Back to work after babies… to be or not to be? Or how to be?

drama_queen1This is hardly stop-the-presses material, but, did you know, having babies puts a serious hole in your career path?

I knew this, of course. The same way you know that babies will change your life forever. That babies mean sleepless nights. That kids are expensive, they test relationships, they test your own limits, they bring great joy and introduce you to entirely new parts of yourself.

We all know this stuff. And then we live it. And then we really know.

Right now I am living through this kids-kill-careers thing.
I’m not pronouncing my career dead by any means. But the children have become my new priority. I want to be with them. So much that I am pretty sure I am not going to push hard for the next step with a company I have been with for a long time, a company that gave me my dream job for a while, and international travel and a decent salary and benefits and all of that good stuff. I thought I would be with them for a long time yet, and that I would travel across more of the world with them, moving further up the chain.

Instead I’m thinking about walking away. Because if we should stay put I can work close to home, or AT home (ie, the coffee shop around the corner). We can have a nanny so the babies get lots of personal attention. And let’s be honest, having that help at home is a HUGE help and support for our relationship, too. Even with that help I feel resentful quite often that the burden seems to fall disproportionately on me. Rufus is a lovely dad, but he’s rarely home these days for bathtime, and he gets up now and then to help in the night and every now and then in the morning, but then he seems to think he’s owed a medal of some kind.

I think moving across the world now to a big city where we’d have to put the babies in a childcare centre fulltime while I worked long hours and he settled himself would make us all a bit miserable, at least for a while.

So lately my mind has been filled with possibilities and worries. Maybe I should start my own small business? Or consult? Or take a fulltime job that’s come up here that’s totally within my skillset but paid far less than I’d usually earn?

I went to an interview for that job today. I felt tired and frumpy and not myself at all. I am vastly overqualified for this position; they know it and I know it. “What am I doing?” I thought, as I sat there, in a wrap dress that accommodates my new lumpiness. It just felt all wrong.

I took a risk in coming to Peru years ago – I knew it then, and I am paying the price now, in a way. But I have gained so much more than I have lost in taking that risk – my partner, my children, new friends, an understanding of a new place and culture, a new language. I don’t regret it. I’m just a little scared about what’s next. That’s good, I tell myself. Some of my “scariest”, most insecure career moments propelled me on to my boldest and best and biggest changes. It’s going to be ok.

Whack-a-mole and other quandaries

ImageIt’s been so long since I wrote anything here!

Lola is driving me mad today. She will not take her nap. She rolled around in her cot for a while, stuffing books down the side, practicing somersaults, singing “Incy Wincy Pider” (We’re not so good at the “sp” sound yet)… And Max is suffering with new teeth on the way.

Whenever one goes down for a nap, the other one pops up – it is like that game, whack-a-mole.

And Rufus is off traveling again for ten days. 

I have felt overwhelmed many, many, many times since Lola was born almost two years ago. All those sleepless nights. Fevers. New teeth. Etc.

But work is pushing me over the edge. I keep telling myself how lucky I am that I had seven months with Lola off work, and then seven months again with Max. So many mothers don’t have that – they have to hand over their babies after only two or three months and go back to work fulltime.

Maybe I am just not up to this working-mothering thing. Maybe I am better off just doing one thing at a time.

The problem, of course, is money. And security and the future and all that jazz.

We want to buy an apartment and a car and soon there’ll be school fees, and eventually, thanks to the new Australian government’s disastrous policy changes, we’ll be paying ridiculous sums for university as well. So at some point I have to work.

And then I worry about my whole career tanking and being basically meaningless if I don’t go back to some serious work sooner rather than later.

So I took an interim kind of job recently – it’s ultra flexible and easy and I can work from home (note to mothers of toddlers.. working from home sounds great but it doesn’t work AT ALL.. I have come to the conclusion that being in the house and not playing with her is worse than just being somewhere else altogether, because if I’m not here she doesn’t seem to care much, once the initial goodbye is over and done with; but if I am, she feels abandoned and sad that I am choosing to do something else.

Some of her new sentences are: “No touching the computer” and “Mummy playing here!”.

I don’t want this to come off as a big whinge. It is a big whinge. But my motivation is noble I think – I want to know how other mothers out there are handling these things. What do you think – should I bite the bullet and go back fulltime, and just work on being a better mum in the hours that I have with them each day? Or should I bite the bullet and earn less and just make the most of being a mostly-stay-at-home mum?

Sometimes I just get so confused between the two of them – what should Max be eating now? What stage of play is Lola at? Is she sociable enough for her age? Should she go to kindy just to mix with other kids? The bottom line is I feel like I am doing a lot of things badly at the moment, including mothering.

A murder of crows, an adorable of babies

I have two babies but until recently I was used to seeing them one at a time. An eye blink ago Max was very much a babe-in-arms. And Lola a blossoming toddler. Now that Max is sitting up, the whole world has changed. He has always tracked her every move with adoring eyes, but now he make his own lunge for her whenever it takes his fancy. And he does. He launches himself like a rugby forward, without any thought for the hard floor, wall or strange object in his path. He wants to be close to her, to be walking like her, to be talking like her. I think he might skip crawling, because he only wants to do what she does.

Until recently she hasn’t wanted to have much to do with him. But that is changing, too. Now she says “Coo coo Maxi!” every morning and gives him a little kiss on the head of a tiny hug. She often tells me to pass him off to his dad or his nanny, but a few days ago, when an admiring stranger scooped him up, she said, “No! Maxi with mummy!”. Her first visible protective urge towards him. I know he is going to love her more than all of us. He just does.

