A Week of Parenting Solo

Posted on
Categories Feeling Overwhelmed, Household and Family Management, Lifestyle, Organization, Parenting, Preschoolers, Routines, SAHM, Single Parenting, Time Management, Toddlers, Working4 Comments

Last month my husband left on an impromptu work trip for a week. None of us were happy about it: me because he was ditching me with 3 kids to deal with alone, and him because he hates to fly. Because of that reason, he’s actively sought to delegate traveling to others, and therefore hasn’t had to fly for work since the beginning of his career. We’ve never had to figure out the logistics of 3 children with him out of town. And actually I was kind of annoyed because where is my nice weeklong “business trip”? Nice hotel room all to myself, no kids’ needs to fulfill, maybe even a drink or two at a quiet dinner…

But anyway, it needed to be done, so on short notice I planned it out. Preschool doesn’t open early enough for me drop Big Sis off before work, so I took her with her siblings to Grandma’s and dropped her off at school after picking them all up after work. My mom wasn’t so thrilled about this arrangement either; two toddlers are quite enough for her to manage! But I convinced her that Big Sis would be on her best behavior, and after all it was only for a few days, for only 3 hours. Plus, since the other option of having the in-laws pick her up and take her to school was rejected by Big Sis, Grandma was my only hope.

I would get all the kids’ clothes ready the night before, breakfast/snacks laid out, wake up a little earlier to make sure I get myself completely ready before getting the kids up, and the plan was set. Daddy isn’t usually around for dinner or bedtime, so nothing else would have to change.

But a smooth week was not in the cards for me. Late Sunday evening I checked the baby monitor one last time before going to bed and found Baby Boy sitting up next to a big dark spot… which turned out to be a giant pool of vomit. Surprisingly, he hadn’t cried, maybe he was still half asleep or still trying to figure out what had happened. So I had to give him another bath, run a load of bedding in the laundry, and settle both him and his twin (with whom he shares his room) back down to sleep. We repeated this two more times throughout the night.

The next morning I was feeling nauseous myself, partly from not sleeping very much the night before. Got all the kids to Grandma’s, struggled through my two classes, and picked them up only to find out that both twins had vomited their morning milk shortly after arriving, and Baby Girl had no clothes to wear. Somehow we had all picked up a stomach virus, including my husband, who was enjoying his time away by shivering alone in his hotel room. (Which, to be very honest, made me feel better about him leaving me with sick kids.)

We rounded out the week with some work anxieties: I was almost late to a meeting for which my principal specifically emailed everyone to be on time, I had to refuse to substitute for another teacher even though it was my turn, and I thought maybe my contract may be in question (it wasn’t really).

Goodness! I have to say, hats off to all the single parents out there.

lunchldyd is a part-time teacher and mom to 29mo b/g twins and their almost-5yo sister. She’s glad her husband is back to taking over his morning duties.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

House Monkey: Meet Mike, Entrepreneur and Dad of Twins Plus Two

Posted on
Categories Balance, Entrepreneurship, House Monkey, Meet the MoM, WorkingTags 4 Comments

My wife Donna and I are parents of twins plus two. In her first blog she mentioned we have full time jobs and we are building a business together to introduce our organizing solution (called “House Monkey”) to busy families. I might be one of a few males here in the HDYDI community, but I hope you find my side of the journey equally interesting.

Learn how Mike, a dad of four, is working with his wife to turn an idea into a business.

How House Monkey Emerged — Mike’s perspective

Even before we had children we were busy. We both had demanding careers. We were getting married and we had just moved into our home. As you know, the home has a life of its own. Things have to get done. Things have to be fixed and Donna’s favorite, things have to be put away. Translated: the pool has algae; the gate looks like crap; the shovels and hose need to be put away. Besides these recurring fire alarms are the scheduled priorities: vacuum the pool; change the air filter in the heater; shut off the water to the hoses outside. Once we had the children, the “simple” list became a book. Now with twin girls that can walk & talk, volumes!

We needed a tool to:

  • Keep track of things to be done,
  • Get help getting them done,
  • Make sure they were done,
  • Reward the “team players” on allowance day.

Multiple calendars, project planning software, and bingo markers weren’t keeping up as life moved away from our front door. We knew we needed something, but “something” was a black hole of thoughts.

One day the aha moment came. It was a simple thought. We’ve all had it: the “I wish I had that when I was growing up” moment. (Cup holders in the back of the car!) Luckily technology was advanced enough to help get it to where we need it to be. House Monkey became less of a concept and more of a “something”.

House Monkey Today

The last two weeks have been very busy as we have been working diligently towards a summer deliverable for this resource. Donna does the front end part of the business. It’s only appropriate my beautiful wife builds the components (the screens and the way you move around the app) which everyone will see. I work on the back end portions of the business, the stuff no one sees!

