Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mommies don't get to choose . . .

Let me preface this by saying that I have a wonderful partner - my husband is loving, caring and dedicated to me and to his children.  He loves being a father to our boys and I am pretty confident that he also loves being married to me. 

But I have an observation that I don't think is unique to my family . . .

My darling husband is not a multi-tasker nor have his self-maintenance routines changed all that much since the arrival of our darling second child. 

Let me talk about multi-tasking.  As a mom of two who works outside of the home, I have had to implement somewhat stringent routines and schedules for myself so that our family time is maximized and we all get as much rest as possible.  Some of the things that we have done are to begin a schedule for preparing dinner, nights to do laundry/ironing, ideal times for working out/extracurricular outings/etc.  When I get up in the morning, I never stop moving.  I am constantly doing three things at once - getting ready while packing my pumping bag while heating milk for Michael and entertaining Gabriel.  I haven't left the house yet without having had both boys' diapers changed, my lunch packed, my pump packed, my coffee made, the dishwasher empty enough to fit the days' dishes OR cleared out b/c it was clean and full, a clean sink, etc.  I feel as though because we are blessed to have my mother-in-law come to our home to care for our boys, it is the least that I can do to set her up for success by having things organized.  Everything is ready to go and at her fingertips so that all she has to do is care for the boys. 

The end of the day is much the same.  I come in from work and say hello to my boys and if it is my night to cook, I prepare dinner & set the table while entertaining Michael or Gabriel and my hubby has the other child with him.  After dinner, we play and have fun but I always have my eye on the clock so that the boys can be cleaned up and in bed with relatively the same routine and at relatively the same time every night.  This concept seems to elude my husband.  More times than not, when I come in from work he is holding the baby and playing with Michael - both of which are great things - but he has not done anything else and he has been home for at least an hour.  The table hasn't been set, dishes haven't been cleaned and if he is cooking dinner he hasn't started anything.  I don't know why but this infuriates me.  We are very different people - I am a self-admitted Type A and he is much more free-spirited and laid back.  I know that my frustration is simply our different approaches to life coming to a head but I guess I feel like there should be some compromise. 

As for self-maintenance routines, I have switched everything around.  I shower at night so that the morning can be dedicated to my boys and getting out of the house.  I arranged my work schedule so that I can nurse G before I leave and as soon as I get home so that he only has to have 2 bottles during the day.  I wash my hair twice/week instead of every-other day.  I don't work out when I want to because it interferes with our current waking/eating routines.  I have to stick with this schedule or forgo something for myself (i.e. shower) so that my boys aren't compromised.  I cannot say the same for my husband.  He showers in the morning but always at varying times.  This can throw off our routine because it is actually easier for me to manage the morning with him out of the house.  If he is too tired to get up on time, it is almost like he gets in my way.  I want to get up and make the bed but I can't do that if he is in it and I don't have time to do it later after he has decided to get up. 

I am working hard to figure out the balance.  I feel like I have shifted everything for my children and for my job and I just don't feel the same.  Is this simply working motherhood or do I have the right to demand what I need from someone when it is so foreign to his natural way of doing things? 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Working Mom's Essentials

Back to work 3 weeks and am starting to get into my groove.  There are a lot of pregnant women in my organization and most are 1st-time moms which got me thinking about that oft-heard Mommy statement "if only someone had told me ....".

Here is a non-exhaustive list of some Working Mommy essentials that I have found helpful in my transition back to work:

