the opposite of work, and so even though being a WAHM won’t change this evening upon his return home, having my best friend by my side sure will be nice again. And tomorrow, it’ll all start again…baby, work, husband, house, gym. Rinse and repeat. Try not to go crazy.

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