Over the last two weeks we have taken delivery of upgrades to our technology, specifically for House Monkey software to organize our development efforts, a server to build a test environment which will be the sandbox in which House Monkey will take shape.

Being so busy, and staying up so late on top of “everything else” has been a challenge recently. Sleep and sanity have definitely been traded in for long hours.

On top of taking delivery for all these technical components, the spring sports season is ramping up. My one daughter had her first horse show. I was very proud of her as she took second place in her first time riding without a spotter. The spring lacrosse season is also starting. My son, the weed, needs all new equipment. Not only a drain on time, as the only lacrosse store is 45 minutes away, but also a large drain on the wallet. With spring comes the beginning of the golf season with outdoor lessons, driving range time and (ugh) tee times.

The only sport winding down is my daughter’s swim season. She swims all year, but her last meet for the winter season was this past weekend. We still need to take her to the pool 3 times a week, but at least the weekends have been freed from long meets in HOT indoor pools. (Don’t tell her I said that, I try to be the dad that smiles… and silently sweats!)

Late winter and early spring have also introduced us to the mid-year slide with school work not getting the proper attention. Donna and I called a “family meeting” recently. We sat them down and explained that this is not ok. It’s their only job. (I think we went on and on a little about how we grew up and what we didn’t have blah blah.)

The hardest part about this time of year is motivating each one. One responds to straightforward discipline (take away TV and the iPad), another could care less about those usual tactics, and we have to take away activities. I find this more challenging because we also believe that when you make a commitment to a team, you need to be there. The third is easy: sit him down and have a “talking to” which will be followed by a “come to Jesus” discussion. The fourth… Oh boy the fourth, nothing seems to work! This is a parenting challenge. We think all of these things could work, but it just takes longer with the 4th. He’s definitely on his own schedule. The apathetic attitude is just frustrating.

The fun part of the last two weeks was St. Patrick’s Day. This is a national holiday in my book and we celebrate it. Irish pub songs start the day on the stereo for wake-up and breakfast. Donna gets the corned beef (60+ pounds this year) in the oven early and it cooks all day filling the house with the scent of St. Paddy’s Day. Friends start coming by around 5:00 pm even though we don’t serve until 6:00 pm…until people stop eating.

Of course there are several hops-based beverages available. The house runs like a diner with people coming and going all night. This year we had nearly 60 people come by with about 30 kids. Needless to say, St. Patrick’s Day is a lot of work but it is worth it because it has become a family tradition. It honors the memory of my father and all he stood for (beyond his Irish heritage). My dad placed a lot of value on family and friendships. He was always the last one to leave an event. We hope to pass down this appreciation of friends and family to our children.

The last two weeks (or years — whichever) have left Donna and I very little time to connect. It was bad, but lately it just seems harder. When the kids were younger and not so involved in everything, it seemed easier. We would book “dates” once a month, even if it were just something very simple when money was tight.

Now, it’s so much harder. Every weekend is filled with something. Swim meets, horse events, lacrosse games, golf games, football games, musical concerts, talent shows…. The list goes on, right? So we made a decision for something big. We booked a 6 day getaway for our 15 year anniversary.

We asked my in-laws to help out and that was it. We booked it!

So, leaving right after House Monkey launches this summer is something we will look forward to. It may take as much planning as the Normandy Invasion, but by God we need some time together that doesn’t include talking about work or the kids!

Can anyone relate?

Linked at

The Twinkle Diaries
Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

House Monkey: How Parents of Twins Plus Two Are Helping Families Get Organized

Posted on
Categories Balance, Entrepreneurship, House Monkey, How Do The Moms Do It3 Comments

My husband Mike and I are parents of twins plus two. We both have a full-time jobs as co-owners and division heads of a thriving scientific agency (where we service pharmaceutical clients). That might make it sound like our plates are full, but we’re also building up a business together to market our organizing solution (called “House Monkey”) to busy families. We were asked to join the HDYDI community to share the process of developing House Monkey as it happens. As a mom of 4 children aged 11, 10, 7, & 7, every day seems like an uphill battle (but we moms of multiples know that rewards on the top of that hill are sweeter).

Amazing story! Donna and Mike were inspired by their busy family to put their professional skills to work to create a fun app to help everyone in the family stay on top of household responsibilities.

Here is our story…

Our family (and the House Monkey idea) grew, starting in 2007

I have a dual BS in Biology and Chemistry and a Masters degree in Microbiology.  I worked in Pharmaceuticals from career inception and moved up through the ranks quickly.  Then I had my first child. When I held that little baby in my hands, I knew I couldn’t go back to my career life, which had me on a plane 3-4 times a week.  Instead, I started a consulting business.

I had another kid and my consulting business started growing. Then I got pregnant… with twins. We were about to have GIRL twins to add to our 2 boys.  I was nervous because I had issues with my previous pregnancies: I was diabetic with my first and second pregnancy involved 3 months of bed-rest for near pre-eclampsia.