1) Good electric double-sided breastpump in its own case
I use the Medela Pump In Style in the backpack and it has been easy to use and carry to & from work.  I store my milk in the included pack with the freezer pack and it is plenty cold when I get home from work later.  I portion my milk into milk storage bags and label them before popping them into the fridge. 
2) Hands-free pumping bra
Pumping is hard enough, let alone not having your hands free.  I use my pumping sessions as a way to reconnect to my Mommy-hood while at work and having access to my phone, computer, journal, snacks, pictures makes pumping a lot easier on me.  They make corset-style and strapless-bra style - get one that zips in the front.
3) Nursing tanks or Tank tops with stretchy straps
It is hard to maintain a professional wardrobe that is a) appropriate for work; b) forgiving on your post-partum figure; and c) easy to transition for nursing/pumping.  I have found nursing tanks and tanks with really stretchy straps to be an essential layer under my clothes as they smooth out those post-partum bulges and they conceal my tummy while pumping.  To pump, I simply pull down my tank & nursing bra and strap on the hands-free bra.  I don't have to entirely undress just to make some milk. 
4) Insulated lunch box
May sound like a no-brainer but nursing mamas need their nutrition more than the next person so making sure to have nutritious and filling snacks with you is essential.  I pack my lunch the night before and stack it up in the fridge.  When I get up in the morning, I grab that stack and throw it in my lunchbox and I am ready to go. 
5) Small resuable bag & bottle brush
After each pumping session, you will need to wash the pump parts in warm, soapy water.  In most organizations, there aren't sinks in the same location where you may pump and who wants to march through the office with their flanges hanging out and dripping milk.  I like to keep my pump bag clean so I started throwing the used parts into a resuable grocery bag along with a bottle brush.  This way, I can discreetly take my "parts" to the restroom sink and clean them without anyone being the wiser. 
6) Toiletry essentials
Being a working mom of an infant is tough - we are sleep-deprived & exhausted, torn in multiple different directions.  Looking our best is not a priority but it will certainly go a long way for our wellbeing.  Putting together a small bag of goodies to have at your desk should you need them is like car insurance - you hope you don't need it but if you do, you are so glad to be prepared.  My kit includes: concealer, compact foundation, deoderant, perfume, lint roller, extra breastpads, lanolin/nipple ointment, ibuprofen, pashmina scarf (to cover up leakage on blouse), Mother's Milk teabags, safety pins, and a small sewing kit. 
7) Reusable water bottle
Really - we could all use these but they are essential for nursing/pumping mamas.  Fill up with a big glass of water 20-30 minutes before each pumping session to help with milk supply.  It will do wonders for your milk, your waistline, and your skin. 
8) Transitional Clothes
I wear a lot of elastic-waisted pants & skirts with non-tucked shirts/sweaters.  I can be professional while working to drop the baby weight.  Our bodies change during pregnancy & nursing, so purchasing transitional clothing ensures that we look great while weathering the changes in our physique.
9) Photos from Home
Looking at a photograph (or better yet - watching a video) of your little one helps with milk supply AND connects you to the task at hand which is feeding & nourishing your child.  Put the work away for 20 minutes and give yourself back to your family while you pump.  Working mamas have an amazing way of switching roles somewhat seemlessly. 
10) A work confidant
Someone that you can talk with either in person or electronically who can support your breastfeeding journey.

GOOD LUCK mamas!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Favorite Mommy Apps

Yes, I am one of those annoying people who has their iPhone attached to them at all times.  I was always a 'pen & paper' kind of girl until I went hunting for apps and found my phone to be the most convenient tool out there to manage my crazy life. 

Here are just a few of the apps that I am enjoying now:

1) Weight Watchers Mobile: As a mom who just recently gave birth, I am back on Weight Watchers to lose this baby weight and find that the WW mobile app is great for tracking points, weigh-ins, water/fruit/veggie intake, and recipes. 
2) bloom:  a free app that allows you to set up regular reminders to keep yourself balanced.  For example, throughout the day a little text message appears on my screen reminding me to drink a glass of water, get some fresh air, hug my partner, take a 1-minute tropical vacation, etc.  A great tool for Mom's who do too much!
3) Instagram: a great way to share photos and preserve beautiful memories of your growing & busy family
4) Nook & Kindle apps: during late night nursing or soothing sessions, my e-books keep me awake and engaged but keep the room dark so my little one can sleep
5) Toddler Cards: this is the only app that I paid anything for ($1.99) and it has been worth every cent.  My 2-year-old has been playing with this since he was 10 months old and can now fully operate it on his own.  There are various flash cards of animals, shapes, food, colors, things, etc. and you flip through the flashcards and see the picture, the word and hear the word.  You can select English, French or Spanish.  A great time-occupyer in line at the market, while waiting for the doctor or while nursing another baby. 

