Working Mom Diaries: The (First) Week From Hell

Last Wednesday afternoon, now a full week ago, our toddler had had a regular old toddler cold for several days. It had just reached the “hacking cough” stage, and my husband was out of town overnight. When I walked in the door of his daycare facility, I heard the ominous words, “We were just about to call you.” He was running a 101.6 fever and was clearly miserable.

If you know me as a parent, then you know that my most crippling fear is that my kids will get sick as really small babies. So being solo with a feverish toddler and a 10-week-old brought me close to a panic attack: my hands went numb, I started sweating, and I knew I’d need help. I called my husband and told him he needed to come home first thing in the morning, no waiting for the weather to warm up.

In the middle of the night I woke to another ominous sound: my newborn coughing.

That kicked off several days of doctors’ appointments and anxiety so bad that I’m sure it took years off of my life. To make a long story short, our toddler developed an ear infection (his first) that’s being treated with antibiotics and responding well, and our baby apparently caught the original cold virus despite our absolutely fanatical hand-washing, disinfecting, and keeping-the-toddler-away measures. Everyone is now on the mend: the newborn is still coughing and while it sounds absolutely terrible, it’s not harmful and he’s now probably out of the woods. He was seen three times in the past week to have his oxygen saturation and lungs checked, and everything was fine every time, so at this point it’s expected that he is fighting off this virus without help.

I learned a few things from this episode:

  1. Having two sick kids home with you for four full days is awful.
  2. Parents of chronically ill and/or seriously ill children are heroes and I don’t know how they do it.
  3. I need to work on my anxiety about this stuff, because this will not be the last time this same scenario plays out in our house.

With two little kids who will both soon be in daycare (one full-time, one part-time), we’re going to get our fair share of illnesses, and I can’t keep reacting this way. Based on a friend’s recommendation, I ordered an anxiety and phobia workbook and am going to start sorting through my issues with this. On the one hand, I won’t deal with a sick newborn again because he’ll be twelve weeks old in two days! On the other hand, he very well might become ill again before he is six months old. He might become seriously ill at some point, for all we know. And I need to be able to handle any of those scenarios without becoming a total anxious wreck. My mom and husband were more worried about me than about the baby: that’s how bad it was.

We were also really lucky. It wasn’t the flu (knock on wood), it wasn’t RSV (knock on wood), and both of our kids are extremely healthy and therefore able to recover from this type of thing. We’re also lucky enough that we both took two full days off of work to care for our kids. We didn’t lose any money (although we may have earned some gray hairs). We were able to take our kids to the doctor three times without worrying about the cost, how we would get there, or how we would make time for the appointments.

I have so much to be thankful for. I want to reframe this kind of thing that way, and try not to indulge my anxieties too much.

Working Mom Diaries: 2019 Goals (aka Improvements)

2019 began with my family, including my mom who had been with us for over two months, flying back to Florida. All of a sudden, we were really a family of four, instead of a family of four + grandma. My husband and I both returned to work on January 7th (luckily I am still working from home!), and our older son returned to daycare after a long holiday break.

The start of the year has made me think about what I want to change in 2019. Usually I’m thinking about what I want to accomplish, but with two little kids, I’ve decided not to make any big goals for myself until 2020. Cool things might happen for me, but I’m not pushing it. Instead, I have some problems I’d like to correct and some improvements I want to make.