This is the point where my story usually sounds different that that of other Moms of Multiples. I had my strongest and easiest pregnancy with the twins!  I “ran”, or rather jogged then down to a power walk, up through the last day.  At 40 weeks and 1 day, I delivered set of twins weighing in at a 7 and a 7.5 pound.

I breastfed my first 2 children for 12 months. I was gung ho that I could do that with twins… until I tried. It was a nightmare. Now I was managing a small business, had 2 toddlers (the 4 kids were born within 4 years), and was trying to breastfeed!  Both my husband and I were deeply sleep deprived.  I had to give in and ask him to feed with bottles in middle of the night.  I managed the day feeding for only 6 months.  I finally gave into the daily logistical difficulties and justified this to myself with “Donna Math” 6 months x 2 twins = 12 months!

Then all the house craziness happened. The dryer broke, and we couldn’t find the warranty, even though we knew it was under warranty. We had bought it right before the twins were born. Then the air conditioner broke!  It was one house-related nightmare after another… with twin baby girls and two toddlers.

That was 6 years ago!  We knew back then there had to be a better way, but didn’t have time or resources to even begin to think about a solution.  The first few years with the twins were all about survival!

The House Monkey idea lingered through 2011

When the twins were 4, life issues happened.  My husband was laid off.  He worked in technology (and had been running the IT for my business on the side).  It was at this point that the boys were starting to become active at school and sports.  Homework needed to be attended to, rides to practices… and the girls were still home needing attention.

So we made a huge decision: to put all our eggs in one basket and have him join my business so that we could better manage our kids.

It was a hard decision because our lifestyle was definitely going to change.  We had one thing in our lives that we would not even consider: selling our house.  Mike and I had built it from the ground up and loved it, but more importantly staying in our town was critical.  Our first son has a life-threatening airborne allergy to peanuts.  His allergy was so severe that one day went into a full anaphylaxis walking past a garbage can that had a bag of peanuts in it.  We had just finished establishing guidelines in our town to have him attend school in a safe manner. Leaving our town was non-negotiable.

Mike joined the business and played (and still plays) an extremely active role as a parent.  We struggled the first year to bring the technology (Mike’s area of expertise) to the pharma consulting work I was doing, but we had a couple of good ideas that helped the business grow marginally.  How our marriage survived that first year is amazing.  Admittedly there was much “loud talking” during that “work-life” merge.  I chalked marital survival up to a shared mutual dedication to our vows!

The big “C” hit in 2012

2012 came in with a bang.  I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  I felt very blessed to find it so early.

I had started “dabbling” in triathlons.  Yes it sounds counter-intuitive when one is so busy, but honestly having a “reason” to go to the gym when the kids went down at night was a saving grace for me both mentally and physically after working and managing 4 kids all day long.

The last month of training before a race, I was working out 6 days a week and eating properly but put on 30 pounds!  Sparing you the intricate details, let me tell you: be your own healthcare advocate.  My blood levels were all normal, and doctors wanted me to wait.  I insisted on a biopsy for this lump in my throat which, it turned, was indeed cancerous.  I did well, but had to stay in the hospital for a week for a non-planned visit due to post-surgery side effects.

Most of my clients did not know I was sick so the business had to keep running.  The kids were upset.  We were very upfront and matter of fact with them.  My chances of full survival and healing were well over 90% (thyroid cancer is tiny pimple of the cancer world- highly curable) but still we weren’t having them visit me in a head and neck cancer floor.  It was too traumatic, my poor roommate didn’t have an eyeball!

Here was Mike running back and forth to a hospital 1.5 hours away to care for me and to go over the day-to-day tasks of the business.

The kids??? Well let’s just say I thank God for my parents. They stayed at my house during the week while the children went to school. The kids bounced from place to place on the weekends with my two besties LC and JD.  I can’t neglect my mother-in-law, who picked me up at discharge because my husband and parents had caught colds.

What do you think got de-prioritized in 2012? Yes, the house!  Upkeep and maintenance was non-existent again.

Building one idea in 2013

While House Monkey was still less a concept and more an idea that “someone should build something for house organization”, we remained focused on our existing business. The technology and science finally merged together into a beautiful product.  It was a rough year building our concept from the ground up.

On the family side, the kids were becoming really, really active.  The twins were 6 and in school full time. The boys were just into everything.  Between the business and the growing needs of the family, with little personalities jetting out from everywhere, our house was one big stress ball. This led to an extreme lack of organization for our house, always the lowest priority!

How House Monkey finally came to fruition in Fall 2014

While I was focused on our technology-based product for our pharma clients, Mike had decided to revisit the house disorganization problem we identified when the twins were born and had progressively become worse over the years.  He approached me with an idea to build this app, thinking it could be a way to manage an active house busy and full of life. I added on the organizational piece.