Seeing them together made me think of all those great collective nouns… a murder of crows, a pride of lions. They are my adorable of babies.  

Seeing them together makes my heart swell more than ever, and lends an even greater sense of surreality to life in general. How did he come to be here, this perfect little fella? No drugs, no agonising. Just here, with minimum fuss and heartburn. He was dangling from his jolly jumper this morning and she was pushing him around in an ill-judged but well-meant kind of way and I imagined how they might be a year from now, tearing around together. Little mates. 

 

 

 

Park Life

There are moments of clarity every now and then as an expat, when you remember suddenly that you are far from home, and that this is your life.

I had one today in the park when it dawned on me that the names all the parents were calling out would sound pretty weird in an Australian or British park – at least, all together like that.

“Balthazar!”

“Caetano!”

“Julietta!”

“Candela!”

This is not a Jack, Ava, Oliver or Sophie neck of the woods. Here, the longer the name the better. The more syllables, the better. If there’s a chance to roll and R in there somewhere, better still. 

In Peru, I’ve noticed that the monied upper-crust types like these long names, and traditional Spanish names. And among the working classes there’s a trend for western names, but such strange ones – it’s like someone has been selling a 1930s version of a Best English Baby Names book here. Wilbur? Wilmer? Erwin? Who CALLS their kid that?! And then there’s made-up names or renditions with odd spellings – Laydee, Daysy, Jhon.

Across the region there are also examples of political leanings – lots of Lenins and Marxs (my first gym instructor here was a Lenin). And USNavy (ooo-es-navi), MadeinUSA (pronounced maad-en-ussa).

Turn over!

So Maxi rolled over all by himself today! He’s five months old, and growing like a weed – almost 8kg when Lola is still shy of 10 kg at 1.5 years. 

He doesn’t spend that much time on his back, because if he can possibly swing it, he hangs out in my arms, or he gets swung over the back of our lovely nanny Juanita. It’s how he rolls.

So that’s why I was a little surprised today when he managed a flip. 

He’s a funny little chap – very serious, especially with me. I get a little jealous and insecure with him, to be honest. Rufus can send him into fits of giggles brushes his three-day growth along his feet, or nuzzling his neck. But my efforts don’t always work.  Do any other mums out there feel the same way with the second? I worry that I’m so distracted with Lola and having to return to work that somehow we haven’t managed to bond as we should have.

Tonight after his flip I got some chuckles out of him and it made me day. Well done, young sir. 

Milk crisis!

Image

Where oh where has my milk gone?

I went to express some yesterday and got a dribble. Less than one ounce! Just as I am supposed to be preparing us for a future with me working outside the home for part of the day. I have NO frozen milk because I’ve always just kind of lived day-to-day with Max, and then we went on a six week trip home with expressing would have been really difficult and so we all fell out of the habit. 

So how do I get my milk back, people? Any thoughts?

Gleaning from my usual sources – babycentre.co.uk, netmums, google in general, old baby manual on the shelf – I need to:

– drink lots of water

– drink fennel tea

– drink cocoa shell tea

– eat well

– rest

and maybe pray.

Max is still only 4.5 months and I really really want to keep going with breastfeeding. For his health but also for our bond. I feel like such a distracted mother with him, because I’m always chasing after Lola as well, and I don’t want to lose this time with him as well.

Spaced out

It’s 8am and Lola is still sleeping! This is a momentous day indeed. Little Max has also dropped off again for one of his micro-naps, so I am tapping away stealthily on this keyboard praying I can finish a thought or two. I’ve missed you, readers! 

I keep trying to organise my thoughts but they just slip away – every time I feel I am grasping one, it spins off into space like George Clooney letting go of Sandra Bullock in Gravity. “No, George! Don’t let goooooo,” I cry. But it’s too late. George is left spinning in infinity, and so are my recently formed, presumably useful thoughts about how best to proceed from here on in.

Now that I am a mother of two. I know. Un-believable. 

There I go again…

Now that I am a mother of two, with no fulltime job to call my own, I have pondering how best to proceed. How can I make money to fund schools, kindergartens, the purchase of a family home, car, etc… without sacrificing all my time with them? 

I don’t want to go back to work, but we could really do with the cash. And now we have all of this new responsibility, it’s time to get my skates on. 

I was offered a job yesterday which does not have a great salary. But it does allow for working between office and home, it’s for a great charity, and it’s in my skillset. It won’t look bad on a resume. So some money is better than none, I guess. 

I also want to launch a food blog (Stop groaning, I know there are a million of them, but this is an unexploited niche, I swear). This could be fun, feed my creative desires, and also potentially be monetised, if all goes well. Not so much that I will be buying that new apartment, I’m fairly sure. But still.

And in between I will be keeping my antennae alert for other job opportunities. Does that sound like a plan? 

The backdrop to all of this is Max and Lola World. Lola is more ravishing, charming, hilarious and impressive every single day. I love watching what words pop out of her mouth, seeing what catches her imagination (this week, somersaults, “ejerdicios” … a corruption of the Spanish for exercises, the Hokey Pokey, and the Hungry Caterpillar. Or Caperdillar, as she calls him).

Max is turning out to be a heavyweight – already 7kg of squishy pudgy cuddliness. He’s a chilled out little dude except for when he’s hungry when he screams like no one has fed him for days. And he’s making me jealous buy laughing at everyone but me. 

So that’s the latest from spaced out land for now. Besos to everyone out there trying for babies, struggling with babies or adjusting to life without babies. It’s a big wonderful world and there’s more than one path through it. xxx