Thursday, September 23, 2010

The end, and a beginning

I'm in my last week of leave; I start back to work on Monday. I took Elle into the office this week to show her around, which was fun. It was a little surreal to sit in my office and feed her. Talk about worlds colliding.

It's amazing how quickly the twelve weeks have passed. The first six weeks or so truly were a blur, and I still feel like each day moves at lightning speed... yet crawls at the same time.

I have good day care for Elle, and I'm going back on a reduced schedule which will give me some flexibility. (Also, less money-- with my reduced schedule, unfortunately, comes reduced pay. We'll see how long I can afford it.) I'm very lucky on all counts. In addition, my workplace is being fabulously accommodating about just about everything-- it helps to have tenure, and to have both your bosses think you do good work.

Everyone's asking how I feel about going back to work. I'm probably not going to really know until I'm actually back at work. But honestly? I think I'm going to be OK. I don't think I'm cut out to stay home full time with an infant. I know many women are, and I think that's amazing.

But many of those women also have spouses/partners. I don't. So being at home is completely consuming, and there's no one to hand her off to. There is literally no time for anything but taking care of Elle, every day. And remember-- she doesn't nap. Hardly ever. The little bit of time I get when she's gone to sleep at night is mostly filled with washing bottles, making bottles for the next day, folding laundry... and when I'm back at work, I'll have to also do things like pack lunch, figure out what to wear, yadda yadda. (I steal time on the internet once she's in bed, but I should really be going to bed myself. Which I'm going to do as soon as I finish this post.)

The past week or so, she's been very hard to entertain-- she's been fussy and generally high-maintenance. Which is new, because other than her non-napping self, she's a really happy baby. I was telling a friend at lunch today that I think this personality change was designed to make it easy for me to put her in day care! (I actually think it's a combination of residual effects from the immuniz.ations she got last week-- poor baby-- and a three-month growth spurt.)

All of this combined makes me think that I am probably going to be a better mom to her when I'm back at work. And truly, I think she's going to love day care-- she's such a social little pumpkin that I think having other kids around is going to be the BEST THING EVER for her little self. It will give her the stimulation that you don't really get from a single parent/one child household.

And then we'll both come home and the time together will be that much more precious.

Along the lines of going back to work, I'm also taking the advice of some of the other single moms I know and making sure I have people (other than my amazing, amazing friends) in place so that I get some "me" time that's not work. The daughter of a friend is going to do some mother's helper type stuff for me occasionally-- just having her help with the baby so I can do things around the house is going to be incredibly helpful (and again, Elle will love it-- a new face!). I've put feelers out for a babysitter so that I don't have to automatically turn down every invitation I get that's not baby-appropriate. My tight budget means that babysitting will not be a frequent treat, but at least I'll have someone in line for whenever it is possible.

I'm sure there are those who will say I'm a bad parent because I'm not spending every single waking moment with my daughter-- and I don't want to spend every single waking moment with my daughter. They're entitled to their opinion, and I'm entitled to disagree.

What I want to do is to be the best possible mom for my daughter, and I firmly believe that I'll be a better mom if I have some balance to my life. It's all too easy as a single parent to let your child consume every single molecule of your existence; I'm already a ridiculously boring conversationalist because I want to talk about her all the time! So I need to make sure that I'm still Me, and not just Elle's Mom.

So yeah, I don't expect next week to be easy, and I'm going to miss that little face and her fantastic chubby cheeks. But... I think it's going to be OK.

I hope.

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