It became our night time job, filled with many white board sketches before the full concept of “House Monkey” was born!  We decided to put the House Monkey idea on Kickstarter and see what happened.  Not only was this a great way to fundraise to build House Monkey, but interest in Kickstarter would also show us if other busy houses needed something better too.

Don’t let anyone tell you running a crowd-funding campaign is easy!  It was tons of work and involved lots of follow up with people both online and offline.

In essence we were working full time with pharma clients during the day (a job I love with great clients!), caring for the kids when they got home from school until bedtime, and going back to idea stream and plan out House Monkey at night.

We are pleased to say we received a wonderful Christmas gift on December 24th, 2014: House Monkey was financed on Kickstarter!

How do we do it? Where do we find the time?

All this is no small challenge. My husband and I each have two full time jobs, all while balancing our 4 very active children. Their sports range from golf to football and they have several sports and activities in between. Did I mention that Mike is the president of the EMS squad in our town and rides on the ambulance 2-3 nights a week? I was a founder and now sit on the executive committee for the women’s group at our church.

So when a blog named How Do You Do It? contacted me and asked “how are you going to do it?” my answer was “I have no idea how I’m going to do it”! The flood gates are wide open for both our pharma-based business and the House Monkey idea all at once. Plus, we are committed to not letting the businesses get in the way of our family time!

Over the next few months, Mike and I will be sharing our progress and challenges in building this organizational solution for busy families.  We will be focused on 5 key topics:

  • House Monkey App Development: What are the updates, key challenges, and wins in building this resource
  • Parenting: Managing 4 kids with 4 different sets of priorities and interests
  • Marriage: Making it work at work, at home, and as a couple
  • Trade-offs: What stays and what goes at both work and home
  • “What the kids say”: How does running two separate businesses impact the kids?

Our intention is that progress will be reported once a month from each of us….. once from Mike’s perspective as a dad, husband, and business owner and once a month from my perspective as a mom, wife, and business owner.  We hope our intention comes to fruition, but if not, we hope you understand why!

We look forward to reporting on this journey and hope that as we try and find our way, you find some “golden nuggets” that apply to your journey and help you find a “way to do it” as well!

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Working Mom, or rather, When “Working” Meets “Mom”

Posted on
Categories Parenting, Working4 Comments

Here’s my perspective on being a single mother with a career I love: My time with my daughters is a vacation from work. My time at work is a vacation from my kids. I’m perpetually on vacation. Yes, I’m frequently tired and the need to constantly prioritize means that many lower priorities don’t make the cut.

Overall, though, I love being a working mom. It’s just how I’m built.

For the most part, I try to keep mommy-Sadia and professional-Sadia separate. In fact, when pondering my career trajectory, I came to the realization that I didn’t want to go down the managerial track precisely because “boss” is such a parental role. I spend my time at home laying out behavioural expectations, following up on progress, and enforcing peace. I don’t need to be doing that at work too.

That said, my work environment is extremely family-friendly. Actually, it’s just all around friendly. My coworkers and I hang out outside work. We exchange parenting tips. We know each other’s kids and pets and in-laws. My daughters, J and M, think of many of my coworkers as family.

It still surprises me, though, when I notice aspects of my job entering my parenting. The other day, I was trying to help M and J make peace after a misunderstanding. J had stomped off to the shower, understandably upset, in my opinion. I sat down with M to get her side of the story.

M: Am I in trouble?
Mommy: No, of course n… Actually, what do you mean by “in trouble”?
M: It means I hurt somebody’s feelings.
Mommy: In that case, yes. You hurt J’s feelings. I mean something different when I say, “in trouble.” To me, it means that someone’s about to get a punishment,
M: (starting to cry) I’m going to get a punishment?
Mommy: No, not at all. I just thought you were asking if you were getting a punishment, and that’s why I said no.

Then it struck me. I’m a business analyst. Much of what I do all day is get people to shared understanding, often by investigating assumptions and clarifying terms. Despite my own assumption that mommy-Sadia and professional-Sadia were distinct, I use my professional skills in my parenting.

How does your career or education impact your parenting?

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Thoughts on Working Part-time

Posted on
Categories Attitude, Balance, Finances and Saving, Household and Family Management, Lifestyle, Mommy Issues, Organization, Parenting, Perspective, Preschoolers, Routines, SAHM, Toddlers, Working3 Comments

School started two weeks ago, and I’m ready to reflect on getting back to work part-time.

The first week was a little sketchy. I started getting random headaches, my eyes were irritated and red, and I was still pretty exhausted. I was worried that this part-time decision wasn’t going to help anything. But now that I have another week down, I’m feeling like I’m back in the groove. In fact, I’m extremely happy with my new schedule.