  1. Reconnect with friends. This is huge for me, and I struggle with it daily. I have no girlfriends who I can see regularly in person since we moved to Utah, and between having kids and working full-time, I have really, REALLY struggled to stay in touch with the people who are important to me in other parts of the country. It isn’t that I don’t want to give people a call, it’s a combination of things: being a little phone-shy, being tired by the time I’m free to talk, and having something like friendship imposter syndrome. Are we really close enough for me to call you to talk? Do you really want to hear from me? Do you feel the same way about me as I do about you? This can be so bad that I won’t pick up the phone when a friend calls me. So I want to start picking up the phone every time, and I want to start dialing it a lot more myself. I never, ever regret it.
  2. Reconnect with my husband. There’s nothing like kids to make you feel like two ships passing in the night (sometimes literally). Between the sleep deprivation of a new baby and the constant attention-grabs of a talkative toddler, there is not a lot of time for uninterrupted adult conversations that aren’t about the logistics of daycare pick-up. I remember this becoming a lot easier once our first child was 5-6 months old, but I’m hoping to make some time for us to connect as two adults and not just as parents well before then.
  3. Control the scroll. I decided before our baby was born that during my maternity leave, I wouldn’t worry about how much time I spent on my phone. When you’re on the couch with a newborn and you haven’t slept much, it’s a lot easier to scroll through Instagram than to crack a book, and I decided to just let myself have the phone as entertainment for a few months. But now the baby is over 10 weeks old, and I think it’s time to start limiting my phone habit again. I’ve charged up my Kindle, downloaded Flipd, and I’m planning to get serious about it this week. I don’t want my toddler seeing me stare at a screen this much. I’d honestly rather have the TV on in the background than have my head down in my phone.
  4. Return to exercise. I totally fell off the workout wagon about halfway through this last pregnancy. I just didn’t have the energy to parent a toddler, be pregnant, and exercise. Now my energy is returning, and I want to get stronger again too. I’m currently three weeks into GlowBodyPT’s 12 Week Post Pregnancy Plan, and I’m loving it.

I think I can handle these four improvements, especially since they’ll all serve to make me happier and more fulfilled in 2019. Can’t really go wrong with that!

Working Mom Diaries: Adjusting to Two

Our second son was born in mid-November, and we’re deep in the process of adjusting to life with two kids instead of just one. So far, it hasn’t been as difficult as I expected it to be, and there are a few reasons why that I’d like to pass on to other moms out there.

  1. Accept all of the help you can. I decided very early on to ask my mother to come and help us for as long as she could stay. With our first, we had a total of about ten days of help from anyone, and I felt like I needed more this time. My mom stayed with us for over two months, from around Halloween until January 2nd, and it was fantastic. If you can get this help from family or if you can afford to hire a night nanny, do it.
  2. Continue childcare. I got very anxious about germs and kept my older child home from daycare for a couple of weeks. Things were much easier once he went back, for him and for me. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have disrupted his routine just to quell my own anxieties.
  3. Lower your expectations (of yourself). Don’t expect too much of yourself too quickly. Plan on eating a lot of frozen Trader Joe’s meals. Set up a meal rotation so that you’re making the same 5-7 easy meals every week. Get takeout. Hire a service to clean your house, at least for a few months. Push non-crucial projects out a couple of months. Say no to events, visitors, and opportunities that make you feel stress or dread.
  4. Prioritize rest. This might be the hardest thing for me to do. It’s very tempting to spend time when you could be napping cleaning the house, working, cooking, exercising, etc. Try to let the messy living room go and sleep instead. Or, if you can’t sleep, just sit on the couch and veg out. You don’t always need to be accomplishing something; you’ve already got plenty going on.

This makes it sound so simple… and honestly, it is simple. There’s nothing complicated about having two children, at least not right now. But that doesn’t make it easy. It’s tough, and it’s time-consuming, and I’m more than glad that I can have a cocktail at 6pm again!

Stay tuned, because I’m planning on some more frequent updates in 2019.

Working Mom Diaries: Choosing Childcare

Long time no see! Things have been busy at my house and at my job lately. First of all, big news: Our second (and almost definitely last!) child is arriving in November. My due date is November 15th, but considering that our first arrived at 37 weeks, we are expecting any time during the first half of November. The baby’s sex will be a surprise!

As anyone with more than one child knows, as exciting as it is, it also throws a wrench into your routine. And we were surprised to have another wrench thrown in way before the baby’s arrival: our nanny-share for our older child came to an end due to circumstances in the family we shared with.

