Last week Opal and I went back to work.
On day one, she dressed in her most professional striped socks and I donned a shirt that hadn't yet been stained in spit up. We sang along to the Beatles as we packed our work bag with diapers and burp cloths and off we went filled with the purpose and anticipation of two young girls on the first day of school. On an average morning, we tell Jesse to have a good day at the office as he heads out the door, and for three days last week, he was saying the same thing to us.
Many of the moms I know from breastfeeding club, who have babies roughly Opal's age, have gone back to work by now. Nolan's mom is a cop in Arvada, and since she's still breastfeeding, she often has to wear a bullet-proof vest over boobs that beg to be pumped. Piper's mom is a school teacher and pumps in the teacher's lounge, often having to stop when the bell rings whether or not her boobs are emptied. Lucy's mom is a software engineer and she stays with grandma all day. I don't know what Lydia's mom does, but I know she's been back to work for at least a month now.
At of last week, of the eight of us moms who stay in touch from breastfeeding club, there was only one other mom aside from me who hadn't gone back to work.
Jesse and I discussed the topic of work long before Opal was born so there'd be no surprises. It was decided that he'd continue to work and I would stay home with the babe, maybe making some extra cash doing odd jobs from home or during the weekends while Jesse is home with her. We have no interest in putting her in daycare for long stretches of time until she is much older. Jesse often says that one of the main things that gets him through the work day is knowing that I am with his little darling and will give him a full report when he returns in the evening.
Before I got pregnant, I worked for a wonderful business called Windhorse Family and Elder Care (WFEC) for many years, and continued up until I was waddling around the office looking for a place to prop up my swollen pregnant ankles. WFEC is a home health care agency that specializes in taking a holistic and mindful approach to caring for elders and I have worn many hats under it's roof of employment. I started off simply attending to the clients, then added team leading and case management to my repertoire and eventually took my seat as "Administrative Director" for most of 2009. All of my jobs with WFEC have been a thorough package of both rewarding and challenging, especially in the beginning, but the administrative role was the one that hoisted me marvelously from my comfort zone. Each day was a lesson in communication and offered many puzzles to solve. There were very few opportunities to be on auto-pilot and many moments of embracing the humility of a beginner, all done in an atmosphere of incredibly supportive and encouraging comrades and co-workers. Growth growth growth!
Anyhow, Jyoti, the owner, graciously offered for me to return to the administrative job once Opal was a few months old and bring her with me. This was a stellar idea in theory, but once Opal actually arrived, I couldn't imagine giving both she and the job the attention they both petitioned.
But it seemed that the job was intended for a new mama and baby team because another Windhorse friend, Ann Marie, took that position with her 3 month old, Zennon, thus christening the office with a fantastic array of baby-world adornments. They asked for Opal and I to join them to help with special projects here and there, and now that Opal is becoming more independent, the timing was perfect. We were right at home with the diaper pad, swing, foam nap-nanny and play mat, not to mention the perfect company of another mama and baby! Thus, not having to feel guilty for constant interruptions or having to explain the unpredictability of nursing and napping because Ann Marie was doing the very same dance with Zennon.
So there it was, my first day back to work in nearly 5 months (if you count the month I was off before she arrived) with my Doodlebug in tow. Another exciting milestone to check off the list.
And I must say, work was pretty damn fun with her around, as well as Ann Marie and little Zennon, albeit not the most productive. But productivity is so often overrated. The key factor was that I had one task and one task only-- to organize employee files-- and I was to chip away at this task until completion. There was no multi-tasking to be had, no calls to answer, no emails to check, no meetings and goal-setting and on-the-spot work-related interruptions. Just me, my baby, a my task. Inside of this simplicity lived a zen-like bliss.
I brought the playmat, a veritable collapsible, portable baby-Reno, and a bag full of more toys then she could have effectively focused on in an entire day, let alone a few hours. The work-chunk of the afternoon was spent in the following fashion: Opal plays on mat contentedly, I file, Opal wants held while I file, Opal is hungry and I take a break from filing to feed her, Opal is sleepy, so I take her to the back office to nurse and rock her for a while in the hopes of achieving a nap, Opal closes her eyes for five minutes, I blitzkrieg file, Opal is back up and on the play mat... and the beat goes on like this.
There was something so satisfying and relaxing about having a witness to it all who was going through the very same motions with her little one at the very same time. Assuredly, Opal would squawk when Zennon was quiet or Zennon would cry when Opal fell asleep. Both babies would call for us right we got into a tiny groove and they even both fell asleep in our respective laps, post-nurse, just as we had both planned on leaving for the day. (Is this what life is like with twins?) Such distractions have the potential to be irritants if there is a deadline looming or a specific amount of work-hours required, but this is not the case right now. During a three hour shift, it felt accurate to bill for a total of an hour and a half. But the payoff is much larger than the cash reward. Opal and I had somewhere to be, an outing to hinge the rest of our day from, and social time with another mama who happens to inspire fabulous humor in such situations. We spent much of our time laughing at the spontaneity--and unintentional irony--of our wee-ones.
Another bonus: My dear mother-in-law, Zeb, lives 4 minutes from the office, driveway to parking lot, accurately timed. So we experimented with having her babysit for Opal for a few hours while I went to the office. This was Opal's first time being left somewhere other than our house and it went beautifully. Grammy Nibs (one of the many grandma nicknames of Zeb) played with her on the baby-Reno mat, sang her songs, read her books, and then her Auntie Alex stopped by and they all went for a walk. The report was glowing, full of smiles and contentedness, another gold-star outcome. But I must admit, the office felt very quiet without her.