I’m up and in the shower at about 6am, out the door by 6:45, twins dropped off at my mom’s around 7am, and at school by 7:10. Not much different from our summer schedule, except I have to actually get dressed instead of wearing tank tops and shorts, and I don’t do breakfast for the kids. Two classes and three hours later, I pick up the twins, give them their snack in the car, and we go home to nap for two hours. This is when I get some downtime, do some of my own things, or take a nap myself. Big Sis sometimes gets picked up from preschool after lunch (I’ve been trying out continuing with a half-day for her), and we go on an afternoon outing, again no different from our summer schedule.

The BIG difference is that I am not so exhausted that I can’t enjoy being with my kids. It used to be that I was completely drained after a whole day of work, but now I get a little break while the twins nap, so I have time to recharge. I now have the time and patience to listen to 4yo stories, soothe 21mo boo-boos, and generally be present and engaged.

By no means is it easy though. The twins are only getting more active each day, and one of my children is a climber. I had never experienced this before (Big Sis is much more low key), so it is completely shocking to me. My boy, at 19m, vaulted his crib rails, landed on his feet, and took off running. He is climbing everything climbable: shelves, beds, TV stands, dollhouses, play kitchens, you name it. We don’t go to the library anymore because he will scale the shelves there. And not only is he interested in the climbing, he also likes to jump on the surfaces on which he’s climbed. So I will come out of the shower to see him balanced on his tiptoes at the edge of the armchair in the playroom, bouncing up and down with a big grin on his face. And when he sees me he’ll say, “Ta-Da!” (Don’t have a clue where he gets that from…) His twin isn’t so much into climbing, but she will find and eat any and all little bits off the floor. I’ve got to keep my eyes on her at all times to make sure she’s not ingesting nasty stuff. These kids sure know how to keep me on my toes. Therefore, I am much more convinced now that my mom would not be capable of entertaining and chasing them all day every day.

Another bonus to this part-time schedule? Surprisingly, I’ve gotten even more efficient. I thought that with three kids I was already very efficient. And I am– consolidated errands, organized outings, great time management skills. I routinely do all 3 baths and bedtimes in 30 minutes. But now that I’m only at work for less than 3 hours a day, I find myself planning even further ahead, making lists and crossing things out right away, not procrastinating on any work stuff. My lessons are prepared days in advance, and I have calendars marked for the entire school year for holidays and days that we’re on a different school schedule. I don’t dread going to work anymore; on the contrary, I think I’ve actually fallen back in love with my profession.

I’ve been feeling happier and more productive. I’ve had interest in reading again, and even planned the kids’ Halloween costumes already. I have energy to think ahead, and I look forward to weekends not just for no work, but to actively plan activities that include Daddy.

Even considering the financial sacrifice we’re making, I don’t see how there could be any better alternative to this. It’s like the other shoe has dropped, after so long of such conflicted emotions about doing this. I’m elated that I made the leap on this decision.

lunchldyd is a part-time teacher and full-time mother to 21mo b/g twins and their 4yo sister.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Twinfant Tuesday: Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave (Part IV)

Posted on
Categories Twinfant Tuesday, WorkingTags 3 Comments

8 tips for making the return to work successful, from an IT professional and mother of twins.

Tips for Making a Return to Work Easier

Here are a few things that I think kept me from throwing up my hands and quitting my job in the first week back.

  1. A supportive co-parent. I trusted my husband completely with the babies. He had been present for them in their NICU-bound first days in ways I couldn’t after a C-section. Although he didn’t see the need for it, he agreed to stay home from work my first two days back, just in case the babies refused to feed from a bottle or I just couldn’t make the breast pump work for me.
  2. Research. I read up on the psychology of children raised by working mothers. I can’t find the articles I read back in 2006 now, but the ones that gave me the most comfort fell into two categories. There were the findings that showed that children of working mothers got just as much quality time from them as from stay-at-home moms, which countered my concerns that my children would be or feel neglected. There were also articles that argued that working moms were generally happier than stay-at-home moms. Having been diagnosed with clinical depression myself and having been raised by a mother with untreated mental illness, I knew how important it was to take care of myself so that I could be the best mother possible.
  3. A job I love. There would have been no point in returning to work if I didn’t enjoy what I did. I loved (and still love) the challenges, the pace, and above all my wonderfully smart, funny, supportive co-workers (including RachelG). I enjoyed my job so much that I went back to it even though my take home pay after daycare costs was about $100/month. Fortunately, I was awarded a promotion not long afterward, but I enjoyed work enough that it wasn’t about the money. If I were just working to make ends meet, I can imagine being deeply unhappy.
  4. A great boss. My team lead, Gordana, was breastfeeding her own infant when I came back to work. She was both a professional and a mothering mentor. She made sure that I had a place to pump and made me feel at ease making my breastfeeding needs known and respected. When J went on nursing strike, it was Gordana who recommended that I take some time off work to spend full days skin-to-skin with J to coax her back to the breast.
  5. Trusted caregivers. My daughters’ infant teacher, Suzanne, has become family. From the moment she met them, she loved my daughters as her own. She always told me what was going on with them, worked as a partner to address her concerns and mine, and gave insightful recommendations from her experience with infants. Every day, I was given a sheet of paper for each child documenting every meal, nap, diaper, activity, and event of the day. I trusted her, and still trust her, completely. She was actually the one who recommended the elementary school my daughters now attend, from which her own daughter is about to move onto middle school. When my girls (along with their friend Shaw) graduated from pre-K at their daycare centre, Suzanne cried as hard as I did.
  6. Established breastfeeding. The 8 weeks my girls and I had together 24/7 showed me that we could make breastfeeding work. I didn’t mind supplementing their diets with formula, but I was committed to getting them as many of the benefits of breastmilk as possible. Had we not been going strong with breastfeeding already, I’m not sure I could have made it through each workday without my babies at my side.
  7. Confidence. I had to be certain that I was doing the right thing. There were going to be naysayers feeding into my own doubts. I told myself that my working was the right choice for my family, and no one else could possibly decide for us how our family should be structured. I’ve never been one to follow the expected path, so that part came easily.
  8. Lowered standards. The fact is that an adult who spends 12 hours in their home can get less done with regards to housekeeping and cooking than one who is home 22-24 hours a day. Laundry didn’t get folded. It just didn’t. I used cleaning robots (Roomba and Scooba) to clean my floors because I couldn’t do it. We hired a lawn maintenance company because even if I were home during daylight hours, there was no way I was doing yard work. And I didn’t sit. I was in constant motion that first year. The first time I sat down outside of work and breastfeeding was when the babies were 6 months old and we went to Washington and were surrounded by doting grandparents, great grandmothers and great uncles and great aunts. I sat down and had a glass of wine with my mother-in-law while Grampy fed the babies. It was amazing.