Hope that you find these helpful!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Pumping ... not for the faint of heart

Pumping is not easy.  I am grateful to not have any trouble with supply and know that for many nursing mamas, pumping can really deplete supply.  I am not complaining about that and I certainly have empathy for all of those mamas who are in that situation. 

But I am just annoyed with pumping and it is only my second week back to work.  I love my company and I feel supported to continue breastfeeding and, consequently, pumping.  (again, no room to complain here) But I am annoyed that I have to balance all of this.  I work in a job that requires me to travel among 10+ various locations and with that comes the need to identify the same number of locations in which I can pump.  We generally do not have private rooms or offices as space is a hot commodity.  Today I am in someone's office while they are off doing another job duty and only am using this because I know that she was a pumping mama a few months ago and she offered her space to me.  In a young organization such as ours, I may be the first person asking for space to do my motherly duty. 

I now understand why working mamas give up breastfeeding or supplement with formula while at work.  The part that upsets me is that something completely unrelated to my family (my job!) is going to continually test my endurance to FEED MY CHILD in the way that I want to.  Seems like a non sequitur. 

I will be reaching out to other pumping mamas for support and will continue to re-evaluate my professional role so that my priorities remain appropriately aligned - with my family coming first. 

So glad that I read The Milk Memos before heading back to work.  Helping me to keep my sanity. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

The year of 2011 has closed and we are once again facing a fresh start in this new year.  2011 was an interesting one, with plenty of joy as well as some unfortunate heartaches.  I endeavor to be ever-grateful for each experience given to me and I strive to make each a lesson on my path. 

We are now a family of four, growing and changing with each day.  I am uplifted by my approach to motherhood this time around - amazing what a little time and experience will do for one's self-confidence!  I find myself much more flexible this time and much less interested in the "shoulds".  We are not good to ourselves; expecting that there is some list of things that we are "supposed" to be doing and a way that we "should" be doing them.  Experience has taught me that in parenting, as in life, nothing could be further from the truth.  Instincts must be our guide and we must trust ourselves to know what is best for our families and for ourselves. 

2012 is the year of SURRENDER in the Neill Household.  It is a lofty goal but one that has been plaguing us for the better part of our lives.  Only through surrendering can I live the life that I dream of in my heart and each day will be a new journey on this path. 

I wish you a year filled with peace, love, health and happiness.  May you trust yourself and the goodness in your hearts.

Monday, December 19, 2011

How long has it been???

It has been a LONG time since my last post.  In fact, it has been so long that I have had  my second son, Gabriel, enjoyed 12 blissful weeks of maternity leave and am now back to work. 

Today is my first day back to work after maternity leave and it is such an odd feeling.  With Michael, I was home for almost 10 months before returning to work fulltime.  With Gabriel, we cannot afford that luxury and so here I am at work 2 days before my sweet Gabriel will turn 3 months old. 

I am enduring my first at-work pumping session as we speak and needless to say, it holds a lot less charm and joy than nursing my sweet boy. 

As the days turn into weeks and the weeks turn into months, I will continue to write as it provides me with some connection to my other role - Mommy.  I am currently reading an excellent book, the Milk Memos, on my Nook and it is all about nursing at work.  I definitely recommend it for anyone in the same boat as me.

Hang in there, mamas, and know that you are not alone. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

So I got sad....

Yesterday, I finished a full day of work and got into my car to see the clock reading 5:06pm.  I got on my way home and started to cry.  I know that Michael is doing a great job at Grammy's - in fact, he put himself down for BOTH of his naps yesterday with only a few minutes of crying - but I wish that I could be with him.  I am so glad that he is with Grammy and she is an incredibly positive and loving influence in his life but I can't help but wish that there was some way that I could be home more than just 1 day/week plus weekends. 

The report from Grammy's was awesome - got his diaper changed by two amazing uncles and learned to climb the stairs.  All of them.  I am so proud of the little man that he is, so easy-going and loving.  And, I really do take pride in knowing that David & I helped to shape his personality and disposition from the moment we decided to get pregnant.  I am so proud of our hard work as parents and I am grateful to have such a supportive and present partner in all of this. 

Time is flying by - we are about to start planning his 1st birthday party and we have to babyproof the house and get him a "big boy" car seat.  How did so much time go by so quickly???