We had always planned for P to start daycare in January 2019, but now we were looking at starting in August 2018 on fairly short notice. Luckily, being a hyper-planner Type A, I had already toured every local daycare months ago, and chosen which ones to be waitlisted for. Unfortunately, our top choice didn’t have an opening for P until January 2019 anyway, so it was back to the drawing board.

We considered hiring a nanny, but the cost for a single child was astronomical. After looking everywhere for someone who might be available to work for less than $18/hour, I contacted a small in-home daycare that I had liked when I did my tours. I had kind of written it off because they didn’t take infants, but since P would only be at this daycare before his new sibling needed care, that didn’t matter (we wanted them in the same location). They had room!

So P has been at this little daycare since August 20th, and he seems to be loving it. It isn’t ideal, but it makes a nice transition from his nanny-share to a larger daycare center, and he is happy to arrive and be picked up every day. He will still start at our top choice daycare in January, right after turning two, and will probably remain there until kindergarten unless we move.

Obviously I am no expert, but I thought I’d write a little about my top considerations when looking at daycares, since I think I have visited and thoroughly researched more than fifteen facilities now, both centers and in-homes. These considerations are particular to where I live; for instance, I would be pickier about location if we lived in a larger metro area with more daycare options and/or worse traffic.

  1. Licensing/Violations: You can look up each daycare’s licensing history and their history of inspection violations. I was only interested in licensed and inspected daycares, both centers and in-homes. However, I did not write places off just because they had violations; I made sure to read exactly what the violations were. Some I didn’t care about (ex: the ground beneath a swing set was deemed too firmly packed at one inspection), but others were deal breakers (ex: over-the-counter medications and scissors were left within reach of toddlers at multiple inspections).
  2. Atmosphere: One of the most important things to me was how the daycares felt when I walked in and how I observed the caregivers interact with the kids. At some daycares, I observed mostly happy kids in a relatively calm, clean environment, and at others I observed mostly anxious and upset kids in a pretty chaotic environment that smelled like bleach. I noticed that this often correlated to teacher and kid turnover rates: places with high turnover rates generally felt worse.
  3. Turnover and ratios: I always asked how long caregivers tended to be employed and how long kids tended to stay. We focused on places where caregivers stayed for years and where kids tended to remain until they began kindergarten or even grade school. We also wanted places that met or exceeded the state expectations for ratio of teachers to kids. Some places we looked at had regular violations in this area (ie: not enough caregivers), and we wrote them off. Our first choice exceeded the regulations in every age group.
  4. Price: Obviously a huge consideration. Luckily—and I imagine this is true for most areas—to be competitive daycares need to fall within a pretty close price range. Oddly enough, one of my least favorite places cost way more than the others, and after eliminating that one, price ceased to be a consideration since they were all so similar.
  5. Structure: I definitely wanted a place that followed a consistent daily routine that included set mealtimes, set nap times, and plenty of outdoor time. P is a very routine-oriented kid and we’ve had a lot of success with very rigid wake and sleep times especially. Long-term, I also wanted a place that separated kids into “classes” by age. Right now, P is with a single small group of kids ages 18 months to 4 years, and it’s fine, but not ideal; there are activities he can’t quite participate in yet, for instance. Long-term, he’ll be in a small group of kids almost exactly his age. Our top choice also gives kids the most outdoor time of any daycare we looked at (2 hours per day, weather dependent).
  6. Toilet training: This is kind of a big one! We definitely leaned towards daycares that said they “take the lead” on potty training. Our top choice will take kids to the toilet every thirty minutes when they are ready to train, which is amazing. With another baby on the way, we really wanted maximum potty training support from P’s caregivers. It’s just not going to happen over a weekend at home.
  7. What’s included: Most daycares here include all solid food. Some include baby food. Some include baby formula. Some include wipes. None include diapers. Our top choice includes baby food, baby formula, all toddler and kid food, and wipes. They will also feed your baby packed breastmilk, but since our baby will be combination-fed from the beginning, the inclusion of formula was really appealing. This way we can just send along whatever breastmilk we have, and the teachers will take care of mixing the supplemental formula.
  8. Location: This wasn’t a huge consideration for us since we work in opposite directions; no matter where our daycare is, one of us will have to go a little out of their way to reach it. We ended up finding that the better daycares were all closer to my husband’s work, so I will typically drive out of my way to do drop-off or pick-up. Where we are, this isn’t that bad since we don’t have terrible traffic.
  9. Security and communication: I actually wasn’t too picky about this. I wanted to be able to text someone to check in on P, and that’s about it. We didn’t care about a totally locked-down building or about having cameras everywhere. It was a coincidence that our top choice has key codes, cameras, an app to view them with, and a whole text update system that tells you every detail of your child’s day! I am not sure how much of this system I will opt into; I really don’t want to obsess over it. But it will be helpful to know exactly how much P eats and sleeps each day. We currently get updates when we ask for them, but we don’t always get detailed information.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. Childcare feels like a huge decision. I had a lot of guilt when we decided to place P in an “interim” daycare before January instead of throwing money at a nanny, but he adapted quickly and is perfectly happy and healthy. All of that to say, I think that as long as you provide safe care that you feel confident about, your child will probably be fine.