Proud Grandpa displaying his grandtwins at the fire station

What are/were your concerns about returning to work?

Read more:

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Twinfant Tuesday: Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave (Part III)

Posted on
Categories Twinfant Tuesday, Working1 Comment

Why Returning to Work After Maternity Leave is Hard

I don’t want to give you the impression that returning to work was easy for me. Despite all the positives, it was hard. I was consumed by guilt. I kept wishing that my career-building years weren’t my reproductive years. Every time I found myself enjoying work, I wondered if it made me a bad mother, if my pleasure at being away from them would somehow ruin their lives forever.

The end of maternity leave is hard, but returning to work can be well worth it. The younger the child, the easier it may be.

I missed the babies viscerally. My full, sore breasts were a constant reminder that my girls were 15 miles away, being cared for by people who were then strangers, although they’re now more family than my “real” family. My arms ached to hold J and M. I missed their smell. I worried that we would no longer be bonded and that our relationship would become as non-existent as my relationships with my own parents.

The breast pump and I didn’t respond well to each other. My milk production plummeted. I was only pumping twice a day during the 10+ hours I was away from my babies, 15 minutes at a time, down from 90 minutes of nursing every 3 hours. No amount of fenugreek could make up the difference in time or the way that my babies’ mouths triggered letdown. After the trauma of the girls’ premature birth by C-section, breastfeeding felt like a way I could make up to them the weeks in my womb my body had denied them, and now I was failing them again as their mother.

It didn’t help that no one other than my boss, my husband and my in-laws believed that I could balance it all. I know that everything who said to me, “I don’t know how you do it,” meant it as a compliment, but I couldn’t help hearing an undertone of “You’ll never be able to do it.” And then there were the other army wives (other than Sara), who actually came out and told me that I was a bad mother and shameful army wife for wanting a career. “A real army wife,” one sneered at me, “stays home and takes care of her soldier and children.”

Read more:

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

A Compromise

Posted on
Categories Attitude, Balance, Difference, Emotion, Fear, Feeling Overwhelmed, Finances and Saving, Guilt, Joy, Lifestyle, Mommy Issues, Parenting, Perspective, SAHM, Working15 Comments

A few days ago marked the close of another school year, the first one I taught after my twins were born. Having only worked 6 weeks the year prior before taking my maternity leave, it was a difficult adjustment. The first several weeks seemed like just an exhausted blur, and the weeks following did not get much better. The month of March (the “long March”) was the worst. I was feeling depressed, rundown, burnt out, just plain tired and uninspired.

The crawling babies began to walk, then run, then climb, and by the end of the school year their naps were hit-and-miss because they were ready to transition to only one. So I had cranky babies and a preschooler to pick up from school, then feed and bathe all three after a full day of work. And I constantly worried about my aging mom, who I counted on every single day in order for me to go to work. I started to rethink this decision made a year ago

Clearly, I knew my husband’s position. We’ve had this discussion many times before; I’ve been wanting to be a SAHM ever since our first was born. But the decision we made came mostly from his arguments, all of which are valid: We have family nearby, they’re willing to help, these are our prime working years, I should be building my career and our family’s financial wealth. But he doesn’t understand the guilt that comes from having nothing left to give to the kids crying and tugging at you for your attention at the end of each day. He doesn’t understand that I blissfully enjoyed almost an entire year at home with my firstborn (starting 10 weeks before her siblings were born so she had me completely to herself), and the sadness I feel that the twins will NEVER get to experience that, just by the fact there are two of them plus an older sister.

One morning in early May, after a night of tormented sleep, I sought out my administrators to ask if there were any options for me to relieve some of this distress. Other than resign and lose my job security and all the years of service credit I’ve built with the district, the only other option was to work part-time. I never considered this an option because… well, because it is rarely done. I’ve only known two colleagues who have ever done it, and currently there is only one other teacher working part-time in the entire district. But, surprisingly, after almost collapsing into tears while telling my principal of the difficulties of trying to be the best mom I could while also being the best teacher I could, she was completely supportive. And, it turns out, so was my assistant principal working on the master schedule (the schedule of all courses during all class periods for every teacher at the school)– he was able to give me two morning classes a day.

My husband and I then had this discussion once again, but this time I was offering an alternative. What if I could keep my job security, keep my vested years and retirement, but also spend more quality time with the kids? I had the numbers to present to him, and my mom had already signed off on the idea. We could take the financial hit temporarily; my mom would only have to watch them for less than 3 hours a day instead of 8. I could feel fulfilled, as I am keeping my career, but also not be completely worn out before I even pick up my kids. Surprising me yet again, my husband agreed.

Life changes after having kids. This is the way we’ve decided to compromise. My new contract was signed last Friday. I’m not absolutely sure yet that this is the best way to go for our family, but I am trying something that I think might work. We will see.

lunchldyd is currently on summer vacation from her job as a high school teacher. Her husband has deferred his hopes of moving into a bigger house soon because of her part-time working decision. 

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Twinfant Tuesday: Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave (Part II)

Posted on
Categories Twinfant Tuesday, WorkingTags 21 Comments

Why 11 Weeks Was Enough

For our family, 11 weeks post-partum for a return to my job worked out rather well. Please don’t take this to mean that I support the US’s shamefully short maternity leave policies. I simply mean that for us, 11 weeks was okay. I think every mother needs to decide for herself and her baby what the right amount of time together is before returning to work.

My daughters took to the breast amazingly easily after their NICU days of gavage- and bottle-feeding. We made the switch right away, no transition plan needed. Since M was home nearly a week before J, I was able to establish a breastfeeding and pumping routine with her. She fed for 45 minutes every 3 hours, and I pumped for 20 minutes after each breastfeeding session. (I didn’t figure out the magic of pumping on one side while breastfeeding on the other until later in our breastfeeding journey.) Twice a day, M got high-calorie formula fortified with Poly-Vi-Sol while I pumped. The pumped milk was delivered to the NICU once a day, my wonderful father-in-law driving me and M to the hospital and waiting with the baby in the car as I limped in to briefly hold J. My husband had been shipped off to California by the army when the girls were 10 days old.

When J came home, she fit right into M and my feeding routine. I never could get simultaneous feeding figured out, so the babies would each feed for 45 minutes every 3 hours.

That’s right. During the 8 weeks of maternity leave between the babies leaving the hospital and my return to my job, I spent 12 hours every day breastfeeding.

This is what breastfeeding 12 hours a day looks like.

Much as I wanted to make breastfeeding work, returning to work gave me back my sense of self. I felt valued for more than just my milk-production ability. Had I not had my work successes and co-workers to validate me, I don’t know that I could have survived J’s nursing strike, her complete refusal to breastfeed at age 5 months.

It felt so good to be back at work. A multi-year project completed days after I came back to work, and while all my friends were burned out and exhausted, I was chipper and exhausted, ready to get back to something I knew I was good at. It wasn’t that I was at bad at mothering newborns−I’m 100% baby person−but I really enjoyed the concrete validation that I was doing things right. That validation doesn’t come until years down the road for parents, if ever.

Then there was lunch. Every day at work gave me an entire hour during which nothing was expected of me. I could eat. I could nap. I could take a walk, or wash my face or brush my teeth without guilt. I could give friends my undivided attention. Lunch was a glorious extraordinary gift that I had taken for granted for years.

Maternity leave was a very lonely time for me. My husband was away for army training much of the time and my in-laws could only take a few weeks off work to travel from Washington State to Texas. My friend Sara and I spent as much time together with our 3 newborns as we could, since her husband was away with mine, but we lived 40 miles apart, so daily hanging out wasn’t reasonable. I hadn’t yet made other mommy friends. People did come to visit, but I lived 30 miles from work and the majority of my friends just couldn’t make the trek. I am an intense extrovert. I talked to the babies all day long, but they weren’t the most insightful of conversational partners.