P will begin his new daycare right after he turns two in January, and the new baby will begin (part-time) a few weeks later in February! We are not going the nanny route at all for this second kid, and I’m actually excited about it. This baby will get lots of socialization and routine much earlier than P did, and if their personalities are at all similar, it will thrive on that structure.

Working Mom Diaries: Real-Life Mom Friends

This is my biggest struggle right now. I’ll try not to be a downer in this post, but man, it is discouraging to have so much trouble finding working mom friends!

One thing I have learned about Utah, at least in my part of the state, is that most women do not work outside the home. In-home careers like hairdressing are pretty popular here… as are, unfortunately, the less legitimate in-home careers like multi-level marketing schemes. However, the average Utahn woman, in my experience, is a stay-at-home mom. When I take a day off or work from home and take my son to the park midday, I see dozens of stay-at-home moms with their children. Which is great! But it’s not the lifestyle that I lead on a daily basis (or want to). Meanwhile, at work, I encounter a grand total of two other working moms that I know of!

Several people have asked me, “Why don’t you just make friends with stay-at-home moms?” Well, I do have a few stay-at-home mom acquaintances, but to be honest, we just do not have as much in common as I need to have with someone to become really close. Think about it: while we’re all mothers, our daily lives are completely different, and that means that a lot of the things we want to talk about, need advice about, or are struggling with are totally different, too.

I doubt that I’ll really get my quest for working mom friends kicked off until after our second child arrives and settles in to a schedule, but here are some goals and ideas that I have for meeting people and making friends (probably in 2019!).

  • Start a supper club. This is an idea inspired by Carolina Charm’s supper club posts! I’m planning to ask the working women I know here—both moms and not moms—to start a monthly supper club with me. This would mean one of us hosting the group for dinner each month, or, maybe more likely, meeting as a group for a dinner out each month. The great thing about this is that each member could invite other working women from her own job or neighborhood and the group could (hopefully) grow.
  • Scour the Internet. I haven’t had a ton of luck with this, but I have found an online group for non-LDS moms in my area, and a group for working moms of Utah. I’m hoping to connect with some other women through these groups, although they’re pretty limited.
  • Reach out… and recognize other people reaching out. This is something I really need to work on. I tend to get “in the zone” at work and not socialize much or pay much attention to what’s going on in my office. Another working mom at my office recently reached out to me online and I really need to follow up with her and jumpstart that potential friendship. It can be hard when you’re really busy to put in the effort up-front, but I know that doing so could pay off in a big way long-term: I could make a great friend who I have a lot in common with.

That’s all I’ve got for now! I’ll be sure to follow up on this topic when and if things change.