Since my daughters have been in daycare since they were so young, they’ve never known anything else. Yes, we had a bout of separation anxiety when they were 17 months old, but I’ve never dealt with the sort of trauma at being separated from my girls that I’ve seen with other parents. Returning to work as early as I did taught me to trust others to care for my children

It also helped foster a more egalitarian separation of duties with my husband than we might have had otherwise. We shared the responsibilities of diapering and bathing our babies. During the 3 months Daddy was home in the girls’ first year, between California training and Iraq deployment, my then-husband took on all housework and cooking so that I could focus on breastfeeding. He even took half the nighttime feedings, since we both had jobs to get to in the morning. He mastered latching the babies onto my breast without waking me and quickly figured out how to determine when each baby had emptied one breast and was ready for the second. Within the first week after I returned to work, I was able to sleep through my husband’s rolling me over to switch breasts, and I got more than 90 minutes of sleep at a time for the first time since M came from the hospital.

SadiawithBabes

Did you look forward to returning to work? Did you feel guilty?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Twinfant Tuesday: Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave (Part I)

Posted on
Categories Guilt, Parenting, Perspective, Twinfant Tuesday, Working5 Comments

I returned to work when my babies were 11 weeks old. Going back to work after maternity leave was incredibly hard, physically and emotionally, but I don’t regret doing it. In the long term, my daughters and I are better off for my having maintained my career through motherhood.

The end of maternity leave is hard, but returning to work can be well worth it. The younger the child, the easier it may be.

The photo above was the last one I took before returning to work. The babies were so little… only 4 weeks past their due date and still the size of newborns (around 7 lbs). I had to restrain myself from picking J up and holding her in an attempt to get enough baby snuggles to get through the day without crying. I didn’t quite make it through that first workday without a few tears, especially while I was pumping.

Why 11 Weeks Old?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives many US employees 12 weeks off work for the birth of a child. This time is unpaid, but our employers have to hold our jobs for us and can’t give away our positions. To mothers in other countries, unpaid maternity leave is unthinkable, 12 weeks impossibly short, and the need to share this 12 week leave between both parents (if they work for the same employer) an abomination. Still, the law is what it is, for now at least, and I’m grateful that my employer is large enough to be required to honour it.

Many American mothers, too, see 12 weeks as an impossibly short period of time to spend with their newborns and therefore choose to leave their careers for a longer period of time. Some employers will agree to hold a new mother’s job longer than the minimum 12 weeks required by law. Others will expect a new mother to hand in her resignation if she intends to stay home longer than that.

One complication I didn’t anticipate was that bed rest-related absence from work also counted into the 12 weeks I was allowed off associated with the pregnancy. Fortunately, I work at a job to which I can telecommute and my boss was herself a mother whose second son was 4 months older than my girls. She was very understanding and did all she could to help me have the healthiest pregnancy possible. When my obstetrician told me 31 weeks into my pregnancy that I needed to stop working the following week, I went into a panicked tailspin. My boss was the one to suggest that I consider working half time from the couch, to keep myself busy and my income flowing even while I tried to reduce my symptoms of pre-term labour.

My half time work schedule only lasted 2 weeks before my babies made their dramatic arrival at 33 weeks. Over those 2 weeks, I’d used up 1 of the 12 weeks allowed by FMLA.

In the first hours after my babies were born, we were told to expect them home no sooner than their due date, still 7 weeks away. The idea of taking 7 weeks off work while the babies were in hospital, only to have 4 weeks left to bond with them at home, made me sick to my stomach. I started playing with calendars, trying to figure out whether I could return to work as soon as I was enough recovered from my C-section to do so, just to maximize my time home with M and J.

A kind nurse, Michelle, took me aside when they were a couple of weeks old and advised that I not take the route of bopping in and out of FMLA leave. All indications were that both girls would be released home well before their due date, likely right around the time I would be healed enough from the C-section to go back to work. As it turns out, the girls came home at 16 and 22 days old, before I was cleared by my doctor to drive. How working mothers with longer NICU stays manage it all, I really don’t know. I did notice that many of the other NICU babies who’d been in the hospital for several months no longer got daily visits from their parents, thanks to the demands of work. My heart breaks for these families.

During maternity leave.
This is one of a handful of photos of me during maternity leave.

I had actually hoped to return to work part-time at first, when the girls were 9 weeks old, spreading out my FLMA leave and giving myself a more gradual switch from primarily breastfeeding to primarily pumping. However, my mother decided to visit just about the time I planned to go back to the office, and she required me to serve as a full-time chauffeur. We had initially hoped that she’d be able to watch the babies, but she was overwhelmed by the idea of juggling both of them. After all, it had been 26 years since she’d had to care for an infant by herself; with my baby sister, we’d had servants to do the heavy lifting.

So, 11 weeks of maternity leave it was, and I returned to a full day. My babies were at daycare from 6:30 am until nearly 6:00 pm, thanks to my lengthy commute.

How long did you/do you plan on taking maternity leave?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone